By Larry Fitzgerald
April 20, 2017
OK, by a show of hands, your choice for NBA MVP is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, right? He led the NBA in scoring with 31.9 per game. He averaged a triple double for the season — 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists over 80 games.
He broke Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record of 41 triple doubles with the new high mark of 42. Oscar Robertson is a legend of an era where the big man dominated the NBA. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Willis Reed all led their teams to titles.
Guards like the “Big O” Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Walt Frazier did not get the attention back then compared to what guards receive today. Back in the 1961-62 season, Robertson, while setting the NBA record of 41 triple doubles, finished third in the MVP voting to Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. Russell was the MVP with 18.9 points, 23 rebounds, and averaged five blocked shots per game.
Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain that year averaged 50.4 points per game and was the runner-up to Russell for the MVP that season. That’s something for you to think about before you assume Westbrook has locked up the MVP Award. History has shown that the MVP award usually goes to the best player on one of the league’s top teams.
For example, last year Stephen Curry of Golden State led the Warriors to an NBA regular-season record 73 wins while scoring 30 points a game. He won the honor the previous season also by leading the Warriors to 67 wins; again, they had the best record in the NBA.
Westbrook, as dominating as he was, led Oklahoma City to a 47-35 record, good for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference. Most people think James Harden of Houston, with 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and leading the NBA in assists with 11.2 per game, could grab the MVP trophy because Houston was 55-27, third-best record in the NBA.
I think the vote will be real close. Curry, the winner the last two years, averaged 25.4 points, his new teammate Kevin Durant averaged 25 points, and the Warriors had the best record again with 67 wins.
Kiwai Leonard of San Antonio averaged a career-best 25.7 points per game while leading the Spurs to 61 wins, second-best in the NBA the year legend Tim Duncan retired after 18 seasons. Boston’s Isiah Thomas led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference and tied Harden, averaging 29.1 points per game.
LeBron James and Cleveland slipped to number two in the East, but as defending NBA Champions and averaging 26.4 points per game. The King, a four-time MVP winner, will get a lot of votes also.
I tend to lean to the best player on the best team. That formula seems to be the way the voters go, and history shows that whether it’s 1961-62 or 2016-17, it’s still a team game. The best player on the best team wins MVP honors just about every year. We will soon see.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.