NBA MVP Update
Russell Westbrook: 31.7 PPG 10.6 RPG 10.0 APG 1.6 SPG 0.4 BPG
Why He’ll Win: The man is averaging a triple-double and if he continues this average he’ll only be the 2nd player in NBA history to do so. He’s the reason why the Thunder have a winning record. He has a league-leading 29.8 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) which, based on the PER Reference Guide, would make him a Strong MVP Candidate.
Why He Won’t: The Thunder are bad. Yes, they’ll make the playoffs as a 5-7 seed but based off how the MVP has worked historically, (see my article about it HERE) the MVP is almost always the best player on one of the best teams. If the Thunder continue to struggle, Russell’s MVP chances will continue to deplete.
Isaiah Thomas: 29.5 PPG 2.7 RPG 6.2 APG 0.9 SPG 0.1 BPG
Why He’ll Win: He’s averaging a league-leading 10.3 PPG in the 4th quarter. He’s lead the Celtics to the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference and are on pace to win 50+ games this season. As I said before, the league MVP is generally the best player on one of the best teams and he fits that description.
Why He Won’t: He’s a scorer, that’s it. His assist averages are mediocre considering he’s a point guard and has the 3rd highest usage rating in the NBA. His effectiveness on the defensive end, which is sometimes ignored in the NBA MVP voting, also takes a hit because of his size.
LeBron James: 26.0 PPG 8.2 RPG 8.8 APG 1.3 SPG 0.6 BPG
Why He’ll Win: He’s the best player in the league even at age 32. His rebounds and assists per game numbers are currently the highest they’ve been in his career and he’s only averaging 1 point per game less than his career average. I could go on but it’s nothing other’s haven’t said before.
Why He Won’t: It’s just the norm for him and 1st place in the east is the norm for the Cavs. In my opinion I think LeBron should’ve won 6 straight MVP’s but because Westbrook and Harden are having outstanding seasons, it’s going to overshadow the fact that LeBron is still at the top of the league.
James Harden: 29.0 PPG 7.9 RPG 11.3 APG 1.5 SPG 0.4 BPG
Why He’ll Win: He’s having the best season of his career. The Rockets are 3rd in the west and could give San Antonio & Golden State come playoffs. He’s 2nd in the league in triple doubles, 3rd in the league in PER and is leading the league in assists.
Why He Won’t: Westbrook is averaging a triple double and is having a slightly better season. He’s not the defensive player that Westbrook, James and Leonard are.
Kawhi Leonard: 26.3 PPG 6.0 RPG 3.4 APG 1.9 SPG 0.7 BPG
Why He’ll Win: He’s 7th in the league in scoring, 5th in steals and 2nd in PER. The Spurs have the 2nd best record in the league and he’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s the best perimeter defender in the league. Behind LeBron, he’s has the biggest impact on both sides of the court.
Why He Won’t: His numbers aren’t eye-popping. He’s not flashy, which shouldn’t play a part, but does in today’s NBA. The Spurs have been a 50-win team every year since the ’97-98 season (excluding the ’98-99 season because there was a lockout and only 50 games were played) so they can’t get much better.
Final Thoughts: I think the order in voting as of right now should be: Harden, Westbrook, Leonard, James and finally, Thomas. I don’t think Thomas has a realistic shot of winning though I feel he’s very deserving of being in the conversation. As he’s aged, LeBron has started to take a step back during the regular season so he can stay fresh for a playoff run. Because of this, he’s not as dominant as he could be. Call me biased (I’m a Spurs fan) but I think Kawhi doesn’t get nearly enough credit as he deserves in this conversation. As I mentioned, the Spurs constant success hurts his chances of winning because people never realize how big of a part he plays in that success. He can be “clutch” on both sides of the court as seen in Spurs’ most recent game against Harden and the Rockets. Westbrook is having a season for the ages and is very deserving of the MVP but, like I said before, the Thunder are struggling. While they would be a horrible team if Russ wasn’t their point guard, in years past the award is very dependent on the team’s success. Harden, on the other hand, isn’t having quite the season Russ is but is leading his team to much more success taking the Rockets from a .500 team to one with the 3rd best record in the league. With a little less than 20 games left in the season there’s still time to for the latter 3 to change the minds of voters but I think this year it’ll come down to Westbrook or Harden.