It’s triple double season

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Westbrook’s record: good for the league?

Westbrook’s record: good for the league?

Photo provided by http://defpen.com/russell-westbrook-favorite-2016-17-mvp/

Photo provided by http://defpen.com/russell-westbrook-favorite-2016-17-mvp/

Westbrook’s record: good for the league?

Danny Brooks, Staff Writer

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Russell Westbrook has just finished one of the most astonishing regular seasons in NBA history. He just finished out the year averaging a triple double, at 31.6 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, and 10.4 assists per game. He is the first player to do so since Oscar Robertson in the 1970-71 season, and the two together are the only who hold that honor. Furthermore, Westbrook also notched 42 triple double games on the season, surpassing Robertson’s mark of 41.

While these numbers are certainly phenomenal, it has sparked quite the debate among NBA reporters and spectators. How important are statistics to the actual game of basketball? While it’s entertaining to hear figures such as Devin Booker putting up 70 points in a loss, or LeBron James reaching 3rd in all time in playoff scoring, what is their actual significance beyond casual interest?

Russell Westbrook’s season has been a peculiar case study on this. He has been far and away the best player for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and is likely the reason they are in the playoffs at all. As a result of the talent disparity on the Thunder’s roster, coach Billy Donovan has Westbrook almost exclusively handle the ball and take shots once a game gets down into crunch time. Because of this Westbrook became pegged as a “high volume shooter,” meaning he scores a lot of points due to the sheer number of shots he takes.

Westbrook has certainly proven himself a clutch player in the waning minutes of a game, which is part of the reason he is currently the favorite to win the season MVP award. However, there have been questions raised as to whether his actual productivity lines up with the ridiculous numbers he puts up. Several prominent media members have accused Westbrook of “stat-padding,” or inflating his numbers by going for stats late in games that have already been decided. These claims may have some validity, and while it may not diminish the impressiveness of his accomplishment, it does make many feel as though stats are too important in the NBA. Meanwhile, his main rival for the award, James Harden, has had an astounding season with the Rockets, amassing 21 triple doubles, which would be a phenomenal mark any other year. Harden’s Rockets are also arguably the better team, which pits the question of individual vs. team performance in this year’s MVP race.

Should players be less obsessed with chasing records and more concerned with winning games? Who knows? With a whole franchise purposefully tanking seasons just to build a roster of lottery players, the question is raised how much wins and losses actually matter in the modern NBA.  For players that dream to win a championship, it would probably help. But for players who want media deals and publicity, the current system works just fine, and may end up winning Russell Westbrook an MVP award.

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