NBA

The 'Big 3' of the 2012 OKC team are now the top stars in the race for 16-17 MVP

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Back in 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder made their first and only NBA Finals since evolving from the Seattle Supersonics, and the core of that team is having a profound effect on the landscape of the NBA today.

But not together. Instead, all three men now find themselves playing on different teams with point guard Russell Westbrook the only man who remains in Oklahoma.

Kevin Durant moved on to the Golden State Warriors this summer, the very same team that knocked the Thunder out in seven games last year in the Western Conference Finals.

That caused widespread backlash for the 2014 MVP as many fans believed it was a cop out to ditch the Thunder, who were so close to a title, to join a championship rival.

For Harden, it was different. Immediately after the Finals and a season where the guard had won the Sixth Man of the Year award, Harden and the Thunder were unable to agree to a contract extension and OKC's hand was forced.

They traded the 27-year-old away to the Houston Rockets along with three other players for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks and a second round pick.

And now, these three men are the early-season leading candidates to win the 2016-17 Most Valuable Player award.

It makes one wonder: How far could they have gone if they had stayed together? All three men are still under 30 and after falling to LeBron James and co. in 2012, surely that early-career experience would have stood them in good stead for future challenges.

However, maybe the greatest evidence they needed to go their separate ways lies in their now individual success. Here's a quick look at their chances of being named the 16-17 MVP.

Kevin Durant

What sweet justification this would be for his ambitious, but villainous move.

Durantula always knew his move to Oakland would ruffle a few feathers, especially since the Warriors had already won a record-setting 73 regular season games without him the previous year.

But he has really come to play since he became a Dub. According to basketball-reference.com, KD has a 43.3 percent chance of claiming his second MVP award this year and with averages like 27.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and a career-high 1.8 blocks, there's little wonder why.

Leading the Warriors to a 17-3 start is the perfect way to answer his critics, but only a title will silence them.

James Harden

Since he moved to the point guard position at the start of the season, The Beard has just turned his game right up.

It helps that Dwight Howard has departed Houston and bona fide shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon have arrived meaning this Rockets team is now fully stocked to bring out the best in Harden.

Averages of 28.3 points, 11.8 assists and 7.6 rebounds have seen Harden's stock soar as a point guard and his player efficiency rating is the fifth highest in the entire league.

How the Rockets fare will ultimately influence his chances, but they currently sit at a nice 13-7 and with four triple-doubles to his name too, Harden is showing how valuable he really is.

Russell Westbrook

There was a bitter taste left in plenty of Oklahoma mouths when KD decided to seek greener pastures, but none more so than Russell Westbrook's.

The point guard has been on an absolute tear since Durant made his move to Golden State and is currently averaging a triple-double of 31.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 11.3 assists a night for the season.

That's crazy. Nobody has averaged a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in the early 1960s, but Westbrook is a man possessed right now and leads the league with seven.

OKC are 12-8 at the moment and although Westbrook is ranked as more likely to win the award than the likes of LeBron and Stephen Curry, the Thunder will have to prove their deep playoff credentials for Russ to get the credit his phenomenal play deserves.

Topics:
NBA
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division
Golden State Warriors
Pacific Division
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
James Harden

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