Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Was Russell Westbrook a deserving MVP in 2016-17?

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We’re taking a look back and reviewing some of the more contentious MVP debates in NBA history. This time it’s Russell Westbrook and his triple-double dominance. Was he the right selection as league MVP for the 2016-17 season?

Chris Haynes: You could argue James Harden deserved the MVP and had the most consistent season. He led the third-seeded Houston Rockets to 55 wins, eight more than the sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. At 29.1 points per game, Harden was second to Westbrook, who finished at 31.6. For 80 percent of the season, Harden had my vote. But the last few weeks, Westbrook went on a tear. From memorable game-winners, to racking up triple-double like we’ve never seen in our lifetime, suddenly my vote Euro-stepped to the Thunder guard by season’s end. This was also the first season the Thunder were without Kevin Durant, which might have bolstered Westbrook’s résumé when it came to the writers deciding between the two star guards. But I’ll say this: Had the Rockets been the No. 1 seed, the award would have been Harden’s. It the rare season when a player earned MVP honors while not being on the team with the top record in the conference.

(Yahoo illustration)
(Yahoo illustration)

Ben Rohrbach: I know this might be unpopular, but I stand by my pick of Russell Westbrook for 2017 MVP. My opinion of James Harden has not wavered in the years since. He is great on a team built to maximize his skill set, but Westbrook was the story of that season, maintaining a bad Thunder team’s relevancy in the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure and doing so in clutch fashion. His three straight triple-double campaigns remain one of the most underrated accomplishments in recent history, and 2016-17 was the most impressive of the trilogy. In retrospect, I might give Kawhi Leonard closer consideration, given how impressive that 61-win Spurs team was on both ends. But Westbrook is still the pick.

Seerat Sohi:The clear light of history shines in the direction of Kawhi Leonard, who has since climbed to the top of the basketball world. Before the devastating injury that erased a massive Game 1 lead in the Western Conference finals against the dynastic Golden State Warriors and led to the load management strategy that will now and forever recuse him from MVP candidacy, Leonard was a two-way wrecking show. The San Antonio Spurs overachieved their way to the No. 2 seed with him at the mantle. Who knows what else they would have done?

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