WITH about 15 games a piece left for each team, the NBA season is slowly drawing to a close. For most of the season the MVP discussion has been a two horse race, with Russell Westbrook and James Harden head and shoulders above the other competitors. However since the All-Star break a few players have seemingly made ground on the two, with plenty of other showing flashes throughout the season. As the race heats up I broke the contenders down to three tiers or groups and picked who should (and probably will) raise the Maurice Podoloff trophy at seasons close.
Tier 3 – John Wall, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic
THESE dudes don’t stand a realistic at winning the 2017 MVP. They do however deserve to be mentioned in the discussion, even if it is only briefly. Throughout the year at least at one point these four have been mentioned as potential MVP winners. Expected names like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant appear on the list, but guys like John Wall and Nikola Jokic may surprise some. The Golden State duo probably harmed each others chances when they decided to team up, but their talent level is undeniable. John Wall continues to drive a Wizards team up the East standings, who has one of the best records in the new year, while Nikola Jokic has emerged as a franchise cornerstone for the seemingly playoff bound Denver Nuggets.
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Tier 2 – Kawhi Leonard, Lebron James, Isaiah Thomas
TIER two can be labelled as the players who still have a shot to win MVP, if everything falls into place. The furthest odds belong to Isaiah Thomas who needs to claim the #1 seed in the East with Boston and probably drop another few killer stat lines for a chance to claim the award. Four time winner Lebron James is 4th in the race, mainly thanks to his teams record. Injuries aside the Cavaliers haven’t looked like the dominant force that we saw against the Dubs in last years Finals. James is however putting up career best assist and rebound numbers, which is saying something considering he is regarded as one of the most versatile players in NBA history and is in year 14 of his tenure. Kawhi Leonard does still stand a realistic chance in a sense. The emotionless assassin has taken on the role of franchise player with Tim Duncan’s off-season retirement and is having one of the best season as a two way player that we have ever seen. If his Spurs can steal the top seed in the West and Kawhi continues to dominate, anything is possible.
Tier 1 – James Harden, Russell Westbrook
AT the end of the day as discussed above the MVP award is going to go to one of these two players, barring anything catastrophic happening in the league. The year of the triple double can purely be illustrated by the killer stat lines that these two have put up so far. Stat lines and highlights aside the deciding factor between who will be the winner will purely come down to their teams record and success, whether you like it or not. That’s not to say that whoever has more wins will win, but sitting at 47-22 compared to 39-29, Harden’s Rockets holds the slight advantage. Westbrook (triple doubles or not) can still lead his team to a 50 win season with a fairly cruisy run to the playoffs and since acquiring Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott the Thunder are definitely a better team. Seven of Houston’s remaining 13 games are against current post season bound teams, but it’s worth mentioning the play Denver three times still. Regardless of the opposition the ‘James Harden MVP’ bandwagon is gathering more steam day by day and it seems like from here on out the award is his to lose. It’s insane to imagine that a player averaging a triple double* won’t win the MVP award this season, but let’s be honest this season is unlike any other statistical season we may have ever seen.
*To finish the season averaging a triple double Westbrook needs another 103 rebounds and 114 assists, or put differently he needs to average 7.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists over the Thunder’s last 14 games. Wow.
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