With the NBA regular season coming to a close the MVP race has become incredibly crowded. Each player in the race comes out and performs at a high level every night.
There is no set definition for what an MVP is which leaves it completely open to debate. Is it the best player on the best team? Is it the guy with the most ridiculous stat line?(looking at you Westbrook) Or is it the guy who has over-achieved the most this season? In this article I will break down the order I would vote the candidates.
5. Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas has emerged as a top five MVP candidate which is crazy to me because this guy was the last pick in his draft class! He has never let anything hold him back though and this season it’s really showing as he’s taken the league by storm.
Thomas has been dubbed The King of the Fourth because of his ability to come up big in the final quarter. Thomas has looked like a reincarnated Allen Iverson averaging 29 points and leading his Celtics to the number two seed in the East.
However, despite all his success the Celtics +/- stats with Thomas on the floor is only +2.6 which isn’t quite what you’d expect from an MVP caliber player. Thomas also isn’t an elite defender and it shows in his stats. In Boston wins his net rating is a + 10.8 but when they lose it plummets to a -9.8 which is a steep drop for an MVP candidate which leaves him in fifth place.
4. LeBron James
It seems like this happens every year. LeBron is always one of the top candidates for MVP and for good reason. He single-handedly turned the Cavaliers franchise around and all their success is because of him.
He does have two other All Stars on his squad which is something no other candidate can say but before LeBron came back home the Cavs were setting records for most losses in a season.
James is having another special season which has become an ordinary occurrence for him. James is averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists and has once again led his team to the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The only reason I don’t have him winning the MVP award is because of the two All Stars around him and I can’t put him any higher because of the team around him. No other MVP candidate has that privilege which is why LeBron won’t be winning his fourth MVP award.
3. Russell Westbrook
When Kevin Durant left OKC for Golden State we all knew Westbrook was about to have a vintage Kobe season, but he’s even surpassed that. Russell Westbrook has no doubt overtaken Stephen Curry’s spot as the best point guard in the league thanks to his ridiculous production.
In terms of stats Westbrook is having the best season we’ve ever seen. We have never seen anyone else average a triple double mainly because we weren’t alive when Oscar Robertson played, but it’s something hard to process.
Westbrook has literally been carrying his team and doing it all for them. He’s been scoring 30 on a nightly basis, dominating the boards, and force feeding his teammates for points. The most impressive thing is that he’s carried the Thunder to a way better record than Kobe could when he was the lone wolf for the Lakers.
He’s carried the team to the number seven seed, but they’ve been even higher throughout the season which is really impressive. Westbrook usage rate is at 41.5 which is ridiculously high but the Thunder have needed everything he’s given. This of course has led to a high turnover rate, but that’s to be expected when he has the ball in his hands as much as he does.
Unfortunately the Thunder’s seed isn’t high enough to earn Westbrook the MVP. MVP’s are supposed to lead their team to one of the best records in the league and he’s failed to do that which is why he’s only number three.
2. James Harden
Harden has exceeded expectations in a major way. Last year the team failed to even make the playoffs and now, they’re third in a stacked Western Conference.
The biggest move for the Rockets was hiring D’Antoni who quickly moved Harden to point guard and it’s paid off. With the ball in his hands all the time Harden has the ultimate freedom to choose when to be aggressive, and when to seek out his teammates. Harden is averaging 29 points, 11 assists, and almost eight rebounds which is good for third in scoring and first in assists.
Harden arguably has the best team around him which actually hurts his case for MVP. He has to legitimate sixth man of the year candidates coming off his bench in Lou Williams, and Three Point Champion Eric Gordon.
Although he is the lone all star on the roster his team was tailored to his skill set and they have enough talent to where they should be higher in the standings. It also doesn’t help that Harden has already broke the record for most turnovers in a regular season and is averaging over five a game.
1. Kawhi Leonard
During the summer one of the all time greats, Tim Duncan retired. Usually when a franchise loses a player of Duncan’s caliber the team goes through a rebuilding franchise, but not the Spurs.
The Spurs are once again going to have a 50 win season, as they always do and it’s because of Kawhi Leonard. In each of Leonards first five seasons he has increased his scoring output. This season he is averaging 26 points, grabbing six rebounds and three assists. These numbers aren’t as flashy as the other candidates, but he’s getting the job done on both ends of the floor unlike the other ones.
Kawhi is already a two time defensive player of the year award winner and will finish top three again this year. In wins Leonard is a huge +10, he’s a real difference maker for the Spurs which they lack.
Other teams have three or four All Stars but the Spurs have been the second best team in the league with just one and that’s why I have Kawhi Leonard taking home the hardware. He’s done the most with less. No other team gets the most out of their players the way their Spurs do despite their lack of star talent.