Russell Westbrook Heats Up MVP Race

We are in the final weeks of the NBA season and all of the races are heating up. This includes the race for playoff positioning and the league’s Most Valuable player. There are three, maybe four true candidates for the latter race; Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and maybe LeBron James.

Of those players, one of them begun his campaign in the middle of the season. Injuries to this players teammates and where his team sat in the standings has helped this particular player’s case. That player is Russell Westbrook.

It is not about how you start, but how you finish. In an odd way, Westbrook received a boost to his bid for NBA Most Valuable Player. That came about after the most valuable player from last season, Kevin Durant was shut down to undergo surgery on his foot.

The New York Times reports that the Oklahoma City Thunder star will have a bone graft performed, shelving him for a time frame of four to six months. Durant being out, coupled with the loss of an injured Serge Ibaka, puts the onus on Westbrook to guide the Thunder to the playoffs.

Oklahoma City currently have a two and a half game edge over the New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With nine games remaining, they trail Dallas for the seventh seed by four games. Given the recent news that Dallas may be without guard Monta Ellis, who according to ESPN, suffered a knee injury during a blowout loss to San Antonio, the Thunder can improve their position.

More wins, could mean a higher seed. Would Russell Westbrook’s chances grow if the Thunder can fight for the seventh seed?

Westbrook has six triple-doubles since the All-Star game, nine triple-doubles for the entire season. His six triple-doubles since February 19th bests the second runner-up in that category, James Harden, by two.

Triple-0Doubles

That is an astonishing feat which places him in rare territory. Not even LeBron James has had stretch like this. If Westbrook finish out the season with this pace he will at the very least be one of the top vote-getters in the most valuable player rankings.

Much of his ascension has taken place partly because Kevin Durant has only appeared 27 games. Somebody had to step up for the Thunder, why not Westbrook, who keeps impressing people with each game. He will be on the minds of all of the award voters when they officially place their ballots.

Everyone knew Russell Westbrook was a great player, how much could he raise his game was uncertain. The MVP race was originally a two-player competition, Westbrook now makes things more interesting than it was before. If he can somehow help position the Oklahoma City Thunder in the seventh, unlikely, yet not improbable, the Most Valuable Player award would be his to lose.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)