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Russell Westbrook has Thrust Himself into MVP Conversation

For much of the season, the MVP race was between Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry and James Harden. LeBron James’s resurgence has him in that conversation as well, but now someone else is creeping up on this group, and he plays in Oklahoma City. No, we’re not talking about the reigning MVP, Kevin Durant, we’re referring to his partner in crime, Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook cruised to his third triple-double of the season on Tuesday, totaling 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 105-92 victory over the Pacers. He recorded this feat in only 28 minutes of action, making it even more impressive. The Thunder have now won seven straight games and are climbing their way up the standings in the tough Western Conference. And lately, it has been done without Durant, who needed to have another procedure done on his surgically repaired foot because of some discomfort.

Westbrook has six games in February with 20 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. He has been especially dominant since his MVP performance at Madison Square Garden in the All-Star Game, showing the motor of an individual desperately trying to will his team to the postseason. The point guard is averaging 27.0 points, 11.8 assists and 7.8 rebounds in four victories since hoisting the MVP trophy in the All-Star Game.

Westbrook has scored 20 points and dished out 10 assists in the last four victories, the first player to do that since Magic Johnson in the 1989-90 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. On the season, Westbrook is averaging 25.9 points, 8.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds with a PER of 29.20, which is second behind Davis. Westbrook is also third in the NBA in Real Plus-Minus, behind only Curry and Harden.

Oklahoma City is in position to be a dangerous team in the playoffs as a lower seed. The key for the Thunder is health as Durant fights to make it back to 100 percent. They’ve added significant pieces to their team in Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter, and these additions may be just what the doctor ordered, along with a good prognosis for their All-Star small forward.

At 32-25, the Thunder sit at eighth in the West, and we’ll see if they can make a strong push for a higher seed. The emergence of Westbrook in this recent stretch has taken all pressure off KD to return too quickly, so he can continue to rest and allow his point guard to effectively galvanize the troops.

The only person who can really stop Westbrook is himself. There are times when he can play a bit out of control, and the main focus for him is to aspire to be a bit more efficient on the offensive end.

But right now, nobody is stopping Westbrook. During Durant’s MVP speech last season, he called his mom “the real MVP.” After what has transpired over the past few weeks, Durant might be uttering that phrase in Westbrook’s direction in a few months if this surge continues.

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