Here’s what I don’t understand about this argument- of course it’s arbitrary; all stat tracking is arbitrary! If you hold a guy up as exceptional because he could somehow shoot 70% from the field over his career (something no one has ever done), a detractor could dismissively make all these same arguments. “FG percentage is a limited stat for tracking value added; shooting 66% is approximately the same as shooting 70%; lots of elite players could average 70% if they bent all their attention to it; he’s only taking really high percentage looks so that he can pad his efficiency rating” etc etc etc.
I keep hearing people walking around saying Harden is pulling off essentially the same feat by averaging 8ish rebounds a game, which is close to 10. I mean, ok, yeah sure- in the same way that Peyton Manning having 55 TDs in a season compared to Tom Brady’s 50 is “basically” the same thing. To say that a particular stat doesn’t matter, or only matters a little bit, or is essentially the same thing as X, is to implicitly acknowledge that ALL stats have only subjective value; that is to say, reasonable people can disagree how about much any particular number matters. Do win shares matter more than PER? Do points matter more than rebounds? Does that valuation change according to position/era/team/etc.?
My guess is that people are jaded about Westbrook’s season because the Thunder are going to get bounced in the first round; if Steph was putting up the exact same numbers, people would be losing their minds and “best point guard ever?” conversations would be dominating the sports radio and TV worlds, because the team is better. Again, this proves the larger point- stats are always arbitrary, and have subjective (and therefore limited) value. The guy has had an exceptional season and accomplished a rare feat- he should be applauded for it. Doesn’t make him THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME, but it doesn’t diminish his season, either.