Russell Westbrook taking a raise of more than $8 million has turned him into a folk hero. He's seen as the antithesis of the Warriors' super team – a loyal superstar who will put the Thunder on his back without Kevin Durant . Gun-slinging in the powerful West, Westbrook will fill the stat sheet and make Oklahoma City a formidable threat. In some circles, Westbrook has even become a trendy MVP pick. Betting odds have him third behind LeBron James and Stephen Curry . But hold your horses. All but the most ardent Westbrook supporters believe the Thunder rank somewhere in the West's third tier, behind the Warriors and Spurs/Clippers. A middling seed rarely produces an MVP. The last 17 and 32 of the last 34 MVPs have led a top-two seed. The exceptions – Karl Malone in 1999 and Michael Jordan in 1988 – played for No. 3 seeds. No player on a lower seed has won since Moses Malone on the sixth-seeded Rockets in 1982. Wins tell a similar story. Every MVP since Jordan in 1988 has played on a team that won at least 54 games (or was on a 54-win pace in a lockout-shortened season). Malone,… Read full this story
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