The race for MVP seems to become even more interesting every single year. Last year had the first unanimous MVP selection in the Golden State Warriors‘ Stephen Curry, who also earned the award for the second year in the row. This year, common theme throughout season appears to be that it is a tight race between two players: James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
However, there is one person who does not subscribe to this line of thinking: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Mark Cuban says MVP is a toss-up between James Harden and LeBron James. Where is Russell Westbrook in that mix? “He’s not.”
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 6, 2017
According to ESPN.com, Mark Cuban stated before Sunday’s Mavericks vs. Thunder game in Dallas that he does not consider Russell Westbrook to be a candidate for the 2016-17 MVP award. Cuban stated during his pregame exercise routine that he considers the MVP race to be a “toss-up” between Harden and the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ LeBron James, with Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs also in the conversation. When asked where Westbrook fits in the mix, Cuban responded point-blank that, “He’s not.”
The Mavericks would go on to win that game 104-89. Westbrook would also miss a triple-double in the game, scoring 29 points, but only grabbing 6 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists.
The All-Star point guard is currently averaging a triple-double at 31.7 points per game (which leads the NBA), 10.6 rebounds per game (12th in the NBA), and 10 assists per game (3rd in the NBA). Should Westbrook finish the season with stats like this, he would join Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double. This is a fact that Cuban is also well aware of.
Cuban notes that Westbrook is “an amazing athlete” who is the “most explosive” player in the league and has the “best motor.” (via ESPN.com) However, Cuban’s reasoning for Westbrook falling short lies mainly with the Thunder’s record. At 35-27, Oklahoma City is currently on pace to fall short of 50 wins, which he considers the benchmark for a player to be considered a “superstar.”
This also is not the first time that Cuban has criticized Westbrook for not being a “superstar.” This extends back to the 2016 playoffs where the Thunder and Mavericks met in the first round, when Cuban famously called Kevin Durant the only superstar on the team, which players and coaches on both sides agreed was a ridiculous statement. (The Thunder would, of course, go on to beat the Mavericks in five games.)
— Nate Feken (@TheGreat_Nate) April 26, 2016
As recently as January, Cuban seemed to somewhat soften his stance on Westbrook’s status as a “superstar,” stating that he’s probably the closest thing to one. But Westbrook still has not achieved that honor, much less the honor of being considered an MVP candidate, to Cuban.
Mark Cuban kind of softens his stance on Russell Westbrook: “If he’s not a superstar, he’s the closest thing to it.”
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 21, 2017
Is Mark Cuban wrong, and should Russell Westbrook be considered not only a superstar, but an obvious MVP candidate? Most fans, analysts, and team personnel would seem to think so. Apparently some, like Cuban, will still take more convincing than others. However, that seems to be a challenge that Westbrook is more than willing to take on this season.