It’s fitting that this NBA season of all season’s has this “dilemma.” By now, I’m convinced this NBA season has been the most wildly entertaining one of my lifetime. And while that sample size is small, let’s just say that this season has most certainly been the best since #23 laced up his Jordan’s in Chicago and went to work.
Which leads to the now most intriguing topic of debate for the last month of the season. Who is the MVP? In most years, there is clearly two MVP candidates (example: LeBron and Durant in ’14) and then they’re years when one guy blows everyone out of the water, such as Rose in 2010-2011. This year is far from a two-horse race, we have five purebred stallions and no one has a furlong on one another, it’s going to be a classic photo-finish.
While many believe at this point it is a three-man race between Steph Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, I believe the inclusion of the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis and the Cavs’ LeBron James should be added into the conversation. Here are the cases for each player to win the MVP.
All stats are updated through 3/11/15 courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info
Stat line is as follows: points / assists / rebounds / shooting % and PER
LeBron James: 26.0/7.3/5.3/48.8%/ PER: 25.86
This isn’t the first time voters will be suffering from “LeBron James MVP” fatigue, you could even argue they were tired of LeBron last season when they chose Kevin Durant (who clearly earned it) but LeBron was certainly worthy to win his 5th MVP. The biggest uphill challenge facing LeBron is his sustained greatness, ironically enough. He’s the best player in the world and has been since he arrived in Miami in the summer of 2010. Each year we’ve expected the same statistical line from LeBron, 26-plus points, and somewhere between 6-8 rebounds and assists while shooting 50% or higher from the field. He has been producing this consistently (or better) as early as his second year in the league, in the 2004-05 season.
That’s downright damn impressive. No MVP candidate this season can match that consistency (obviously) and while voters don’t vote on past performances and seasons playing a role in their current vote, it’s hard to believe that even the slightest of bias towards that notion creeps into the voters thought process. Think about it, LeBron was already the favorite for MVP before he put on a Cavs uniform.
The “Most Valuable” case for LeBron: Not always is the best player voted the MVP, that depends on your definition of valuable. But it was pretty clear how valuable LeBron is to the Cavs when he sat out for two weeks to get his body right and the Cavs slipped to under .500 and made desperate trades for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov (all of which have improved the Cavs overall.) When James came back, he looked like the most dominant player of this decade again, driving to the rim like a freight train, setting up teammates, hitting outside shots and virtually doing whatever the Cavs need him to do each night. His 2015 season is definitely MVP material, but it’s just that he will be for at least the next three years, and people like new things. That’s why he ranks #5 on my list.
Anthony Davis: 24.7/10.4/ Blocks Per Game: 2.8 /54%/ PER: 31.73
I said way back in October that if the Pelicans are fighting for a playoff spot, it’s because Anthony Davis is at an MVP level. Turns out he is playing at a historical level in terms of PER (Player Efficiency Rating) with a 31.73 PER, Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for PER with 31.8 (Jordan’s ’88 season posted a 31.71 and LeBron finished with a 31.67 in ’09, according to basketballrefernce.com) which he set back in the 1962-1963 season. Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are in the top-ten players of all-time discussion, Anthony Davis is doing this at the age of 22 (which he just turned today, Happy Birthday AD).
Davis is putting up these numbers in a far more competitive league than Wilt, in one of the strongest Western Conferences EVER. Yet some won’t even mention him in the MVP race. I find it absolutely absurd. Maybe it’s just me, but it can’t be. The Pelicans without Davis, are a lottery team, despite the fact the team went 7-2 without him when he suffered a shoulder injury. His first game back he put up 39 points, 13 rebounds and a casual 8 blocks for the near triple-double.
The Pels’ surging instead of surviving without Davis will hurt AD’s overall MVP candidacy (which I find unfair) but ‘Brow deserves the recognition that he’s not getting right now. PER is becoming as important of a statistic for judging players as points, rebounds and assists have been for the past 30 years in the NBA. Anthony Davis is having one of the most efficient seasons in league history, this man better get some MVP votes or my head may explode. HE’S STILL ONLY 22!
Stephen Curry: 23.8/7.7/4.4/48%/ PER: 27.94
No MVP case is clearer than Curry’s. The Warriors are the best team and have been all season long, from Game 1 to today, they have proven themselves. Steph Curry has led this team and has done it in typical Curry fashion. He has had the big time performances like the 51-point outburst that fueled a 22-point comeback against the Mavs back on February 4th, a game where he poured in 10 3-pointers. He has dazzled the Golden State faithful with incredible shots that he doesn’t even need to watch go in:
And eventually one upped himself with this:
So he has the moments, the stats, and the best record in the NBA to back up an impressive MVP resume. So why doesn’t he top my list? For this one burning question I can’t get over… Are the Warriors a playoff team without Curry? Probably, they aren’t as good of course, but Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes is still a really good team, so the record doesn’t influence me as much, but on the contrary you can also argue that Curry playing and leading the best team in the NBA should only build his MVP stock, not the other way around. Although odds are, the buzz surrounding him to become MVP is only getting louder.
James Harden: 27.1/7.1/5.8/44%/ PER: 27.06
The ‘Beard’ is analytical god. It has been well versed what the Houston Rockets are all about, driving to the basket and getting fouled and shooting and making as many 3-pointers as possible (1st in the league in both 3PM and 3PA) and no one fits GM Daryl Morey’s strategic analytical style of play than James Harden, a true match made in NBA heaven.
Harden is the most irreplaceable player on any team right now. Without him and Dwight Howard, the Rockets are hopeless, with Harden alone, the Rockets sit in the 3-seed with the majority of the credit going to Harden. He gets to the line at ease when he drives to the basket and is deadly from outside. His 13.72 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the best in the league and is responsible for more ankle injuries than anyone else in the league:
As far as value goes, he has the strongest case out of the five. He simply does everything on the offensive end for Houston, whether it be knocking down clutch shots or creating opportunities for his teammates, Harden is everything to this team, with or without Howard.
Russell Westbrook: 27.4/8.3/7.1/43%/ PER: 30.15
Although he hasn’t been as healthy as Harden and Curry, as well as playing as consistently throughout the season as them, but what Westbrook did in the month of February was mind-blowing, almost a highlight reel of “The best of Russell Westbrook Highlights” except every night. He has had a few bizarre injuries that have kept him out at times this season, yet nothing is stopping this man right now, nothing.
In my last post, I highlighted a possible case for Westbrook as MVP, then when everyone thought he would slow down after having surgery on the dent in his head, we believed he would slow down at least for a few games. But with the mask and all, it seemed to only help his persona and play. Here’s a quick breakdown of his legendary month of February, that keep in mind has only continued into March.
- MVP of the All-Star Game with 41 points (1 point shy of Wilt’s record of 42)
- Became only the 4th player in the last 20 years to post three straight triple-doubles (LeBron, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd are the others) According to ESPN Stats & Info.
- Averaged 31.2 PPG 9.2 RPG and 10.1 APG, only the second player in NBA history (Oscar Robertson) According to ESPN Stats & Info.
- And to go with the whole non-stop “Highlight reel” thing, he did this:
I’m sticking to my guns from back in October (well, kind of) when I believed that Westbrook could become MVP, but no one, myself included would think he would go on a tear of biblical proportions. He is the most entertaining player in the league right now, and I would love nothing more than to see him and Steph Curry go at each other in a playoff series (This is why the award should be given after the postseason). We saw what happened to OKC when both Durant and Westbrook are out, the Thunder are still working on digging themselves out of their 3-12 ditch to start the season in the West, and doing the majority of the digging is the one-man-thrill-ride that is their point guard, and soon to be MVP.
At least in my opinion.