Wednesday night, the Warriors will look to make history against the Memphis Grizzlies. With a win, they will become the first team to ever win 73 games in a season, surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72 wins led by Michael Jordan. This is by far the biggest story of the regular season this year, but I’d like to focus on something else. The reigning MVP, Steph Curry, is likely to repeat his status as most valuable player this season, becoming the tenth player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards. While the decision may be close to unanimous, I think there’s someone else more suited for this year’s most prestigious seasonal award.
Steph Curry has a league leading 29.9 points per game, a full point per game higher than the second best in the league. He’s also tied with three other players for most steals per game with 2.1. Curry cracks the top ten in the NBA in assists per game as well. So with numbers like these why wouldn’t Steph win his second MVP award? It’s because there’s another Western Conference point guard that is more deserving of the privilege. That’s right, not only do I not think Steph Curry was the best player in the NBA this year, I don’t even think he was the best at his position.
Russell Westbrook is more deserving to win the MVP with the season he’s had than anyone else in the NBA. Westbrook averaged 23.5 PPG, which is impressive when you look at the fact that his teammate, Kevin Durant, averaged 28.2 PPG, the third most in the league. Even with a teammate putting up the bulk of the team’s scoring, Westbrook still finds a way to score the ninth most points in the league. Westbrook also averages 7.8 rebounds per game, which makes him the only guard in the NBA to crack the top 50 in the NBA in rebounding. Curry averages only 5.5 rebounds. But that’s not all. Westbrook is second in assists per game, averaging double digits with 10.4 ASP. Curry averages 6.7 assists, which doesn’t even lead his team. When it comes to steals, Westbrook only trails by 0.1 per game, placing him just behind Steph and the three other league leaders in that category.
There’s no denying Steph Curry’s greatness. I believe he was well deserving of the MVP award last season, and there is certainly a case for him this season. With that being said, I just think Westbrook is a much more well-rounded player. He is in the top ten for scoring, assists, and steals, while grabbing the most boards out of any guard in the league. Not only that, he is also a triple-double machine. He has 18 triple-doubles on the year, tying him for the most in NBA history in a single season. He shares that feat with Magic Johnson, and any time you can be in the same category as Magic, you are doing something pretty special.
Westbrook’s athleticism is far superior to Curry’s as well. Though that doesn’t necessarily tell the story of an MVP, it’s hard not to notice. Pound for pound, Westbrook is on the same level as LeBron James when it comes to being a freak athlete. His combination of size in speed makes him a nightmare for defenders in the half court offense and the fast break. His ability to grab a rebound and take it coast to coast for a monster dunk is unlike any point guard I’ve ever seen. Though it probably shouldn’t be a factor, that kind of excitement could get some votes from basketball writers for the MVP award.
That’s not to say Curry isn’t an exciting player to watch. In fact, most people will argue he’s the most exciting player in the NBA right now. His ability to hit a three from 35 feet out is the best in NBA history. He can shoot off the dribble and with a hand in his face, and at times it seems like nothing the opposing team does is enough to stop him. But you also need to look at the teams they play for. Steph is playing for possibly the best team in NBA history. Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters in the NBA and Draymond Green has emerged as a superstar this season. They also have depth not only in their starting five, but also on the bench. Last year’s Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala, is a bench player for Golden State. Again, the former Finals MVP comes off the bench for Golden State.
But I know what you’re thinking. Russell Westbrook plays with Kevin Durant, a former NBA MVP. Well that’s what I feel makes Westbrook even more impressive. He isn’t the go-to scoring option for the Thunder, but yet he still finds a way to score over 23 points per game. And he’s still able to dish out more than ten dimes a game, while putting up rebound numbers unheard of for point guards since the Magic days. And after Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t have nearly as much depth as the Warriors. Their next leading scorer after Durant and Westbrook is Serge Ibaka, who scores 12.6 PPG. This is down from his previous three seasons, while his rebound and block totals are also down for the once promising big man. The Thunder are nowhere near a bad team, sitting at third in the Western Conference with a record of 55-26, but they just don’t have the overall talent that the Golden State Warriors do.
As I mentioned before, Westbrook is the complete package of size and speed. This makes him more of a threat to opposing offenses than most point guards. He can keep opposing point guards in front of him that like to drive to the rim, while also having the speed to get out and contest shooting point guards. Curry on the other hand, does not have these abilities. He is much weaker than the average NBA player, and while he is quick, when it comes to shear speed, he is not as fast as other point guards around the league. As the old saying goes, defense wins championships, and Westbrook has a much better defensive game than Curry. Sure, Curry has emerged as the most popular player in the NBA, but writers should not think like fans do. They need to be more objective and look at who truly was the most valuable player in the NBA after taking all aspects of the game into account. After doing just that, I think Westbrook needs to be given more consideration for MVP than he has been.