With the NBA’s regular season coming to an end and the Playoffs slated to start this weekend, we gathered several of our writers for a roundtable discussion on the 2016-17 campaign that was. Our participants for this roundtable are:
- Kyle Allan (@kallan441)
- Ralph Cortes (@ralphjc)
- Felix John-Baptiste (@TwoSmooth2)
- B.J. Boyer (@wcboyer24)
- Justin Kirkland (@jkirk41)
1. Someone asks you about the 2016-17 NBA regular season in ten years. What’s the first thing about it you’d mention?
Allan: I witnessed a man average a triple-double. My father who is 60 going on 61 always told me of how amazing it was to see Oscar Robertson average a triple-double, and now I truly know what he means. Seeing what Westbrook has done over this season is something that I will never forget.
Cortes: The fact that someone actually averaged a triple-double after so many decades. Russell Westbrook did something only ONE other guy has done in 60+ years at a slower pace. That’s unheard of. We always thought how Russell Westbrook would “slow down” later on in the season and that would cause his triple-double campaign to dwindle. He dismissed that narrative. He went out and competed in every single game like it was Game 7 of the Finals. Top that off with a triple-double average? What could be more memorable this season?
John-Baptiste: HISTORY! It wouldn’t be one thing, but the conglomerate of it all. One man averaged a triple-double. Another man averaged 29 points and 11 assists. A young buck dropped 70 at the raw age of TWENTY. And last but not least, 10 different individuals scored 50 or more during the season. Incredible.
Boyer: Russell Westbrook pilfering the triple-double record away from Oscar Robertson is an excellent choice, but this season featured so much league-wide greatness that should be acknowledged historically. Prior to the season we heard how dull things would be as everyone assumed the Warriors would run roughshod over the entire league, but this regular season campaign was ripe with entrancing storylines from top to bottom. It was such a pleasure to watch.
Kirkland: You simply can’t mention this season without mentioning the accolades of Russell Westbrook. Averaging a triple-double for the entire season is something that may never happen again for the rest of my life. From a personal standpoint this will be the year where I realized that something had to be done to give players the ability to defend again. Too many super high scoring games for my liking.
2. Name a player that left a lasting impression on you this season.
Allan: I will get a lot of heat for this, but Joel Embiid made the biggest impression on me this season. During his 31 games, I have never seen a basketball franchise or city rally around one player like the Sixers did with Embiid. Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game, and had the city in the palm of his hand. It was something that you could compare to the introduction of Allen Iverson in Philadelphia. I pray and hope that he is able to have a healthy career from here on out because Philly needs great basketball restored in one of the more historic franchises in the NBA.
Cortes: Isaiah Thomas. The “Little Guy” played bigger than his 5’9 frame all season. Who would’ve thought that the 60th pick of the 2011 Draft would be a top scorer in this league? Isaiah has always shown promise, but he turned it up this season, averaging nearly 30 points a game while leading the Celtics to one of the best records in the Eastern conference. Not to mention that he has become the NBA’s most lethal scorer in the fourth quarter. IT time is just beginning, and I have become a fan.
John-Baptiste: Kawhi Bryant. My apologies, I mean Kawhi Leonard. His defense has been present for years. But this sudden burst of offense? I’m not sure anyone saw this coming. The question loomed if he would be able to carry the franchise in a post-Duncan era, and the answer seems to be yes. His three-point shot looks effortless, and he has a repertoire of fade-away jumpers that are Kobe-esque. The precision of his footwork looks polished and he wants nothing more than to just play basketball. Salute!
Boyer: Bradley Beal. I was a huge Beal advocate when he was coming out of Florida in 2012, and I believed he would ascend to the heights of a Klay Thompson, if not supplanting him in the eventual shooting guard rankings. Beal showed flashes early on in his career with the Wizards, but it never developed into the luminous picture fans had hoped to see. Beal, once a player marred by injury, has played in a career-high 77 games this season and is having the best season of his career averaging 23.1 points and 3.5 assists per game on 48% from the field and 40% three. He and John Wall have regained their footing in the “league’s best backcourt” conversation, and he’s proven that the Wizards’ massive $128 million investment was a wise one.
Kirkland: Devin Booker is averaging 22 points for the non-playoff bound Suns but has impressed me in spurts over the course of the season. While you would like to see him shoot more effectively (42% from the field) he has shown the edge and ability that you want from a future NBA star. I cannot wait to see him continue to develop and maybe put Pheonix back on the map along with his other young teammates. Fun fact: He just moved ahead of Kobe Bryant and now has the 4th most points by a player under 21 in league history. Stay Tuned.
3. What moment from this NBA season will you remember the most?
Allan: Russell Westbrook breaking Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record. Westbrook proved that he was able to fulfill the potential of having one of the best individual seasons in NBA history. With 42 games of producing a triple-double, he has shown that an individual performance like this can guide a team to the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how this type of play carries over the postseason.
Cortes: There are a lot of moments worth remembering this season, but how can you not go with the Brodie breaking Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record? Not many thought that Oscar’s triple-double record would be touched, but here came Westbrook proving everyone wrong and even surpassing Oscar for most triple-double’s in a season. A couple triple-doubles here and there is already a big deal to most NBA players, but 42 in a season? Come on man.
John-Baptiste: Westbrook eclipsing Oscar’s record for triple-doubles is definitely up there. Maybe 1b. But the moment that swung my MVP vote was a week and a half earlier against the Orlando Magic. The Thunder trailed by 14 with just over 6 minutes to play. Russ led a ferocious comeback to win in OT. This included a 31-foot three-point shot to tie the game with 7 seconds remaining in regulation. Russ finished with 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. My goodness!
Boyer: Klay Thompson’s 60-point game against the Pacers. My cousin Malcolm was paying my family a holiday visit, and as always, we stationed ourselves in my family room to enjoy an evening of hoops. My Lakers were playing the Jazz on NBA League Pass, and the Warriors were playing the Pacers on NBATV. I flicked on the Lakers game much to my cousin’s detest, and he demanded that I turn the “JV game” off in lieu of the Warriors. I continued to teeter back and forth between games, before I realized what was going on: Klay Thompson was flame-throwing. He ended up with 60 points, and one of the most marvelous individual performances of the regular season. Good call Malc.
Kirkland: Broken record time but it’s definitely Russell Westbrook getting by Oscar for the triple-double record. I’ve gone on the record both here and other places criticizing him and his teammates for stat padding but it is nonetheless an impressive feat. He has been thrilling to watch all season and is one guy who gives you your money’s worth every single night. No resting in OKC.
4. The five best NBA players this season were? (Give an explanation for your top tw0).
Allan: 1. Russell Westbrook: There is no real need to explain this one. Averaging a triple-double in this day in age is unheard of, and has not been done in almost 40 years. Westbrook proved that he can do this without a guy like Kevin Durant by his side.
2. James Harden: James Harden has been one of the most efficient players in an NBA season. He carried the Rockets to the third seed without having another All-Star beside him. One thing that I respect most about Westbrook and Harden is they virtually took no games off. That is hard to ask of players in today’s league.
3. LeBron James
4. Kawhi Leonard
5. Isaiah Thomas
Cortes: 1. Russell Westbrook- The numbers speak for themselves.
2. James Harden: If it weren’t for Russell Westbrook’s historical season, James Harden would be the runaway favorite for MVP of the league. Many thought the Rockets weren’t going to be special this season. However, Harden’s MVP level of play propelled Houston to top-three in the tough Western Conference. He isn’t far off a triple-double either, being the all-around offensive weapon for the high octane offense of Mike D’Antoni.
3. LeBron James
4. Kawhi Leonard
5. Stephen Curry
John-Baptiste: 1. Russell Westbrook: 42 triple-doubles. This does not require further explanations.
2. James Harden: The entire talk of the preseason leaned on the fact that Mike D’Antoni led teams do not play defense. To this end, the expectation was that the Rockets would be somewhere from seeds 6-8 with little to no defense and mediocre offense. James Harden has far surpassed those low expectations and the Rockets have the 3rd overall best record in the league! He’s played the game like Steve Nash on steroids, and there’s no signs of slowing him down. If not for Westbrook’s historic season of his own, there is a great chance Harden would have lead the league in scoring and assists.
3. LeBron James
4. Kawhi Leonard
5. Isaiah Thomas
Boyer: 1. Russell Westbrook: Russ has done the unfathomable: he’s propped up a mediocre offensive team to the Western Conference’s sixth seed and has averaged a triple-double in the process. Arguments of stat-patting fall flat to such a feat, something that hasn’t been accomplished in eons of time.
2. James Harden: It stinks that Russ’ triple-double tirade will put such an overcast on the historic season Harden is having, because in any other year (with the exception of a 2000 Shaquille O’Neal or 2016 Stephen Curry- like outburst) The Beard would undoubtedly be MVP. There’s still a chance he’s crowned Most Valuable Player, but Russ’ last two weeks may have swayed the vote in his favor. Nonetheless, Harden has taken the Rockets to heights no one anticipated they’d reach, and they’re in prime position for a deep postseason run.
3. LeBron James
4. Stephen Curry
5. Kawhi Leonard
1. LeBron James: Alot will say Westbrook but I can’t. His lack of effectiveness shooting and turnovers prevent me from saying that in good conscience. LeBron is averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game while leading the Cavs in minutes while shooting 55% from the field. He’s been the best for so long people have gotten bored and want to say someone else. Every time I see him play he makes two or three plays that are routine to him that make me go WOW.
2. Kawhi Leonard: people tend to take away from him and give credit to “the system” or Coach Pop but the man has continued to come into his own this season. He is a top-five player on both ends and is the heart and soul of San Antonio
3. Russell Westbrook
4. James Harden
5. Stephen Curry
5. The 2016-2o17 regular season MVP will be _____.
Allan: Russell Westbrook.
Cortes: Russell “Now I do what I want” Westbrook. Do I need to explain?
John-Baptiste: (insert ‘The Brodie’ here)
Boyer: I was divided all season long, but Westbrook has done so much down the stretch of the season that I’ve got to tilt things in his favor. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harden won over Russ, but I think the triple-double fever has everyone strapped right now.
Kirkland: Russell Westbrook. No choice here.