Friday Bolts – 4.17.17

Marc Stein’s MVP: “Did we also take note of how Professor Pelton crunched all the advanced stats for the season and managed to conclude that the sport’s fanciest metrics suggest an MVP order of Westbrook, James, Harden and Leonard? Ditto. We were destined to vote someday for an MVP candidate from a sub-50-win squad. The guy who kept his small-market franchise afloat with the first triple-double average for a whole season in a whopping 55 years — who soaked up so much of the oxygen in this extraordinary regular season with his historic exploits along the way — strikes us as the ideal pioneer.”

Bill Simmons takes Harden: “Remember when we came out of the 2016 playoffs raving about how much we liked Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Andre Roberson? Why didn’t they get any better? Why wasn’t Adams as devastating in OKC as the Capela-Nene-Harrell trio was for Houston? Why wasn’t Oladipo BETTER on a much better team? Why did they dump Ersan Ilyasova after only three games, and why wasn’t it a bigger deal when he thrived in Philly and Atlanta? Why such a wasted rookie year for Domantas Sabonis? Everyone acts like Russ is playing with the Washington Generals — he has two top-three lottery picks and three other lottery picks in their playing rotation. Kanter and Oladipo have near-max deals. Adams has a nine-figure deal coming. Ilyasova scored 15 a night on Philadelphia. Those guys sucked? If a superstar guarantees you 45 wins, then Westbrook dragged them to … 47 wins? What?”

I wrote a long thing about Westbrook’s leadership of the franchise.

Joy Taylor of FoxSports.com: “Russell Westbrook is having the greatest season the NBA has ever seen, and broken Oscar Robertson’s unbreakable single season triple-double record – a record that stood for 55 years. Westbrook also joined Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double over the course of a season. No matter how you look at it, Westbrook is having an historic and entertaining season. This could have easily been the year the Oklahoma City Thunder crumbled. When Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors, one of the NBA’s most elite duos suddenly became a solo act. That solo act has made history, and the Thunder are headed to the playoffs. If that doesn’t say MVP, I don’t know what does.”

ESPN staffers make their awards picks.

Erik Horne: “While Thunder coach Billy Donovan used Singler last season against small lineups to defend power forwards and small forwards, that designation will fall on Jerami Grant, who’ll be equally important to disrupting the Rockets’ array of offensive options. Per basketball-reference.com, the 22-year-old has played 52 percent of his minutes at small forward, 40 percent at power forward, floating between defending wings and providing rim protection. Grant is one of only 15 players in the NBA to have 75 blocks and 40 made 3-pointers this season.”

I agree with this take.

Brett Dawson: “Even without a sense of triple doubles, Embry, too, was amazed in 1962. He knew he’d been paired with excellence and didn’t hesitate to set screens and let Robertson go to work. He wanted Robertson to shoot but knew the passes would come — and knew he needed to be ready when they did. When he watches Westbrook now, he sees many of the same things he saw running the court with Robertson.”

Berry Tramel: “Ten years ago today, most of you were in a melancholy mood. Wistful. Like leaving your first girlfriend at the end of summer camp. Like watching the series finale of your favorite show, be it “The Wonder Years” or “Bonanza” or “The Sopranos.” Ten years ago today, the big headline on The Oklahoman sports page declared: “THE PARTY’S OVER.” The Hornets said good-bye. The Hornets played their final Oklahoma City home game on April 13, 2007. Lost to Denver 107-105, virtually ending the Hornets’ playoff hopes, then went on a season-ending, three-game road trip and shifted back to New Orleans.”