MVP articles….You know you love to read them. You love to drink beers, eat wings and argue with your friends about them. You love the debate on what an “MVP” actually is. So let’s take a look at this season in the National Basketball Association and the race for the Most Valuable Player.
This year has seen some amazingly historic numbers being put up.
OKC’s Russell Westbrook is but a few rebounds and assists away from history; according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, it’s a 97% chance he’ll pull the season long triple-double. Follow Westbrook’s progress on the ESPN triple-double tracker.
Houston’s James Harden has put up so many crazy stats that no one cares about his (lack of) defense anymore. He is close to being the first player since Tiny Archibald to lead the league in both points and assists.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard has silently turned into one of the most complete 2-way players we’ve ever seen, and the Spurs might wrestle the 1 seed from the super-stacked Golden State Warriors.
One cannot forget Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James is still doing LeBron stuff. In Year 13 of The King’s career, he has posted a career high in triple-doubles.
So the question is, how do we hand out the MVP, when most people can’t even agree on what the award actually means? Let’s examine the process in various ways, based on how it’s been given out in years past. We’ll go Top 3 for each definition.
A) Best Player Overall: Given to the best player in the league. The guy that would go first in a pickup game. (This is where I give the CFL some credit, as they called the award the Most Outstanding Player.) Examples - Michael Jordan (every season he’s ever won), LBJ’s 4 times, Larry Bird’s amazing 3 year run in the mid-80s
- LeBron James - Don’t kid yourself. Stats aside from everyone else, this is the man you roll with. He simply sees the game on another level. The Cerebral Assassin of the Hardwood.
- Russell Westbrook - 1st in points, 3rd in assists, 11th in rebounds (as a point guard!), while barely Top 20 in minutes. Stat stuffer; every morning, you have to check out his box score. Plays like a bull in a china shop. When he takes it to the hole, he reminds me of a young Charles Barkley.
- Kawhi Leonard - Gotta get some cred for being elite on both ends of the floor. Leonard is the #1 option and gives lockdown D. Quiet, calculating and incredibly efficient with the ball.
B) Best Player on the Best Team: Traditionally, this is how the NBA usually hands out the trophy. It’s safe and no one usually argues with team success. Examples - Barkley in ‘93, David Robinson ‘95, Dirk Nowitzki ‘07
- Kawhi Leonard - He’s still only 25 and it feels like he’s still improving! The Spurs lost an All-Time Top 10 player in Tim Duncan and haven’t missed a beat.
- James Harden - Remember when MIke D’Antoni was hired? It didn’t make any waves, but Harden has clearly thrived under Coach Mike’s guidance, and no one suspected a 50-plus win season and a 3 seed from the Rockets. Not exactly the best team overall, but they have two juggernauts in front of them in the West. If they were in the East, they’d be the 1 seed.
- LeBron James - We’ve seen what happens to the Cavaliers when he’s not in the lineup. I love the individual talents of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but those two haven’t won a thing in their careers sans LeBron.
Sorry, no one from Golden State is taking this award, even with the 1 seed. Tell me who the MVP of the Warriors is this year.
C) The Player Who, if He Were to Leave, the Franchise Would Be Collecting Lottery Balls: He is the entire team and main course. Everyone else is just a bland side dish. Example - LeBron when he left Cleveland back in 2010
- Russell Westbrook - Without him, this team would struggle to score 80pts. No one else on the roster is capable of generating his own offense.
- James Harden - Similar to Westbrook, although D’Antoni has shown he can maximize offensive talents for mid-role players, so perhaps Harden has a little more help.
- LeBron James - As John Malkovich said in Rounders, “Pay that man his money.” When he’s with a franchise, it’s invaluable. When he’s gone, well, so are the title hopes. With all due respect to the games of Kyrie and Kevin each of these guys have proven they cannot carry a franchise on their own.
You can go back and forth between Westbrook and Harden a half-dozen times on this one. Both have absolutely no supporting cast whatsoever. Who is the clear-cut second option on either squad?
This race is so fascinating this season. We may have a player average a triple-double for the ENTIRE season, and still not win the MVP. Interesting to note: In 1962, when Oscar Robertson also averaged a triple-double, he didn’t win the MVP either. Some hack named Bill Russell won it. Maybe you’ve heard of him #moreringsthanfingers.
If Harden were to win, could you argue? He had a 53-16-17 line back in January! Granted, it was against the Knicks, so maybe that shouldn’t count but he’s elevated the Rockets into a legitimate playoff threat.
Leonard, perhaps in other years, would take home the award, but his case is nearly impossible to argue against the historic seasons of Westbrook and The Beard. The performances of these 3 will once again push LeBron down the voting lists, similar to last year. It’s a good thing for the others that playoffs aren’t a part of the voting.
When the voting is all done, Westbrook will be the 2017 MVP. This vote will be close…. incredibly close! Harden will be 2nd, and may even secure more 1st-place votes in the process but Russell will win this season because his 2017 will be remembered for saying goodbye to KD and hello to triple-double history.