And two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry.
That's the ridiculously long list of top-shelf stalwarts we're about to heartlessly snub in our discussion of the Western Conference's best player so far.
Our man Zach Lowe just expertly illustrated how worthy of MVP consideration the perpetually overlooked Gasol is -- just to highlight one example -- but that's the West landscape as we speak.
These two are both accounting for better than 50 points per game when you add their scoring to their passing, which is something we haven’t seen in the NBA since Nate Archibald’s momentous 1972-73 season, when Tiny became the only player in history to lead the league in both scoring and assists in a single season.
Archibald and Oscar Robertson are the only players in league annals to average at least 28.0 points and 11.0 assists for an entire season; Westbrook and Harden are right in that zone.
They likewise awoke Friday ranked second and third behind New Orleans’ Davis in PER, with Westbrook (28.57) second and Harden (27.89) third.
The six guys we named off the top are playing brilliant basketball. You could scarcely go wrong picking any of them as the First Trimester MVP out West. Yet we simply can’t resist, after all the box scores they stuffed through Thanksgiving and heading into Christmas now, keeping things narrow and lasering in on Westbrook and Harden.
And then ultimately Russ.
With Harden, Houston is undeniably a better team than Oklahoma City is with Westbrook, as evidenced by the Rockets’ 20-7 start and resulting 61-win pace. But Harden has been able to lean on the likes of Eric Gordon and Patrick Beverley to help steady things.
With Westbrook, it’s not merely that he’s threatening to do something no one else but the Big O has ever managed before with his preposterous averages of 30.5 points, 10.6 assists and 10.5 rebounds. It’s that we’ve reached the point that the Thunder seem to need Westbrook to post a triple-double to win the game.
On a tidy little 47-win pace of its own in Year 1 post-Durant, 15-11 OKC enters Saturday’s home date with Phoenix at 9-3 when Angry Russ gets his triple-double -- and 6-8 when he doesn’t.
As recently as Wednesday, Oklahoma City was being outscored by 12.9 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook off the floor, which would have ranked last in the NBA by some distance. The Thunder, by contrast, were outscoring opponents by 5.2 points per 100 possessions leading into their Wednesday loss in Utah, which would have placed them eighth in the league.
Perhaps as impressive as anything on the Westbrook résumé is his minutesper game. He’s averaging only 35.2 minutes, which is nearly 10 fewer per game than Robertson did in 1961-62 -- in an era, remember, that featured nearly 30 extra possessions per outing -- and shows some real restraint from the Thunder.
Register all the concerns you want about the sustainability of one player sporting the first usage percentage in the 40s in NBA history. Or the fact that he’s quietly shooting only 40 percent from the field (and 29 percent from deep) in December.
No matter what holes in his case you want to pinpoint, Westbrook just had the sort of Trimester we’ve literally never seen before in 24 seasons of front-row NBA coverage.
He has to be the West’s MVP to date. No matter what happens from here.