A costly injury to a key player can take turn a contender to a lottery team; just ask the Indiana Pacers.
With 2014 MVP Kevin Durant out for the season due to numerous injuries, many wouldn't have blamed the Thunder for tanking. Everything was in place for the team to fail, but they were competitive to the last game of the season. The Thunder were a force in 2015 due to Russell Westbrook.
Despite posting career highs in points, rebounds and assists, Westbrook wasn’t considered in the MVP balloting. Fans and coaches made a huge error in the voting. Russell Westbrook was robbed.
Russell Westbrook played like a man possessed in 2015. Despite the high amount of pressure, Westbrook rose the occasion for Oklahoma. No one could stay in front of the relentless guard, as his 28.1 average was tops in the NBA. He was equally dynamic in the half court and transition. The footage above displays samples of amazing baskets throughout the season.
When teams doubled Russell to stop him from scoring, Westbrook found the open man. His 8.6 assists per game were a career high.
Defensively, Westbrook has never backed down from a battle. The west boasts some of the top point guards in the NBA (Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul) but Russell held his own against them every night. His defensive intensity was at an all time high last year, as his 2.1 steals per game were also a career high.
Sometimes people put a lot of stock in team record in the MVP vote. Other analysts place a lot of value into who plays on the team with the MVP candidate. Both ideas are off base.
The MVP is a player who puts his team in position each night to win. He elevates the players around him, regardless of talent and coaching. There is no doubt in my mind that in 2015 Russell Westbrook’s value to the Oklahoma City Thunder was higher than any other player in the NBA. He made OKC relevant each and every night. He made big stops and hit even bigger shots. Very few players could have went into Oklahoma City and produced to the level he did under those circumstances.
If you take into account Westbrook’s personal success with the team standings it was obvious he was the most valuable individual to a franchise in the NBA. To me, it’s silly that no one else could see it.