INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George and Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook have been on a rare statistical pace in the early stages of the 2015-16 season.
Russell Westbrook is currently leading the NBA in assists at 10.9 per game. But his impact on the game goes beyond that. Westbrook is averaging 25.2 PTS, 10.9 AST, 8.6 REB, 2.2 STL, and 0.1 BLK. Westbrook is a nightly triple-double threat and already has two triple-doubles this season.
Paul George is not leading the NBA in any category, but his contributions across the board have been impressive. George is averaging 24.3 PTS, 8.8 REB, 4.6 AST, 1.5 STL, and 0.2 BLK. He has emerged as a top scorer in the league, he passed Anthony Davis earlier this week to rank 8th in points per game.
Westbrook and George are the only players this season to average the following statistics: 24+ PTS, 8.5+ REB, 4.5+ AST, and 1.5+ STL.
There have only been four players to reach this mark and they were: Larry Bird (1983-88), Charles Barkley (1992-93), David Robinson (1993-94), Chris Webber (1999-00, 2001-02).
Westbrook and George would be the first two players to have such production in the same season in history. That goes to show that it is rare to have two players that impact the game in so many ways like Westbrook and George, but it is very rare that two players have such production at the same time.
Both players should be in contention for the MVP award with this amount of production. But it will come down to the amount of team success from their teams. It will be hard for anyone to surpass Stephen Curry as the front-runner for the MVP award with the way he has played individually and how his team has played as well. For reference, Larry Bird won the MVP award with this statistical line (1983-86) three times and Charles Barkley won it once (1992-93), So four out of nine seasons with this stasticial line have won the MVP award.
All of these players that have had this statistical line had the individual performance necessary to win the MVP award, but team success is important as well.
During Larry Bird's 3-consecutive MVP seasons, the Celtics had records of 62-20 (1983-84), 63-19 (1984-85), and 67-15 (1985-86). During Bird's MVP seasons, his team had the best record in the NBA. But let's take a look at his team's success during the seasons that he had this level of production and didn't win the MVP: 59-23 (1986-87) and 57-25 (1987-88). Boston did not have the best record in the league during this period. The Los Angeles Lakers had the league best record during both seasons and Magic Johnson won the MVP in 1986-87, but Michael Jordan won the MVP during the 1987-99 season. Jordan's individual performance during the 1987-88 season was just simply too dominant to not earn MVP honors, he averaged: 35.0 PTS, 5.5 REB, 5.9 AST, 3.2 AST, and 1.6 BLK. Jordan led the league in points per game and steals per game during that season.
During Charles Barkley's 1992-93 MVP season, the Phoenix Suns had a leage best 62-20 record. Barley had both the necessary individual and team success to be the league MVP.
David Robinson was edged out by Hakeem Olajuwon for the league MVP in 1993-94. Neither the Rockets nor the Spurs had the best record during this season, in fact, the Seattle Supersonics had a league best 63-19 record. Olajuwon was just so dominant that he deserved the league MVP honors, he averaged: 27.3 PTS, 11.9 REB, 3.6 AST, 1.6 STL, and 3.7 BLK.
During both the 1999-00 and 2001-02 seasons, Chris Webber was edged out for league MVP by a more dominant player. Shaquille O'Neal won the 1999-00 MVP and the Los Angeles Lakers were simply too dominant for anyone else to be in contention. The Lakers had a 67-15 record and O'Neal averaged 29.7 PTS, 13.6 REB, 3.8 AST, 3.0 BLK, and 0.5 STL. During the 2001-02 season, Webber's Kings had a league best 61-21 record, but again, he was edged out by a more dominant player. Tim Duncan won the MVP in 2001-02 and the Spurs had a 58-24 record, but his averages were: 25.5 PTS, 12.7 REB, 3.7 AST, 2.5 BLK, and 0.7 STL.
The Indiana Pacers are currently sitting at a 6-4 record. That may not sound too special, but George's Pacers started the season 0-3 and have gone 6-1 since. That one loss was a 101-97 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Many predicted the Pacers to start the season off at a much slower pace since they are getting used to a lot of new players, a new coaching staff, and their star (Paul George) is playing his first healthy season since his leg injury. After analyzing the seasons of players with similar production, George has the necessary individual production, but the Pacers will need to have one of the top records in the NBA.
The Oklahoma City Thunder currently have a 6-3 record on the season. Westbrook's individual production has been on another level from the rest of the NBA, so he will likely be ahead of George in MVP consideration. Also, the Thunder are projected to have a better record than the Pacers, so that extra factor will likely play into the favor of Westbrook as well. The MVP race has become congested with Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Andre Drummond (no order), and a few others in the field.