When Kevin Durant abandoned the Oklahoma City Thunder to chase a championship in Golden State, just about every pundit was forecasting big things for the man Durant left behind. While I can’t recall anyone suggesting we would be mentioning Russell Westbrook’s name alongside the great Oscar Robertson, that’s just what’s transpired.
After a month of play, Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double. This is a feat that only one other player has ever accomplished this far into a season: Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. The Big O maintained those numbers throughout the entire season for the Cincinnati Royals, and is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double in a season.
Though it is still early, we do have to celebrate Westbrook’s incredible accomplishment. Can he possibly continue this pace? Is he running away from the pack in the MVP race? Here are the odds for both, as well as some coaching props.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder: 5/1
James Harden, Rockets: 6/1
Anthony Davis, Pelicans: 13/2
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings: 15/2
LeBron James, Cavaliers: 9/1
Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers: 10/1
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: 12/1
The Oklahoma City Thunder currently occupy a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and they have Westbrook to thank for it. After losing both Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant, Westbrook has been doing it all for the Thunder. It’s hard to imagine Westbrook maintaining the gaudy numbers he is currently averaging, but if he does and the Thunder make the playoffs, he’ll be the clear MVP. If he averages a triple-double, the Thunder won’t even need to make the playoffs for him to win the hardware.
The NBA’s current leading scorer is Anthony Davis, but his New Orleans Pelicans are a horrible team. In order for Davis to win the award without making the playoffs, he would need to have a historic season. The rather short odds should suggest that Davis has all the talent necessary to do so, but injuries have slowed him in the past.
As great as Durant is playing for the Warriors, it’s extremely difficult to award him or teammate Steph Curry with the MVP. However, if injury were to strike either one, the other would be relied upon a lot more. These two bring some legitimacy to the field.
Russell Westbrook: 11/2
James Harden: 30/1
Russell Westbrook: 5/1
LeBron James: 11/2
James Harden: 30/1
FIELD (any current NBA player): 20/1
Westbrook has always been involved in every aspect of the game, but now with Durant out of his way, the offense runs through him on every play, meaning more opportunities to pull down rebounds, as well. However, the rebounding numbers don’t seem sustainable, and his career high for a season is 7.8 rebounds per game (last year). The 10.5 rebounds per game he’s currently averaging should come down in time.
With all the talk of Westbrook making history, it has to be fueling the league’s most dominant player, LeBron James. If there was ever a player built to average a triple-double, it’s him. James has the physique to average double-digit rebounds per game, and has the vision and selflessness to rack up the assists. But James is more concerned with winning titles, and he knows that means taking some plays/games off during the regular season.
Another player off to a great start this season is James Harden, now playing in a Mike D’Antoni offense. As has always been the case with Harden in Houston, the ball is in his hands. The difference this year is D’Antoni has more going on away from the ball, and Harden is finding his open teammates. He’s never been that involved on the glass, though. The 7.3 rebounds per game he’s averaging this year are a career high; his previous best was 6.1 per game.
The best bets in the FIELD (all other current NBA players) would be guys like Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. But let’s remember that this triumph has only occurred once in the history of the NBA.
Alvin Gentry, Pelicans: 4/1
Brett Brown, 76ers: 9/2
Nate McMillan, Pacers: 5/1
Kenny Atkinson, Nets: 9/1
Earl Watson, Suns: 9/1
Erik Spoelstra, Heat: 15/1
Rick Carlisle, Mavericks: 20/1
With the season Anthony Davis is having, the Pelicans cannot remain hidden in the basement of the Western Conference. New Orleans has enjoyed some recent success, but if they continue to fall further under .500, Gentry will be the scapegoat as the team searches for a spark.
The injury to Ben Simmons may have afforded Brett Brown a little more time, but he is expected to return in January, and the team’s fortunes will need to drastically change when he does. If the 76ers continue their losing ways, “the process” may take a turn in a new direction.
Just because the Mavericks are the worst team in the NBA right now, it doesn’t mean Rick Carlisle’s job is in jeopardy. Carlisle had a .594 winning percentage with the Mavs entering the season, and it would have to get really bad for Mark Cuban to part ways with the man who coached his team to an NBA title.
Photo Credit: Erik Drost from United States (Russell Westbrook) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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