NBA MVP Watch: A Tribute to Russell Westbrook
So far this season, there have been 10 instances when Westbrook has recorded at least 24 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds in a game. To put that in perspective, since 1983-84 there are only three other players who are in the same club -- LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Not too shabby.
Yes -- he is a league leader in turnovers and is iffy at best from beyond the arc, but let's give credit where credit is due. Westbrook has played in every game this season and is nearly averaging a triple double with 24.1 points, 10.5 assists, and 7.6 rebounds. Mr. All-In-One is second in the league in double-doubles (44) and tied for first in triple-doubles (11). But because of some other amazing ballers this year, Westbrook has consistently found himself in fourth place in nERD.
For those unfamiliar, nERD is our in-house metric that measures a player's contributions throughout the course of a season based on their efficiency. Comparable to Win Shares, this ranking gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win with that player as one of their starters. The rating will represent a player's total contribution during an 82-game season, not just the games played so far this year.
Let's see what the other candidates have been up to in the latest MVP Watch.
5. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
nERD Score: 14.5
Team Record: 41-22
Although Westbrook and the Thunder got the best of Chris Paul and the Clippers in CP3's last game, he moved into the top five because of LeBron James' dip after his game against the Lakers last night. Paul certainly deserves to be recognized, though. He's notched at least 10 assists in 9 of his last 11 games, including a 16-dime outing against Westbrook. He's led the Clippers to the third-best team nERD rating in the NBA.
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Score: 16.0
Team Record: 44-20
After achieving a bare bones triple double versus the Bucks, Westbrook followed up with a 20/20 version against the Clippers as he recorded 25 points, 20 assists, and 11 rebounds. He was only three turnovers away from a comical quadruple double (like the previous game), but the Thunder will happily take the wins, as they were recovering from a lackluster 3-6 record in their last nine games. There are no signs of Westbrook slowing down, and he and the Thunder will fight to secure the 3 seed in the West.
3. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Score: 18.3
Team Record: 44-20
Kevin Durant: double-double aficionado. What? Don't look now, but Durant has seven straight double-doubles with averages of 31.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.9 blocks during that span. He is really attacking the boards this year with a career-high of 8.3 per game, virtually all of them on the defensive end, and is shooting a career-best for two-point field goals at 57%. The Thunder's next big test will come against the Spurs, the team they defeated in their first game of the season.
2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
nERD Score: 20.7
Team Record: 55-10
Kawhi Leonard has bounced back in a big way after returning from three straight DNP's. In eight games since recovering from a calf injury, Leonard has had no restrictions with averages of 35.1 minutes and a Usage Rate of 27.9%. His three-point shot was inconsistent (2 for his last 13 attempts) before a 4-for-5 performance last night. He is averaging 24.8 points on 18 field goal attempts in his last nine. As monstrous as he is, the MVP trophy may be out of reach for Leonard, but he and the Spurs are still only three games back from taking over the top overall spot.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
nERD Score: 25.3
Team Record: 57-6
After a puzzling off-night in a historic loss to the Lakers, Stephen Curry immediately regained awesomeness in the second game of a back-to-back with a 41-point, 13-rebound spectacle against the Magic. On the season, Curry is averaging career-highs in points (30.4), rebounds (5.4), and steals (2.1). If that wasn't enough, Curry is setting career marks in nearly every shooting statistic (with the exception of free throw percentage, which is still 90%) including attempts, makes, and total efficiency. The Warriors will remain motivated to thrive as they run away from the creeping Spurs and chase the regular season wins record held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.