Did Westbrook Get Snubbed of All-NBA First Team?


On May 21, the NBA released the selections for its All-NBA teams. Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder was named to the second team for the fourth time in his career. The two guards that prevented Westbrook from making the first team were this season’s MVP, Steph Curry, and the MVP runner-up, James Harden

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All three players had spectacular seasons and deserved a spot on the All-NBA First Team, but there can only be two guards selected to each team. So one of them had to be “snubbed” from the first team.

Westbrook ended up on the wrong end of the snubbing.

Of the three players, Westbrook had the highest points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, and steals per game. Even though Russel led the other two in each of those individual categories, he was still left off of the first team.

Among all guards in the NBA, Westbrook was first in points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, and fourth in assists per game. It is almost completely impossible to ignore those stats and utterly disrespectful to say that based on stats alone that he was no better than Curry or Harden.

Critics will argue that Westbrook’s stats were inflated last year due to the fact that he had to carry his team and played most every minute of every game that he played in which was only 67 games. But that still does not take away that RW had to go out on the court and earn every point, rebound, assist, and steal that he recorded this past season. Westbrook’s shooting percentages this past year were well below a stellar level and pretty far behind Curry’s shooting stats. Those are a few of the only categories in which Curry was far ahead of Westbrook. But there are many more categories in which Westbrook was ahead of Curry and all other guards in the NBA like points, assists, rebounds, and steals per game.

I understand that Curry was this last years MVP and he, along with a few other players in the NBA, could’ve deserved that award. With players like Harden, LeBron James, and even Russell Westbrook getting votes. Now the MVP award also factors in team success so Westbrook had no chance in winning that because of where his team ended up at the end of the season. But as for All-NBA teams, team success should be factored in a bit less or maybe not even at all.

All-NBA teams should be based on individual statistics alone. Team record should not factor into the voting. Because no matter the teams success, the individual player is rewarded for his performance and is selected to each of the three teams based on if they were apart of the first, second, or third tier of guards, statistically, each season in the NBA. And based on each players individual stats, Westbrook deserved to be on the First Team above any other guard in the league this past season.

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Many people will also argue that the MVP could not possibly be left off of the All-NBA First Team. And while I agree in that aspect, maybe the better argument would be if he should’ve been the MVP at all? But that’s a whole other argument. And to compare for the sake of argument, two years ago, Marc Gasol was named the Defensive Player of the Year but was left of the All-NBA Defensive First Team. (I believe that was a mistake as well.) But stuff like this has happened before so it would not be totally ludicrous for Curry not to be named to the All-NBA First Team. Or even the MVP runner-up in James Harden because statistically Westbrook had a better season.

Now I know that I may seem biased regarding Westbrook and the fact is that I am. I will not deny that, as a Thunder fan, I am inclined to pick RW over these other two extraordinary players. But that does not diminish Russell’s stats or achievements from this past year. Just by comparing stats, any reasonable NBA fan could see that.

I believe that the voting that went into the All-NBA teams was a simple case of reputation over production. Westbrook is perceived as a player out of position, one who shoots too often and passes too infrequently, despite what the statistics say. But until the voting criteria becomes much more clear, the reality will mean less than the perception. And so it’s an argument worth having because, based on last season’s real numbers, the Thunder guard was more deserving of first-team honors than either Curry and Harden.