DALLAS — If nothing else, credit Mavericks owner Mark Cuban with consistency in his evaluation of Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook’s historic production this season hasn’t changed Cuban’s stance that the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard falls short of superstar status, an opinion Cuban originally stated just before Westbrook went off for 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a first-round Game 5 that ended Dallas’ 2016 postseason.
Cuban said Sunday that the MVP battle is a “toss-up” between Houston’s James Harden and Cleveland’s LeBron James, with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard also deserving of mention in the conversation. Where is Westbrook in the mix?
Russell Westbrook’s historic production this season hasn’t changed Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s stance that the Thunder point guard falls short of superstar status and shouldn’t be included in the MVP conversation. AP Photo/Brett Deering
“He’s not,” Cuban said while going through his pregame exercise routine ahead of Dallas’ 104-89 win over OKC.
Cuban is well-aware that Westbrook is on pace to join Oscar Robertson, who is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season. Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring (31.7 points per game), ranks third in assists (10.1) and 12th in rebounding (10.7). Cuban acknowledges that Westbrook is “an amazing athlete” who is the “most explosive” player in the league and has the “best motor.”
The Mavs, winners of 15 of the last 24 games, are competing for a playoff spot while in the midst of a youth movement.
However, the Thunder (35-27) are on pace to fall short of 50 wins, which Cuban considers the benchmark for a player to be considered a superstar, much less an MVP candidate.
“The criteria hasn’t changed,” Cuban said. With a wry smile, he added: “And if I changed my mind, it would ruin all the fun for you guys.”
It’d be an understatement to say that Cuban’s stance is not a unanimous opinion among the Mavs.
“It’s amazing what Westbrook is doing,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “He just has boundless energy. He never slows down. His wide-ranging skills to do all these different things — and the tenacity that you have to have to average that many rebounds — is just impossible to describe. I’m in awe of it.”