Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the entire 2016-17 season while guiding Oklahoma City into the postseason.
By Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a silly debate.
Driven strictly by personality preference, or shooting percentage preference, or playing style preference, or, my favorite of all, lack of knowledge and its classic partner, going along with the pack.
C’mon, seriously, no one – in their right mind, if they did any “homework” or paid attention whatsoever – could have legitimately thought, or pushed for, someone other than Russell Westbrook as the NBA most valuable player award since, oh, the all-star break.
James Harden. Kawhi Leonard. Kevin Durant. Steph Curry. LeBron James. You heard them all being pitched to varying degrees at certain junctures since mid-February as not only worthy contenders to Oklahoma City point guard’s rightful honor for 2016-17, but better choices.
As Monday night’s just announcement that Westbrook had, indeed, “earned” the hardware, this debate was a fait accompli for months before the campaign ended.
The dude led the league in scoring. He set a new mark for triple-doubles in a season with 42, not to mention average a triple-double for the entire season. By comparison, he topped all the aforementioned in points, rebounds and assists … except Harden in assists, yet still finished second in the entire circuit.
Harden, his reputed chief competition, stole the show in January with a triple-double highlighted by a 50-point effort against Your Team, Your Town, Your 76ers … and then Westbrook matched that with one in March and trumped it with another in April.
Heck, for good measure, “Brodie” threw in a third – against Harden and his Houston Rockets, mind you – in the opening round of the playoffs.
Look, James is the best player in the game. Hands down. Has been. Will continue to be for some time, it appears. But no one touched Westbrook’s sustained excellence this go-‘round. The shame is that so many failed to appreciate what they were witnessing.
Forget the “statement” games or record-setting performances. The guy is the ultimate “all out, ball out” player. Living in a time that most fans bitch and moan about the lack of effort, or care, by professional athletes, you’d think “Brodie” would be a favorite of the masses.
An overwhelming favorite at that.
But, he isn’t.
Apparently, going full-on, full-time at both ends of the floor, and attacking the basket like an animal with no fear, and playing high-intensity, quality defense, isn’t as appealing to people as they’d lead you to believe.
The numbers alone were laughable: 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. No one else compared with him there.
But when you factor in how he played, with a supporting cast that paled in comparison to those linked with his competitors, yo, get real.
Reality is, the guy deserved the MVP two years ago as well. But the dye was cast for Steph Curry that season as part of the initial christening of Golden State as the game’s new gold standard.
Westbrook wasn’t the preferred choice then.
Fortunately, this time it was too obvious he was the only one.
► No idea why rationalizations keep flying around as to why the Sixers should NOT sign free agent shooting guard J.J. Redick. Just another case of not doing your homework … and realizing this is not the same Redick who entered the league as another privileged Duke product.
The kid has completely remade his game and his body … all the while remaining a top-notch sharpshooter whose stroke isn’t out of line with being mentioned in the same breath as those belonging to Steph Curry or Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant.
Redick hasn’t averaged less than 15 points per game since 2013, hasn’t shot less than 43 percent from distance since 2014 or 88 from the charity stripe since 2011.
In short, he’s an improving player and not the lost soul on defense his detractors make him out to be. Nope, he’s chiseled his frame into being, at worst, a serviceable player on that side of the ball.
So, freakin’ sign him. The Sixers need shooters more than anything else right now.
► Got no issue with Philly’s NBA franchise going 0-for-2 in the Rookie of the Year sweepstakes for 2016-17. Both Joel Embiid and Dario Saric fell to Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon.
Yeah, Embiid’s stats were eye-catching. Over a 31-game stint in an 82-game season. Sorry, that eclipses him from being a legit ROY anyway.
Saric? Had better stats on the surface than Brogdon, too. More points and more rebounds.
But Brogdon was a double-digit scorer, too. He also averaged more assists, shot better from the floor, including 3-point land, and the foul line … and he’s a front-line, no-holds-barred defensive stopper.
Plus, he played for a postseason-qualifier in the Bucks. Meaning he played in a lot more games that mattered than either Saric or Embiid.
► With word seeping out Tuesday that former Sixer/current free agent Andre Iguodala was a target of the team right now, the naysayers were out in full force.
Yo, give it a rest. The guy was a very good player here.
He has been an extremely good role player with Golden State. He remains a defensive stopper. He is an incredible athlete and who still is one of the game’s great finishers – phenomenal LeBron James’ block in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals notwithstanding. He’d be a valuable asset – again – to the Sixers if added to the roster.