NBA Team of the Week: Westbrook finally hits form and Harden explodes
Our team of the week series continues with some MVP contenders featuring as well as one rookie scoring sensation.
Point guard – Russell Westbrook
A 4-0 week arrived for the Thunder as they have finally strung some form together while Russell Westbrook is approaching the form that carried him to the NBA MVP award last year. Westbrook shot almost 60 percent on 20 shots per game last week, averaging 29.8 points per game His mid-range game is back and the Thunder’s form is too thanks to Westbrook making his shots.
Against the Jazz, Westbrook had a 27-point triple double, taking his tally to 11 triple doubles for the year. Against the Hawks, he hit the game-winning three-pointer with less than two seconds left while the Nuggets felt the wrath of his 38 points that included the game winning free throw. Highlight reel Westbrook is back, finally
Shooting guard – James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Last week, James Harden became the first player to post back-to-back 50-point games in back-to-back losses. Just examine the sheer absurdity of that statement. Two games in a row, Harden broke the 50-point barrier, scoring 51 points in each game, fairly efficiently, yet his team lost both times.
In those 51-point games, Harden played 40 minutes in each, and took only 27 and 28 shots. They truly were mammoth performances in an individual sense, however the team came up against spirited performances from the Lakers and Clippers. Throw in a 26-point, six-rebound, and six-assist performance in the Rockets’ win against Utah, and Harden averaged 42.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists for the week.
Small forward – Kevin Durant
In Steph Curry’s continued absence, Kevin Durant spearheaded a 3-1 week for the Warriors. Though he averaged 27.3 points per game last week, continuing his evergreen form on the offensive end, his defense continues to be a huge factor in his MVP contention. Second in the competition for blocks per game, he averaged 2.8 per game last week, including four in his game winning performance against the Lakers.
The two sides faced twice last week, and the first was a classic, as a disproportionate amount of Lakers-Warriors games seem to be, needing overtime to separate them. With Kobe’s jersey(s) heading up to the rafters on the same evening, it was a big night for the Lakers, who troubled the Warriors for most of the night. Durant himself was 6-25 from the field in regulation time but broke the shackles to be the hero in overtime and finish with 36 points.
Power forward – Kyle Kuzma
Rookie sensation Kyle Kuzma continues to outshine rookie teammate Lonzo Ball (on the court at least), averaging 27 points per game last week. His scoring versatility and ability to stretch the floor has been valuable for the Lakers who surely did not believe they would find any players this good with the second round pick they used on Kuzma.
In the Lakers win that snapped Houston’s 14-game win streak, Kuzma was instrumental, scoring 38 points, including seven of ten three-point attempts. That is the scoring power required to knock off the league’s hottest team, and he has been doing it with the consistency that is no doubt pleasing the Lakers’ front office and fans.
Center – Clint Capela
Capela played only one game last week, in the Rockets win against Utah, however it was one of the more impressive performances of the year. Scoring 24 points and taking 19 rebounds in the Rockets’ 21-point win over the Jazz, he was also an impressive +35 whilst on the court.
Clint Capela is continuing his evolution into a dominant big man, which has been key to the Rockets’ rise this year. With the Rockets often putting four shooters on the floor at once to space the floor, Capela’s work on the inside has been crucial, while his role as the primary screener for James Harden is also key to their stunning offense.