The 2021 NBA Finals are going on right now, but on NBA Tuesday this week, it’s still the 2010s. The Golden State Warriors were in the middle campaign of a five-year stretch of Finals appearances, and last week, we saw one of their stars claim an MVP Award for the first time ever. Can Stephen Curry do it again?
There is only one way to find out: Read on!
2017 NBA MVP: Russell Westbrook (original, confirmed)
Three players rose above the rest during the regular season: San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (13.61 WS, 27.55 PER), Houston Rockets point guard James Harden (15.05 WS, 27.37 PER), and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (13.08 WS, 30.63 PER). The latter won the MVP vote as he claimed the scoring title (31.6 ppg) while averaging a triple double (10.7 rpg, 10.4 apg).
Westbrook became just the second player ever to average a triple double over the course of a season, after Oscar Robertson in 1962—and O wasn’t even a true MVP candidate back then! With 47 victories, the Thunder clinched a playoff spot by 7 games, meaning Westbrook was invaluable, for sure.
The Spurs won 61 games, and they would have made the postseason without Leonard, in all likelihood, while the Rockets won 55 games to earn “borderline” status without their primary star. This means the debate comes down to Westbrook or Harden, former teammates in OKC, actually.
Harden topped the NBA in assists per game (11.2), and his WS mark was the best in the league, although Westbrook’s PER was No. 1 in the sport as well. Each player was fifth overall in the opposite category where he didn’t lead his peers.
In the end, the WS numbers do not lie: Maybe Houston makes the postseason without Harden, but OKC definitely misses the playoffs without Westbrook and his historically significant season. We confirm his MVP Award, just as we did at the time, actually (albeit with some skepticism about sabermetrics thrown in).
2017 NBA ROTY: Malcolm Brogdon (original, confirmed)
Only two rooks notched more than 1.8 WS on the season, and they were Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon (4.1) and New York Knicks center Willy Hernangómez (3.4). Brogdon won the award as the Bucks improved 9 wins from the year before to make the postseason with a 42-40 record. The Knicks actually regressed by 1 victory while missing playoffs (31-51).
Therefore, it’s a simple task to confirm Brogdon’s hardware, as he played in 75 games and hit over 40 percent of his three-point attempts during the year.