After the departure of Kevin Durant, going into the 2016-2017 NBA season the Thunder needed Russell Westbrook to be larger than life. and he was. Aside from being the first person since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double over the course of an entire season, he also led the league in player efficiency rating and points per game by over 2.5 points a game. He had a higher rebound rating than Anthony Davis if you're into analytics, and frankly he did it all with little to no offensive help in Oklahoma City. He made a mediocre to bad perimeter shooting team look passable for the Warriors at times, and single-handedly carried the Thunder to the 6th seed in the West. while Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams maintained the status-quo, Russel soared.
For a little context, when Big 0 Averaged a triple-double there were about 30 more plays on average per game. That's 30 more chances for a player to grab a rebound, pick up an assist, or get a bucket. Granted, there was no three point line during Robertson's 1961-1962 career year, but scoring more than the ten points needed to rack up a triple-double was never really in question for him, nor Westbrook. This is not to take away from a great season from Oscar Robertson, just to say that this was an era of basketball that also saw Wilt Chamberlain average 50 points per game, and there were 5 other 30 point scorers that year. That could never happen today. The two season's are truly incomparable.
It seems to be the common consensus that Westbrook has three competitors for this year's MVP crown: James Harden. Kawhi Leonard, and Lebron. While Lebron hasn't had an outrageous year by his standards, it would be permissible to give him the MVP every year; except this one.
The case for James Harden goes something like this. He led a Rockets team with low expectations for the season to the 3rd seed in a loaded Western conference. He quite nearly averaged a triple-double for the season himself, and had plenty of massive performances, including a 50-15-15 triple double to beat the Knicks on New Years eve. It was certainly an MVP caliber season, but he managed to beat his own turnover record with 17 games left in the season. and in this year's race, that is enough to put him a notch below Westbrook. Not to mention he plays in a Mike D'Antoni system that could have Monta Ellis scoring 25 a game.
Kawhi Leonard warming up before a playoff game against the Grizzlies
The soft-spoken Kawhi Leonard should also be in the conversation for MVP. He turned in another All Defensive NBA Team caliber performance, and would likely be the runaway winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award had Rudy Gobert not helped anchor the Utah Jazz to their best season in a decade. The MVP may be a regular-season award, but the Klaw has yet to miss a free-throw in the playoffs (40 for 40) and he did average nearly 26 points a game. His rebounding and playmaking numbers just aren't there, which may not be all his fault given how much talent surrounds him in San Antonio, but it is what it is.
Like all of the players on this list, Lebron's Cavaliers outshined the Thunder in the regular-season. The king is the king, what can we say. He averaged his standard 26-8-8, and even though the Cavs faltered at the finish line and gave up the #! seed in the east to the surging Celtics, there is no denying they were always the favorite to make it to the Finals out of the east. Lebron caught a lot of flak for sitting out games in the second half of the season to rest, which is fine but another argument altogether, the fact that he had that opportunity in and of itself says a lot about the quality of the talent in Cleveland with Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and co. It is the Most VALUABLE Player award, and sitting out doesn't exactly demonstrate value.
Come June 16th, Brodie is the only option for NBA MVP.