Westbrook beats out Harden, Leonard for MVP award after historic season
After becoming the first player in 55 years to average a triple-double over the course of a season, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has been named the NBA's 2016-17 Most Valuable Player.
On top of matching Oscar Robertson's 1961-62 feat, Westbrook led the NBA in scoring with 31.6 points a night to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. His 30.6 player efficiency rating also led the league and was the 15th-best mark of all time, while his 41.7 percent usage rate was the highest in recorded history.
Westbrook set a new league record with 42 triple-doubles on the season - including eight in which he scored at least 40 points, and three in which he scored at least 50 - and the paper-thin Thunder needed every ounce of that production. The team went 33-9 when Westbrook recorded a triple-double, and 14-26 when he didn't. And that's to say nothing of his season-long penchant for late-game heroics; the individual runs he embarked on to save the Thunder from almost-certain defeats, and the dramatic victories he delivered at the buzzer.
In his first season without Kevin Durant as his running mate, Westbrook wrung 47 wins out of a supporting cast that offered little in the way of shooting, ballhandling, or secondary playmaking. The Thunder's record still makes him the losingest MVP since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the award for the 40-42 Los Angeles Lakers in 1975-76, but it's tough to argue he isn't deserving considering the load he carried and the efficiency with which he carried it. The Thunder were 12.2 points per 100 possessions worse with Westbrook on the bench, with a minus-8.9 net rating that would have blown the Lakers' league-worst mark out of the water.
There were times Westbrook seemed to blur the line between carrying his teammates and holding them back, when his lack of trust in them - or his unwavering belief in himself - proved the Thunder's undoing. He attempted nearly 400 more field goals than any other player in the league, and turned the ball over 5.4 times a game. His relentless, exhausting offensive exploits often left him ineffectual defensively.
But for all that, the Thunder still won more games than they had any right to, and Westbrook was a cyclonic force who left a trail of rubble in his wake. The semantics of "most valuable" can be debated and nitpicked to death, but there's little doubt about who the NBA's most captivating player was. Westbrook's season was unlike anything we've seen in a long, long time. It'll probably be a long time before we see anything like it again.
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