ESPN’s experts recently predicted that ten players are more likely to win next season’s MVP award over Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook, leaving him off the list entirely.
ESPN has had their panel of experts compile their pre-season rankings and predictions, and gave the Rockets alot of unfavorable predictions. For starters, they’ve got James Harden ranked as the ninth most likely to win the MVP and they’ve also got the Rockets ranked as the most likely team to have turmoil next season.
What’s lost in the MVP rankings is the fact that Russell Westbrook didn’t make the cut, despite the fact that the list went 10 players deep. This obviously means ESPN’s panel of “experts” believes there are 10 players who are more likely to win the MVP award than Russell Westbrook. This is not an argument of whether or not Westbrook will win the MVP award, but more of an argument that he’ll finish ahead of players such as Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis and Paul George.
There is no way Joel Embiid should finish ahead of Westbrook considering the fact that the 76ers will likely finish with a worse record than the Rockets and Embiid will have Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Ben Simmons to share the ball with. Anthony Davis will lose major votes to LeBron James and his Lakers will also lose more games than Westbrook and the Rockets. In fact, I’d be surprised if the Lakers win more than one of the three games they play against the Rockets.
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Paul George is certainly going to lose significant votes to Kawhi Leonard and will certainly have less of an overall contribution than Westbrook, as Westbrook will have more rebounds and obviously more assists than George. I personally don’t like pumping the narrative that the Rockets are being hated on, but it’s hard not to state the obvious, especially in a case like this. There really is no reason why Westbrook wouldn’t make the list at all, especially considering the fact that the Rockets could very well finish with the best record in the Western Conference and potentially even the best record in the league.
I’m assuming they’re leaving Westbrook off the top 10 MVP list based on the belief that James Harden will steal votes from him, but again, Paul George and Anthony Davis will both be in that same boat with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron. It’s incredibly asinine to think Russell Westbrook won’t finish in the top 10 in MVP voting, as that has only happened once in the last 7 years, which was last in 2014. During that timeline, there were several times when he split votes, including 2013 when he finished 9th and Kevin Durant finished second. There was also the 2016 season when he and Durant finished 4th and 5th.
Even last season Westbrook finished top 10, despite having a dip in his field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage from the previous year. He even had his lowest points per game average in 5 years and still finished 10th in MVP voting, and he also ceded votes to then teammate Paul George that year as well, as “PG-13” finished third.
The Harden and Westbrook tandem shouldn’t be perceived as a decrease in either Harden or Westbrook’s chances of winning the award, because we’ve even seen further examples stating otherwise, such as Miami’s Big-3 era. In 2010 LeBron James and Dwyane Wade teamed up with Chris Bosh, yet LeBron won the MVP in 2012 and 2013 despite Wade finishing in the top 10 in both seasons.
It’ll only be a matter of time before Westbrook is able to prove ESPN wrong, and I’m expecting that to happen. There’s no way Westbrook won’t finish in the top 10 in MVP voting.