Friday, May 26, 2017
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NBA MVP Race

Photo courtesy of Kelley Cox-USA TODAY Sports.

With the all-star break still to come, it’s still early to have a definitive say on who will be MVP. But with sports, it’s still fun to speculate. Here are some thoughts on how the MVP race is shaping up so far.

James Harden

The Rockets have rebounded from a rocky late-January run, winning six of their last eight games, with Harden leading the way. Harden has flexed his muscles all season long; since given the go-ahead to orchestrate the offense at the point guard position by head coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden has absolutely dominated, showcasing a mesmerizing ability to see the floor and set up his teammates, all while continuing to torch defenses nightly with consistent thirty, forty point showings. He’s also shown greater effort on the other side of the floor. While Harden will never be confused for being an elite defender, and while he still coasts from time to time, it seems he is no longer the complete liability he once was. It’s still too early to make a definitive statement, but so far, Harden’s got everything going for him: the Rockets are winning (third in the west), Harden himself is putting up monster numbers, and he’s never won MVP before either, so there’s no voter fatigue. All things considered, the Beard may just run away with it.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook has been on a monstrous tear, willing his talent-lacking and injury-ridden Thunder to a 35-25 record, sitting at the 7th spot in the perennial bloodbath that is the Western Conference. He has absolutely stuffed the stat sheets, where he continues to average a triple double, a mighty accomplishment considering it is already mid-February, and made all the more impressive considering the talent around him. There are a few things holding him under Harden, however. First, the MVP award is always given to the best player on the best team; when looking at the winners of the past decade or so, none of them came from outside the top three seeds in their respective conferences. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Derrick Rose all won their awards while sitting atop, or just under the top, of the league in terms of regular season wins. For Westbrook, there is pretty much no chance his Thunder team cracks the top three, no matter his Herculean effort. Second, Westbrook has shown as many flashes of vulnerability as he has brilliance. While his fiery, full-throttle attitude endears him to Thunder fans, it has led to much criticism as well, as Westbrook’s decision making, especially in late-game situations, has proven sub-par at best, as he often tries to play hero ball when the game is on the line, jacking up contested threes and staging wild, off-footed finishes at the rim that lead to some ugly misses and quick outlets for fast-break points. Westbrook’s basketball IQ, coupled with his teammates’ inconsistencies, serve as the only things holding him back from that MVP crown.

Kawhi Leonard

After missing a handful of games with a sore hand and a quad injury, Leonard has come back continuing to fire on all cylinders, scoring thirty-two and thirty-six against Detroit and New York, respectively. Leonard has been absolutely brilliant offensively all season long, developing a lethal all-around game; whether it be sinking post turn-arounds, knocking down spot up jumpers, or slamming it home after crossing up his defender, Leonard can score from anywhere anytime he wants. Combine that with his always-elite defense and the fact that the Spurs are sitting second in the West just four games behind the Warriors, and we may just see Leonard add another piece of hardware to his trophy case.

 

Some honorable mentions:

Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas