Kevin Durant’s departure, followed by Russell Westbrook’s contract extension means that we may very well have our first MVP from the point guard position since Derrick Rose in 2011.
And with the MVP field as weak as it’s been in years, it looks like the stars are aligning for Westbrook to take home the award.
But a lot of factors go into the voting process, some of which will be out of the hands of Oklahoma City’s star man.
If this were any other year, the odds would certainly be against Westbrook. In a star-driven league, Russ, despite the ridiculous statlines he puts up on a regular basis, ranks fairly low on the totem pole.
But Kevin Durant’s decision to bail to Golden State essentially eliminates both he and Steph Curry, the winners of the past 3 MVPs, from capturing the award.
That leaves only two other legitimate candidates, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
It’s yet to be seen whether the departure of mentor Tim Duncan will have a negative affect on Kawhi, and whether he can put up the gaudy stats that the majority of past MVPs have on a nightly basis.
And LeBron has been notorious for coasting through the past couple of regular seasons, only to turn it on in the postseason. And since he isn’t getting any younger, he’ll likely pace himself once again during the regular season, gearing up for another deep postseason run. But he’s still looking like the favorite at this point. He’s that good.
But with the being said, if there were a year that Westbrook were to win the MVP, it’s this year.
Team Success Without Durant?
It’s been well documented that Westbrook’s already eye-popping numbers get taken to a whole different level when Durant’s out of the lineup, as shown by his ridiculous splits with and without KD (via NBA Reddit).
The question isn’t whether he can produce without KD, but whether he can find the right balance of individual production and teammate involvement to warrant success.
He hasn’t proven he’s capable of that so far in his career.
In the lone season where Durant missed significant time, the 2014-15′ season, the Thunder inexplicably missed the playoffs despite Westbrook’s historic individual season.
Breaking the Trend?
It’s highly unlikely, almost impossible, that Oklahoma City finish with a top-2 seed, bad news for those that put their money on Russ taking home MVP honors.
According to NBA Reddit, an MVP’s team hasn’t finished outside of the top-2 in their conference for over 30 years.
But if Westbrook puts up numbers that we know he’s capable of and can lead OKC to a 4/5 seed, some voters will have no choice but to break the trend. We’ll just have to wait and see.