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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Westbrook Saves Thunder With Historic Triple Double

Russell Westbrook just produced the highest scoring triple double in NBA history, pouring in 57 points as he led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 114-106 overtime victory versus the Orlando Magic. The Thunder trailed by 21 points midway through the third quarter before mounting the biggest comeback in Oklahoma City history and thereby clinching a playoff berth in the first season of the team's post-Kevin Durant era.

Westbrook added 13 rebounds and 11 assists in his 38th triple double of the season; with eight games to go, Westbrook needs three triple doubles to tie Oscar Robertson's single season record. Westbrook is also on track to join Robertson as the only players to average a triple double for an entire season. The Thunder are 31-7 this season when Westbrook posts a triple double and 43-31 overall, which is another way of saying that Westbrook's supporting cast is so weak that his team needs him to put up historically great numbers every game just to have a chance to win--but when Westbrook does put up historically great numbers, the Thunder almost always win.

Westbrook scored 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including 19 points in the final 7:45 of regulation--capped off when he grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled up court and calmly sank a 31 foot three pointer over two defenders to send the game to overtime.

Such game-saving heroics are nothing new for Westbrook, who scored 13 points in the final three minutes on Monday night to rescue the Thunder versus the Dallas Mavericks. Westbrook is the antithesis of players who pad their numbers without affecting the outcome of the game; his tremendous statistical production actually changes the outcome of the game. Several players are performing at an MVP level in 2016-17 but Westbrook is authoring a historic season that would lead to a landslide MVP victory if anyone else posted such numbers.

By the end of the Thunder's victory over the Magic, the Orlando fans serenaded Westbrook with "MVP" chants. Of course, media members never fail to find ways to attack Westbrook; one game recap noted that Westbrook was "hardly flawless" before opining, "Defeat is inevitable if he goes it alone. The only way the Thunder can change their destiny is to change their approach to the game. That starts with Westbrook. If he's really the NBA MVP, let's see him make his teammates better when the games matter the most."

I predicted the publication of that kind of trash almost three years ago to the day when I wrote, "One player seems poised to fill both of (Kobe) Bryant's roles--best guard in the NBA and vastly underrated superstar: Russell Westbrook." Keep in mind that when I made that declaration, many "experts" questioned if Westbrook could even play the point guard position, let alone become the best guard in the league. Those same "experts" criticized Westbrook for supposedly not deferring enough to Kevin Durant but it now looks like perhaps the Thunder would have been better served if Durant had deferred to Westbrook in the clutch.

When crime strikes Gotham City, the Bat Signal alerts Batman to spring into action; is there a "Daft Signal" that alerts "stat gurus" and their media acolytes to spring into action when Kobe Bryant (in previous seasons) or Russell Westbrook has a great game? I mean, the nets were still figuratively scorching from Westbrook's 57 points and the first words that come to mind for some fool who is actually paid to cover NBA games is that Westbrook was "hardly flawless"?

If you watch a player drop 57-13-11 while almost singlehandedly erasing a 21 point deficit and "hardly flawless" is the best description you can muster then you need to have your eyes checked, your brain examined and your game credentials revoked. Sure, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion but when you are being paid to accurately report/commentate and you are simply unwilling or incapable of performing that task at a minimally acceptable level then it is time to seek out another line of work.

On the other hand, here is an article that every MVP voter should be required to read: Sam Anderson's February 1, 2017 in depth profile titled The Misunderstood Genius of Russell Westbrook.

Here is Anderson's take on Westbrook's playing style:
Rebounding has always been one of Westbrook’s superpowers. He is athletic enough to leap through vast spaces, strong enough to bully people in close combat and, most important, persistent enough to get himself, with unholy urgency, to the places around the rim most likely to yield rebounds. I have seen Westbrook streak in from a distant corner of the floor to tip in a missed 3-pointer off the glass--a hurtling, perfectly timed run that looked almost like a center fielder's sprinting back to leap and steal a home run just as it cleared the wall.
That was the prelude to Anderson's account of Westbrook's 27 point, 17 rebound, 14 assist performance in Madison Square Garden versus the Knicks early in this season. Here are some more nuggets from Anderson about that contest:
Even with his triple-double secured, Westbrook would not stop rebounding. My favorite of the night was his 14th: he drove, drew three defenders, passed to a teammate for a wide-open jump shot and ended up deep out of bounds. Instead of just hanging out there, admiring his handiwork, Westbrook turned, tracked the shot with his eyes, saw that it was falling short and, at precisely the moment the ball hit the front of the rim, exploded into the air with shocking intensity. It did not look like a normal professional basketball player trying to get his hand on a ball to extend a possession late in the third quarter of the 19th game of the season. It looked like a man in the middle of a winner-takes-all dunk contest against the Devil himself to prevent the incineration of planet Earth. It looked as if Westbrook were insulted by the very concept of distance, and so he annihilated it, soaring and spearing the ball out of the air from between two waiting Knicks. Spike Lee, courtside, was standing to celebrate the initial missed shot, but when Westbrook came flying in to seize it, he clutched his head in exasperation and hopelessness and despair.
Westbrook does not possess Bryant's size or finely tuned footwork, nor is Westbrook's defense as good as Bryant's--but Westbrook has a similar competitive spirit, a similar work ethic and a similar ability to lift a limited team to solid playoff status. Westbrook has also demonstrated that he can perform at an All-NBA level for a perennial championship contender, as he did for the past six years when the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals four times. I will say the same thing about Westbrook now that I did about Bryant circa 2006, when Bryant's critics loudly declared that he would never win a championship without Shaquille O'Neal: if Westbrook is provided with even a reasonably complete supporting cast, he is capable of leading his team to a championship.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:17 AM

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19 Comments:

At Thursday, March 30, 2017 1:42:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

I have a standing bet with a friend of mine that RWB will never be the best player on a title team, but that has as much to do with me not believing that OKC can attract the necessary help (and a suspicion that his high-impact style will unfortunately lead to a shorter prime than we'd like) as it does with RWB's game.

Like most defensively-challenged PGs, in order to be the best player on a title team, RWB likely needs three things:

1) Several elite defenders. OKC does not quite have this yet, but of the three items this is where they're closest; you can probably win a title starting Steven Adams and one (but probably not both) of Oladipo/Roberson.

2) Elite shooters. This, OKC has not provided nearly at all. RWB's dream teammate is probably someone like Danny Green (or Raja Bell, back when), who plays All-NBA defense and shoots 40% or so from 3 but does not need or want the ball beyond spot-up opportunities.

3) A post player who can carry the team for a few minutes here or there while RWB is either resting or struggling. The closest they have right now is Kanter, who is so inept defensively that he very nearly zeroes out his own offensive capabilities.

It is also preferable but perhaps not essential to have a strong secondary ball-handler. RWB's superhuman stamina and preference for dominating the ball (to his team's benefit, usually) on offense may find it difficult (but not impossible) to find a player who would both excel in this role but also be willing to defer to RWB to the extent that would be best for OKC.

It is not impossible to assemble a team like that (Magic's Lakers spring to mind, although of course that's an extreme example), but it is difficult, especially for a small-market team. If you subscribe to the (dumb) belief that Tony Parker was the best player on the '07 Spurs, that would be another example. I struggle to think of one that didn't have a top 15 all-time guy (albeit one perhaps past his prime) in the middle, however, and RWB may have a hard time finding one of those; there frankly isn't a big guy anywhere near that level in the NBA right now.

In the current cap-climate, it will be difficult for OKC to lure the sort of players RWB needs without overpaying, and he is good enough to keep them from picking particularly high in the draft. The looming free agencies of not only RWB, but Adams and Oladipo, further complicate the matter.

I do not disagree with you that RWB could be the best player on a title team, but I am skeptical that the realities of the current NBA will allow OKC to put together that sort of a team before his athleticism declines.

Of course... if he improves as a defender, the necessity of all three (and especially #1) decreases. But then, that would probably be easier for him to do if he did not need to carry the entire offense... and that does seem likely to change any time overly soon.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 2:18:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nick:

Other than Patrick Beverley landing a cheap shot that messed up Westbrook's knee for a while, Westbrook has actually been a remarkably durable player dating all the way back to high school. If he can avoid any more cheap shots, I suspect that he will have a very long career--much like Tom Brady lost one season to a cheap shot but otherwise has not missed many games.

"Defensively challenged" is a mischaracterization, in my opinion, but setting that aside I agree in general with your description of the kind of help that Westbrook would need to be the best player on a championship team. Player movement and player development can be hard to predict, so I don't feel comfortable saying whether or not those conditions can/will be met by OKC.

Oladipo has the necessary athletic ability to be an impactful player but he seems to be a guy who will tantalize as opposed to a guy who will ever quite reach what would seem to be his full potential.

I think that Westbrook actually cares less about his individual stats than LeBron or Durant or Kobe (who cared more than some players but less than he is accused of caring) and he demonstrated a willingness to take a back seat so that Durant could win scoring titles. If Oladipo (or anyone else) shows the willingness/ability to be more productive, I think that Westbrook would be thrilled (unlike, say, Harden, who is going to score 26-30 ppg until his wheels fall off, even if he never comes close to winning a title).

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 2:39:00 AM, Blogger Nick F said...

David-

I hope you're right about his durability, but with the amount of contact he takes each game (and the velocity at which he takes it), combined with his workload, I'm pretty worried he'll be more Iverson, less Kobe. That's not to say he won't still be an All-Star into his 30s, but I'm dubious if he'll still be an MVP candidate. Hopefully he will.

Let's wait and see how his defense is in the playoffs before we re-open that argument. I've been waiting for him to prove me wrong for years (that's the #1 thing I want from him), and he's shown flashes of it for sure (I forget if it was last year or the year before where he looked like he'd turned the corner for about half the season before turning back into his usual self). I just want to see him really commit to it, because we know he's technically capable. Even if he keeps biting on fakes and never quite figures out how to guard the PnR (which, to be fair, is really hard! That's why it's the most run play in basketball.), if he'd consistently bust his ass to get back in transition and consistently make 2nd and 3rd rotations, I'd stop harping on him. So far, he doesn't. Contrary to what some people I've discussed this with seem to believe, I actually want the guy to succeed*; I like great basketball.

*As a Seattleite, though, I'd prefer he do it somewhere else. I miss watching live basketball games. Screw OKC forever.

Oladipo I'm not ready to write off yet. He's still young, he's improved steadily (if slowly) throughout his career, he's got a competitive streak, and he's probably in the right situation right now. The next two or three years will be critical for him, but I'm hoping her turns into a true impact guy.

I don't have a strong opinion on whether or not RWB cares more or less than player X about stats. His team needs his scoring and rebounding, and he throws some of the best passes in the league, so on this incarnation of OKC, even if he is chasing stats it's the right thing for him to be doing.

I do think Lebron used to care about stats a lot more than he does now. I think at this point his only major concern is titles/legacy. I think if stats were his top priority, he'd be trying to average 30+ for the next few years to maximize his chance of passing Kareem.

Now, coaching wise, I think in the long run OKC would probably be better off if they leaned on him a little less in an effectively non-contending year like this one, both to save him some wear-and-tear and to give guys like Oladipo and McDermott more reps, but that's a totally separate issue.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 4:23:00 AM, Anonymous JT said...

GOATbrook=MVP

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 11:11:00 AM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

Thanks for another great write-up! I was hoping you'd comment on Westbrook's latest games. I again 100% agree with you. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that does not make them right - Westbrook is the correct choice for MVP and there really shouldn't be as in-depth discussion as it has been. Anyone who disagrees with that is either or a combination of:

A.) Trying to create conversation for the sake of discussion
B.) Falling for the hype and thinking in the moment
C.) A moron and has no clue what the hell they're talking about
D.) A blatant hater

Westbrook is not better than Kobe and I am not sure if he ever will be, but he is playing at as high as a level you will ever see from a 6'3 guard. I think he's learning to pick his spots a little better, but sometimes that is difficult when you have to create for everyone on the floor for almost every possession. He's most certainly a player you can build a contender around. They would have been in the finals last year if they won one more game. I've never been the biggest fan of Kevin Durant partially because of the media's love of him and criticism of Westbrook, but also because very few if any truly watched OKC's games and paid attention to the fact that Durant never had that dog in him. Durant a lot of the times shyed away from the big moments and often disappeared in games. His scoring numbers weren't always visible when watching the games from start to finish. He had a knack for getting buckets that had little impact on the game (and still does). However, he was clearly OKC's best player up until 2014. During the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Westbrook closed that gap significantly where as they were clearly 1A 1B like Shaq and Kobe.

I'm not sure that the solution is as simple as giving him a Pau Gasol level player because Kobe also played under arguably the greatest coach of all-time in Phil Jackson. Odom in my opinion is also better than anyone on the Thunder. Westbrook is also not on the level of a Kobe or LeBron, but he isn't far off either. He's smaller, his basketball IQ is not as high, and he's not as great as a defender as either. However, I'm certain that if you gave Westbrook a better supporting cast then OKC will go back to being perennial contenders and perhaps win a championship with him as their best player. Oladipo is not that guy. I'm not even sure if he's capable of being the 3rd best player on a championship team. Look at every single championship team in history and let me know if Oladipo is better than any of the 3rd best players. Steven Adams has been a huge disappointment this year, but he is absolutely a serviceable center for a contender. Hopefully OKC can pull off some moves in the offseason to get him more help.

This season is a wrap though. It would be an absolute travesty if Wesbrook does not win this year.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 12:41:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Kyle-

I disagree with your list of reasons someone may not think RWB is the MVP. Since there is no agreed upon definition, here are some other reasons people may have someone else atop their ballot (I do not necessarily agree with these, but they aren't "blatant hate" or "moronic").

A) They subscribe to the "Best player on the best team" method of picking the MVP, which RWB certainly is not.
B) They vote for the best player in the league, regardless of numbers or anything else but skillset and ceiling (in which case it would be Lebron, chill mode or no).
C) They do not want to vote for a player on a non-contending team, no matter how good he is, because they believe an MVP should be giving their team a chance to win the title. A variant of this may be someone who has a certain number of wins as a prerequisite for MVP; I have a friend I respect who doesn't think anyone who wins fewer than 50 games should be considered an MVP candidate, for example.
D) They think another player has a comparable impact that does not show up as obviously in the box score (Kawhi's defense, Lebron's versatility, Curry's spacing, etc.)

My list is currently in flux- it's a virtual toss up between Lebron and RWB now for me, with the Cavs slumping a bit and RWB somehow upping his game even more lately; if those trends bear out through the next few weeks, RWB will be my pick in spite of the nits I pick with parts of his game- but if I didn't pick him I'd fall under the D category. But I wouldn't call anyone in A, B, or C a moron, since there is no "right" definition for MVP. I also wouldn't call it a travesty if Lebron or maybe even Kawhi won, though I probably would if Harden (not that good) or Durant (didn't play enough) did. There is probably a weird/fun/speculative argument even for Curry based on the space he creates, though I would need to see a really damn compelling case for it to buy it, and I don't think anyone's made it (and I can't make it myself, so I'd need to be persuaded; still, those things are hard to quantify, and it's possible that matters more than any of us realize at the moment).

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 12:44:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

I agree that a Pau-type player would not be enough for RWB. He needs at least one or two elite D-and-3 guys. Even Kobe needed Ariza/Artest as well as Odom/Bynum, and Kobe was a much better defender (and a more efficient scorer) than RWB.

I think Oladipo would have been probably the second or third best player on the '03 Spurs and the '94 (and maybe 3rd in '95) Rockets. What Parker/Ginobili went on to do later in their careers tends to trick people into thinking they were good in '03, but both stunk at that point. Robinson was still effective in a limited role, but played very low minutes. Stephen Jackson was probably the second best player on that team, and while I'd personally take him over Oladipo by a hair, there's a decent case to be made for Victor there. The third best player on the Rockets was probably Otis Thorpe (though there's a fun hypothetical case to be made for Kenny), and current Oladipo is certainly competitive with either of those guys. It is difficult to compare him directly with Thorpe for me both due to the difference in position and because it's been a bit since i watched specifically '94 Thorpe play, but I think I'd probably take Oladipo by a nose (especially on a team that has Hakeem inside anyway).

There might be a way out-there case for him as the third best guy on the '75 Warriors, or maybe the last Shaq/Kobe title team, too, though I'd be disinclined to make it myself.

That all said, I obviously agree he's not good enough to be the second best guy on an RWB title team, though perhaps he'll grow into that role (though that seems a bit of a tall ask). I think even now he could probably be the third best guy on a meticulously constructed RWB title team, though, say if the second best guy were Marc Gasol or someone and the rest of the team was full of quality role-players (maybe,say, Otto Porter and whatever stretch 4 plays the most respectable defense while still not being a better player than Oladipo). It'd also need a pretty damn good bench.

So, yeah, realistically he's not the guy, at least not yet. As I said above, I think OKC may struggle to get RWB the brand of help he needs, especially once/if Oladipo and Adams eat up most of their cap.

It is perhaps also worth noting that while not a *cheap* franchise in the sense of, say, the Suns, OKC has a habit of letting guys leave rather than pay them max dollars (Harden, Ibaka). Getting RWB the help he needs is likely to necessitate overpaying someone, and that runs counter to OKC's culture.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 5:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that a sizeable portion of the media is trying their best to dismiss Westbrook's once in a lifetime season as some kind of sideshow circus act. His production level is so unprecedented that they have to acknowledge it but they are doing so begrudgingly. They were so arrogant in their assertion that OKC sabotaged themselves by trading Harden and committing to Westbrook that it would be embarrassing for them if Westbrook won the MVP over Harden. If Harden were putting up these numbers at this point in the season he would probably become the first player in the history of the league to receive the MVP trophy before the season ended. I didn't think it was possible to average a triple double for an entire season in the modern NBA, even one of the 15-10-10 variety, so Westbrook's numbers are truly unthinkable. There is a good chance that Westbrook will be robbed of an MVP and I wouldn't be surprised if some voters leave him off the ballot entirely just as a few did with Kobe in his historically great season.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 8:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2017 RW certainly isn't 2006 Kobe, and he has a lot more help than Kobe did that year. That's a pretty solid starting lineup OKC is walking out there now. Kobe only finished 4th in MVP that year, too. The year Oscar averaged a triple-double, he only finished 3rd with Wilt only finishing 2nd averaging 50/25 in the greatest nba season ever.

There's at least 3 great picks for MVP this season, and KD would've been a 4th if he didn't get hurt even with RW doing amazing and probably being the best player this season.

For as great and durable as RW is, he's still averaging only 34.8mpg has never averaged 36mpg. If he was able to play 40mpg, OKC could very well be at 50+ wins already and on pace for upper 50s at worst. Even with contenderish-worthy casts, if an MVP candidate averages 4-5mpg less, that'll amount to 5-10 more losses probably.

Nick, everyone needs help. The amount of help Kobe had from 08-10 wasn't that special or the best in the league. Heck, the Suns' 2nd unit outplayed the Lakers' starters at times in the 2010 WCF. You might be right about Olapido being the 3rd best player on 2003 SA(though Parker was pretty good that year); however, Duncan's cast that year was top 3-4 at worst, much different than OKC's cast this year, which is decent but not great. As great as RW is(and KD as well), they only reached 1 Finals together, and that was needing another future MVP candidate with them. Sure, they look like they could be the best player on a typical title team(they're better than 2011 Dirk for sure), but they don't have an overall good track record for Finals appearances. When 2 top 5 players team up in nba history, it usually results in at least one title and usually multiple titles. KD's on an AS team, so obviously he should win now, but I have serious doubts about each still, especially if GS didn't win the title.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 9:33:00 PM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

Anon, without wading into your argument I just want to make one specific point.

2011 Dirk had a great playoff series that ended in an upset championship. To say that KD and RW are clearly better is a bit disrespectful to me. Their stories have not been written yet, and Dirk is a weird enough player that I don't know how to rank him in terms of "all time greats," but I think he has done enough to be spared that kind of disrespect. Say they are on the same level as dirk maybe, but the way you phrased it made dirk sound like a scrub. Those guys don't even have championships, and RW hasn't got his MVP yet, no matter how well deserved.

Maybe you didn't mean it that way but that's how I read it.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 9:39:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Anonymous-

I agree that everyone needs help. That was sorta my point; I don't think RWB is going to get it. I think Oladipo is a bit better than Keith does, but I don' think he's anywhere near good enough to be RWB's #2 on any kind of contending team, at least not yet.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 10:14:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

I do, however, disagree that Tony Parker was much good circa 2003. He was 12th among PGs in scoring at 15.5 ppg (57th overall), 16th in assists at 5.3 (24th overall), his efficiency was nothing to write home about, and his defense was terrible. He wasn't a good enough 3 pt shooter to space the floor (33%) and all his numbers crumbled in the playoffs (shooting 40% overall and in the mid 20s from 3), where the team was a tire-fire with him on the court (losing by 17 pp100, which is mind-blowing when you realize most of those minutes came with Duncan, who was +23 per 100) as teams relentlessly targeted him on D.

He was a roughly average starting PG in the regular season and arguably the worst starting PG in the entire post-season, where he was 11th of 16 among PGs in scoring, 15 of 16 in assists, and among the worst in efficiency and defense. The three other guys who played PG for SA in that playoffs finished 1st, 7th, and 8th in playoff +/- per minute among guards, while Parker was 31st. On his own team, he was 9th out of 12 players (ahead of only Bowen, Smith, and Ferry; it's worth noting Smith and Ferry basically only played garbage time).

He stunk out loud int he playoffs. Whether the Spurs' 2nd best guy was Robinson, Jackson, or maybe even Ginobili (who shot poorly from 2 but well from 3 and injected some much needed offensive spontaneity) is a pick 'em, but none of them put up particularly impressive performances. Oladipo's current numbers would easily have been the second best on that team, and he's a good (not great) defender besides.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 11:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous (First):

I agree with your entire comment, particularly the opening lines: "It seems that a sizeable portion of the media is trying their best to dismiss Westbrook's once in a lifetime season as some kind of sideshow circus act. His production level is so unprecedented that they have to acknowledge it but they are doing so begrudgingly. They were so arrogant in their assertion that OKC sabotaged themselves by trading Harden and committing to Westbrook that it would be embarrassing for them if Westbrook won the MVP over Harden."

You are quite right to note that until Westbrook came along it seemed unlikely that in the modern era anyone could average 15-10-10, much less 30-10-10. Young Magic and prime Kidd were the only players who even came remotely close to a 15-10-10 type of season.

What Westbrook has accomplished is truly one of the great individual seasons of all-time. Harden has put up gaudy numbers in a gimmicky system but Westbrook has put up historic numbers in a traditional offense while being saddled with a supporting cast that (1) is not that good and (2) was not built around him, which is a key point considering that Houston's entire roster and coaching staff have been built to please Harden.

 
At Thursday, March 30, 2017 11:28:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous (Second):

I agree that 2017 Westbrook is not 2006 Kobe.

Kobe finishing fourth in the MVP voting--and being left off of many ballots entirely--is a farce.

Triple double Oscar lost out in the MVP vote to the most dominant center ever in his most dominant season and to the winningest NBA player ever in his prime. Those candidates are not present in this year's MVP race to contend with Westbrook.

I agree that several players are having MVP caliber seasons but Westbrook's season is historic and a cut above.

It makes no sense to criticize Westbrook for playing 35 mpg when he is accomplishing something that has not been done in five decades. You are suggesting that Westbrook has to average, say, 35-12-12 in 40 mpg to be the MVP because 30-10-10 just isn't good enough. Pretty silly argument.

Four WCF appearances in a six year span for KD and Westbrook is outstanding in a tough conference--and without injuries they likely would have gone six for six. Since the NBA aligned into conferences in 1971, only the Kareem-Magic Lakers exceeded that, making 9 WCFs in 10 years (including eight consecutive). The Shaq-Kobe Lakers made four out of five and Duncan's Spurs made four out of six. In the past decade, only the Spurs (five) have made more WCF appearances than the KD-Westbrook Thunder. In those four runs, the Thunder lost to the eventual champion three times (twice in the WCF and once in the Finals, to the Heat's Superteam). Last year, the Thunder enjoyed a 3-1 lead against the defending champion Warriors, who went on to take a 3-1 lead in the Finals before losing in seven games.

Assuming you are the Anonymous who pumps up Harden, I am still trying to figure out why four WCFs in six years--one of the best such sustained runs of excellence in the West in the past two decades--is less impressive than Harden's one fluky run to the WCF. Let's see Harden make it out of the first round four times in six years, let alone advance to the WCF.

 
At Friday, March 31, 2017 11:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew, take it for what you want concerning Dirk, but I wasn't trying to disrespect him. What I'm seeing from RW this season is much better than I've ever seen from Dirk, and healthy KD this season, too, which isn't KD's best season either. Dirk won in a down year, and his Finals performance was good, but not great. James checked out of the 2011 Finals, that's the main reason why DAL won.

David, Harden is putting up historic #'s, too, and much more efficient than RW is. Make excuses all you want about HOU's gimmicky system, but Harden is the driving force for that offense, which is amazing. Only 3 players(5 seasons total-3 by Oscar) in NBA history have ever averaged 25, 8, and 10, and 2 of them are playing this season. Plus, James/Leonard/KD are all much better two-way players than either of them. RW is my MVP, but there's several other very good choices.

I'm not criticizing RW for his mpg, but pointing out he's not playing that high of minutes. Regardless if his stats increased in an extra 4-5mpg played, his presence on the court would help OKC immensely. If his team is as bad as you say without him, then he should be filling the holes on his team more by playing more minutes, much like Kobe/James and others have done in the past. You often talk about how guys shouldn't rest and should be able to play very high minutes. I'm confused why you think it's ok for RW to only play 34.8mpg when his team desperately needs him to play much more.

Who said anything about HOU's team success being better than OKC's team success in recent memory? And how about Harden get another top 5 player to play with first, and then we'll talk. It's too bad you can't see the difference. I wonder if I should insult someone like Oscar for having such poor team success in CIN(much worse than Harden with HOU I might add) much like you do with Harden?

Are JVG, Mark Jackson, Steph Curry, etc. all pumping up Harden as well for MVP? And I don't even have Harden as MVP myself. Like I've asked you several times before, how could the entire NBA universe be so clueless about Harden? How do all these past/present nba people have no idea Harden isn't even a top 10 player? It must be mind-boggling to you and make your cringe every time the commentators talk up Harden during a game.

 
At Friday, March 31, 2017 6:01:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

For what it's worth, players voted the MVP until 1979, which meant they had a different criteria for who counts as the best player in the league. I'm pretty sure a few were jealous of Wilt Chamberlain in 1962, and voted against him.

Since then, as a media-driven award, the MVP has been more about story or what draws attention than the mythical "best player" title. Moreover, this criteria keeps changing every few years. Sometimes it would be "makes his teammates better" as a strike against Michael Jordan. Sometimes it would be "most impactful player" as in who did more with less, like Steve Nash. Sometimes it would be "best player on the best team."

I particularly liked Bill Simmons' idea that the prize should vary according to the importance of the event, making the MVP award different from one another. He distinguished them with the following:

40 pounds: the "mack daddy, you can barely hold it over your head size, reserved for any monster season in which a future Hall of Famer annihilates his competition and leaves no doubt whatsoever. This is my league right now. Examples: 2000 Shaq, 1996 Jordan, 1983 Moses. Only defining seasons from signature players can qualify."

25 pounds: "A smaller, gutted it out trophy for a future Hall of Famer who prevails in an especially memorable race. You know, like 1990, when Magic barely edged out one of Jordan's best statistical seasons... Now THAT'S an MVP race!"

10 pounds: "The typical MVP trophy handed out for a stereotypical rock-solid MVP season: Think Kobe in 2008, Hakeem in 1994, Jordan in 1992, Magic in 1989... just a really good season for a great player."

Etc. I would give Westbrook the 25 pound award if I could vote for MVP and in Simmons' parlance.

For Westbrook to have the 40 pounder, he would have to lead his team to 60-plus wins, destroy his competition in Curry, Harden, LBJ, Kawhi Leonard.

That he has failed to beat superior teams like GSW or Harden last week is quite telling. Against GSW he got swept, shot 16-51 in the other 3 games, excepting the 47 point explosion.

 
At Saturday, April 01, 2017 1:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

You constantly praise Houston's one fluky WCF run and you constantly belittle OKC's four trips to the WCF, so you are the one who is attempting to make the case that one fluky WCF run means more than four WCF appearances. I see you praising Harden for anything that goes well for Houston and making excuses for when Harden plays poorly.

Oscar Robertson played in a smaller league in which several teams had multiple HoFers, so you cannot compare his team's playoff runs to playoff runs in this watered down era.

It is not my job to explain how other people think or why they may or may not be "clueless." I state my opinion and I back it up with evidence. Individually, Harden has performed about how I expected him to perform in Houston, except that his scoring is perhaps a little higher (I expected around 25 ppg, instead of 28-29 ppg) and his assists have ballooned under D'Antoni (which I predicted after D'Antoni was hired, because this happens to every starting pg in D'Antoni's system). I expected Houston to struggle to consistently get out of the first round with Harden at the helm and I have been right about that.

So, the question is not about my ability to predict how Harden would perform or how his team would do. I have been right about both. The question is why do members of the media believe that a 25-28 ppg scorer who performs worse in the playoffs than he does in the regular season and who does not want to be coached hard or play with other stars is an MVP candidate instead of a talented All-Star who is unlikely to ever be the best player on a championship team? I don't know the answer to that question but nothing that I have seen changes my opinion that the five best players in the NBA right now are Westbrook, James, Leonard, Durant and Curry--with Westbrook as the clear MVP this season, James as the best player when not in "chill mode," Leonard as the most balanced two-way player, Durant as the best player on the best team and Curry as a potent scorer/shooter/passer whose defense is not as bad as some people say (but who can be worn down physically over the course of a season or playoff series). By virtue of his gaudy numbers, Harden is somewhere in the next group of players but it is my opinion that his impact on winning is less than his numbers suggest.

 
At Saturday, April 01, 2017 1:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Awet:

Just to clarify, the players last voted for the regular season NBA MVP for the 1979-80 season.

I don't take seriously much of what Simmons says about MVPs or player evaluations, because he has some obvious agendas, including pumping up Larry Bird (and other Celtics), devaluing Julius Erving/the ABA (which is part of pumping up Bird) and trashing Kobe Bryant.

I also don't buy that to validate oneself as a dominant player one has to lead a team to 60 wins. Kobe Bryant in 2006 had one of the most dominant seasons ever but he had Smush at pg and Kwame at center--two players who barely belonged in the league, let alone starting at key positions for a playoff team. If anyone ever deserved a 40 pound "mack daddy" MVP it was Bryant.

Rick Barry has said that there should be a Most Outstanding Player award for the best individual player and a Most Valuable Player award for the best player on the best team. That makes some sense and by those parameters Westbrook would be the MOP and Durant would be the MVP this season.

 
At Saturday, April 01, 2017 1:42:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

David-

I agree with you that Simmons undersells the ABA in general and Doc especially (although he does concede that ABA Doc is top tier, he doesn't really factor ABA stuff into his all-time rankings, which I think is bollocks). I mostly agree with you that he overrates Bird (but I also think he overrates Magic even more, Celtics bias or no).

I disagree that he's anti-Kobe. Last time I remember seeing him talk about it he had Kobe as one of the top 8* ever, ahead of about half your Pantheon, so I think you two may be closer to aligned on that point than you think.

*If memory serves, and it might not, his rankings are Jordan-> Russell -> Kareem -> Magic -> Bird -> Wilt -> Duncan -> Kobe, though I think he may have bumped Lebron in there since he published his last edition, not sure. I'd take Kobe ahead of Magic and maybe Bird (I have a tough time figuring out just where Bird belongs), but otherwise I think everyone he's got ahead of him is pretty defensible.

 

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