Let's take a trip back to August 5, 2016.
Russell Westbrook signed a three-year extension to remain with the Thunder for at least another two seasons. This was an aftereffect of Kevin Durant's surprising decision to join the Golden State Warriors just weeks after losing to them in the Western Conference Finals.
Russell decision to stay with Thunder proved that he was a loyal player, but the expectations for the Thunder were not high, nor were they high for Westbrook. Let's look at some important dates during Westbrook historical season:
October 28, 2016, Westbrook recorded his first triple-double of the season, dropping 51 points, 13 boards, and 10 dimes in an 113-110 victory over the Phonix Suns. Despite the monster stat-line, everyone gawked over poor shooting from the field, 17-44. No one wants their point guard taking 44 shots.
December 9, 2016, Westbrook capped off a 7-game triple-double streak, tying Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson for 2nd longest ever. During that span, Westbrook averaged 28.8 points, 13 dimes, 13.5 boards, the Thunder going 6-1.
December 17, 2016, Westbrook posted the first 25-point, 20-assist triple-double since Magic Johnson in 1988, with his 26 points, 22 dimes, and 11 boards performance against the Phoenix Suns, also claiming the victory, 114-101.
February 24, 2016, Westbrook shot 22 percent from the field against the Lakers but led them to a 110-93 victory with his 17 points, 18 boards, 17 dimes, and 3 steals, coming close to the first 20-20-20 game since 1968 when Wilt Chamberlain did it.
March 22, 2017, Westbrook started his second 7-game triple-double streak of the season. That streak included his second 50-point triple double of the season, and he tied Oscar Robertson for most triple-doubles in a season to cap off the streak on April 4th. During that run, Westbrook averaged 33.5 points, 11.8 dimes, and 12.7 boards, while shooting 53 percent from the field.
And on April 9, 2017, Westbrook became the new all-time leader for most triple-doubles in a season with his 50 points, 16 boards, and 10 dimes against the Nuggets, also hitting a 36-foot buzzer beater to win the game, 106-105. It was also his third 50-point triple double of the season.
These dates not only serves as book marks for a historical season but also showing Westbrooks consistency. Leading up to the All-Star break, the main question was can he keep the same pace throughout the season. In January Russ averaged 30 points, 10.7 boards, 9.5 dimes while shooting 39 percent from the field. He elevated all numbers in the months of February and March. His best month of the season being March averaging 34 points, 11 dimes, and 10 boards, shooting 43 percent from the field.
The race for MVP has been entertaining all season long, with James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Isaiah Thomas, and LeBron James having career years. None those players were put into a situation that Russell had to face. Each of those players are a part of systems and teams that were built for their individual success. Harden has a roster full of snipers, Thomas has a solid crew of versatile role players, Popovich gave Kawhi the keys to the car two seasons ago, and LeBron has the 2nd best roster in the NBA.
Westbrook Triple Doubles
For Russell, he walked into his 8th season without the 2nd best player in the world. It wasn't a roster that resembled a 40-win team or one that could make a run for the playoffs. Most pundits predicted Russell to have big numbers on a losing team. Russell did put the big numbers, leading the league in scoring, top five in assist, and top ten in rebounds as a guard, but they did not expect the winning. The Thunder are 32-10 when Westbrook notches a triple-double. Recently, Harden said he thought the award was about winning, which is true. MVP candidates should be on winning teams. The Rockets have the third-best record in the NBA thanks to Harden MVP-caliber season, but the fact that 32 of the Thunder's 46 wins came from Westbrook's triple-doubles, fits the criteria of winning.
There are some people who think Westbrook's historic season is a facade. They like to bring up his turnover numbers, currently averaging 5.4 turnovers a game. They also criticize his usage rate, which is a league high, 41.8. The usage rate argument has been used to suggest the only reason he is able to average a triple-double is because he has the ball in his hands more than anyone else in the league. The same argument could be used to defend his turnovers. Also, the argument of high turnovers and usage rate is not used for James Harden, who has more turnovers than Westbrook with a lesser usage rate.
Whether you like Westbrook or not, you can not deny history. You can not deny that he held down the ship after the "captain" jumped it. MVP is supposed to go to the most valuable player. His record-breaking season didn't come in a losing effort, it was the reason why the Thunder are in the playoffs.