Harden or Westbrook will have company: 10 best NBA seasons that didn’t win MVP – CBSSports.com

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It’s easy to forget because the NBA regular season ended, well, about two-and-a-half months ago, but
Russell Westbrook
James Harden
both put up absolutely historic numbers in 2016-17.

Westbrook set the NBA record for most triple-doubles (42) became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for an entire season. Harden, on the other hand, became the first player to both score and assist on 2,000 points in a single season, and accounted for the most points in league history with 4,554.

Their final regular season averages:

  • Westbrook: 31.6 points, 10.4 assists, 10.7 rebounds, 13.1 win shares 
  • Harden: 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 15.0 win shares

And the thing is, one of those guys is NOT going to win the MVP. It got us thinking, what other remarkable seasons missed out on the league’s top individual award?

The most difficult part about deciding who gets the MVP is that there’s no clear definition. For this list, in addition to traditional statistics, we factored in win shares — an estimate of the amount of wins added by a player to his team in any given season.

With that in mind, here is a list of the best statistical seasons in NBA history not to win the MVP award.

10. Tracy McGrady, 2002-03
Orlando Magic

Stats: 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 16.1 win shares

Winner: Tim Duncan (23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, 16.5 win shares)

People tend to forget what a prolific scorer T-Mac was when healthy. McGrady played 75 games in 2002-03 and led the league with a career-best 32.1 points per game. McGrady joined Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only players in league history to average at least 32 points, five rebounds and five assists per game for a full season (
Kevin Durant
joined them in 2013-14).

Did they get it right? Yes. It was close, but with the win shares that close you have to go with the guy who does it on both ends of the court. Duncan’s 7.2 defensive win shares trumped McGrady’s 2.9 by a wide margin. More importantly the Magic finished with a paltry 42-40 record, while Duncan’s
San Antonio Spurs
won 60 games.

9. Kevin Durant, 2012-13
Oklahoma City Thunder

Stats: 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 18.9 win shares

Winner: LeBron James (26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 19.3 win shares)

Durant had already established himself as a premier scorer in the NBA, but in the 2012-13 season he did something he’d never done before (and hasn’t done since) — he put up a 50/40/90 season, shooting 51 percent from the field, 42 percent on 3-pointers and a league-leading 91 percent from the free throw line. Prior to Durant’s season, the only other player to have a 50/40/90 season while averaging at least 28 points per game was Larry Bird, who did it in back-to-back seasons in 1986-87 and 1987-88. Steph Curry did it during his MVP season last season as well.

Did they get it right? Unfortunately for Durant, they did. While Durant’s season was truly remarkable, what LeBron did was just a hair better. Durant’s Thunder finished with 60 wins, but LeBron’s
Miami Heat
won 66. More win shares + more wins = MVP. What’s pretty remarkable is that LeBron missed becoming the league’s first unanimous MVP by one vote, and that vote didn’t even go to Durant — it went to
Carmelo Anthony

8. David Robinson, 1993-94 San Antonio Spurs

Stats: 29.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.3 blocks, 20.0 win shares

Winner: Hakeem Olajuwon (27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.7 blocks, 14.3 win shares)

Robinson led the league in scoring while leading the Spurs to 55 wins. His 20.0 win shares are good for 18th on the all-time single-season list. The Admiral anchored the defense and pretty much single-handedly led an offense whose only other double-digit scorers were Dale Ellis (15.2), Willie Anderson (11.9) and Vinny Del Negro (10.0).

Did they get it right? No. This one is an extremely close race, though the voters at the time didn’t seem to think so. Robinson earned only 24 first-place votes to Olajuwon’s 66 despite nearly identical statistics and team records (the
Houston Rockets
won 58 games to the Spurs’ 55). When it’s that close you have to look at win shares, where Robinson had a significant advantage partly due to his lackluster supporting cast. Basically, those Spurs would have had zero chance of winning 55 games were it not for Robinson’s incredible season.


Michael Jordan was thwarted twice by Magic Johnson in the late 1980s for the MVP.
Getty Images

7. Michael Jordan, 1986-87
Chicago Bulls

Stats: 37.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 16.9 win shares

Winner: Magic Johnson (23.9 points, 12.2 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 15.9 win shares)

Coming off a season in which he only played 18 games due to injury, Jordan announced himself to the league as a 23-year-old, putting up the highest single-season point total in NBA history by a man not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Did they get it right? Despite Jordan’s slight edge in win shares, they did. With little offensive help, Jordan only led his Bulls to 40 wins compared to Magic’s 65-win
Los Angeles Lakers
. When the discrepancy is that high, it’s a no-brainer.

Kobe Bryant
, 2005-06 Los Angeles Lakers

Stats: 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 15.3 win shares

Winner: Steve Nash (18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 12.4 win shares)

Unleashed from any restraints that playing with Shaquille O’Neal might have brought, Kobe torched the league for the eighth highest single-season scoring average in league history. Almost more impressive was the fact that Bryant led a starting five of himself, Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and Brian Cook to a 45-37 record, good for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Did they get it right? No. Nash was a tremendous player and had won the MVP the season before. The
Phoenix Suns
won 54 games and were the talk of the league, while the Kobe Bryant ballhog narrative (accurate or not) was at an all-time high. Kobe’s win shares with a horrific roster easily trumped Nash’s, and if anyone had claim to the MVP it was a 21-year-old
LeBron James
, who averaged 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists with 16.3 win shares for a 50-win Cleveland team.

5. Michael Jordan, 1988-89 Chicago Bulls

Stats: 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 19.8 win shares

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