NBA MVP Race!

All star NBA

Written by Travis Kilpatrick

The NBA season has finally reached the All-Star break and the best players are starting to show up in big ways. When the All-Star game ends, the MVP discussion really starts to heat up. Here is my breakdown of the MVP candidates and how I feel each one’s chances are at winning.

Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors

Curry had to miss a few games this year but has been very good when he is in. He has the 5th best PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in the NBA this year at 27.49. Curry is 4th currently in the NBA scoring race at 26.6. He also has the chance to join the 50-40-90 club, as he’s currently shooting 49-41-92 and has the best True Shooting Percentage of all off the candidates at 66.8%. The Warriors will most likely finish with the best record in the NBA if they decide to lock in after the All-Star Break which will help out his case, but Curry might not even be the MVP of his own team.

Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors

Durant, like Curry, had an injury and missed a few games. Durant has a lower PER than Curry at 25.90 and he’s only averaging 26.0 points per game, but has looked much better than Curry in the eye test this year. Like Curry, he has a chance to join the 50-40-90 club as he’s currently at 52-42-88.6. If either Curry or Durant reach 50-40-90, they would be only the 3rd player to achieve that feat in multiple seasons. The other two are Larry Bird (twice) and Steve Nash (four times). Durant is also averaging 5.5 assists per game and 1.9 blocks per game, which is well above his career averages (3.9 and 1.1 respectively). I believe that Curry and Durant could take votes away from each other for MVP, paving the way for the others on this list.

Lebron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

Lebron James started out the season like a man who was wanting to win the MVP. His points per game (26.5) and his rebounds per game (8.1) are right around his averages, but his assists per game (8.9) is up by nearly 2 a game over his career average. He is 5th in scoring and 3rd in assists and has the ability to do either one at will if he would like to pull a Trae Young and lead the league in both categories. He’s also 4th in the league in PER at 27.78; however, I believe that will go up once he kicks it up a notch with his new teammates to make a strong push towards the playoffs. The Cavs are currently 6.5 games back of the Raptors and need to finish strong if he wants to get more MVP votes than the next guy on this list.

James Harden – Houston Rockets

James Harden is the favorite right now to win the league MVP. A lot of people believe he was snubbed last year because Westbrook finished the league as only the second player ever to average a triple double. Harden has led the Rockets to the best record in the NBA 0.5 games ahead of  the Golden State Warriors. Harden leagues the league in scoring at 31.3 and PER at 30.54, the only player above  30PER. He’s also 2nd in assists at 9.0 a game. He’s also shooting 9.9 free throws a game, which is just ridiculous. If he finishes the league with the scoring and PER title and the Rockets are the top team in the league then there’s no way that Harden gets snubbed again.7.

Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

Some people may argue that Anthony Davis is not the best player on his team but those people are dead wrong. Boogie is an amazing player, but the most important player on this team is Anthony Davis, and since Boogie went down for the season, Davis has had to really shoulder this team. The Brow is 3rd in the league in PER at 28.32 and has upped a lot of his averages. He is 3rd in the league in scoring at 27.4 and is averaging a double-double with 10.7 rebounds per game. He has also upped his assists per game (2.4) by half a point over his career average. Better yet, all three of his shooting percentages are up a significant amount as he is shooting 54.1% (career average: 51.8%) from the field, 36.7% (career average: 30.2%) from the three, and 82% (career average: 79.1%) on free throws. It would take a monumental run by the Pelicans in order for Davis to win the MVP, but he surely deserves to be in the conversation.

Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder

The reigning MVP was rewarded by his team with 2 of the best players in the NBA in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Even with those two additions, Westbrook is nearly averaging a triple double again and is clearly the engine that drives this team. While his scoring and rebounding numbers are down from his MVP year, he is clearly playing a better brand of basketball. Westbrook is averaging 25.4 PPG, 10.4 APG, and 9.4 RPG. His best attribute that he has picked up this year is he’s willing to defer to Paul George in big moments, although he does still revert to hero ball at times making the Thunder’s late game efficiency less than it could be. It is tough to know which Thunder team is going to show up on any given night, but if Westbrook can raise his game one more step and help his team rally to the 3rd seed in the Western Conference, then he will definitely be talked about alongside Harden.

Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is my overall favorite player on this list, but he seems a year out from his MVP coronation. He has taken a huge step this year becoming not only the Bucks best player, which he was last year, but becoming one of the best players in the entire NBA. His numbers have skyrocketed this year and he is currently 2nd in scoring at 27.8 PPG as well as 2nd in PER at 28.91. He is also averaging 10.4 RPG and 4.8 APG as well. The problem for him this year is that his team just hasn’t been relevant enough for the fans to understand how talented Giannis really is. The Bucks currently sit in 6th in the Eastern Conference and would need to make a monumental run to the 3rd position or higher for Giannis to realistically have a shot at unseating Harden as the MVP. I believe that the best steps for Giannis to take is to really try to get in with Kobe in the offseason like he is saying that he wants to do, develop more of a 3 point shot and free throw shot, and come back next season and really blow the doors off the NBA. Giannis is a special talent and once he refines his game a little more, he will be the force of the NBA for many years to come.

My personal rankings:

If I were given an NBA MVP vote (which I am nowhere close to, but would gladly welcome), and had to choose the MVP today, my rankings would be as follows:

  1. James Harden
  2. Kevin Durant
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  4. Lebron James
  5. Russell Westbrook
  6. Stephen Curry
  7. Anthony Davis

Please comment or write an email to noscrubsports@gmail.com and let me know who your MVP is!

A Canada Episode Eh?! (Ep. 32)

Canada

On this Episode, Eddie and I want to thank our brothers to the north for listening to the podcast and being our second most supportive country. We begin the podcast with a quick intro tribute to Canada and then move into Stud and Scrub of the Week (7:20), then we talk about the week that was in Canadian sports (27:13), and then we finish off the podcast with a UCF update so all of our American fans don’t feel left out (1:10:32)!

Just the Facts: How good was the SEC in 2017?

We know Alabama and Georgia were two great teams, but how good was the SEC in 2017? Is it truly a league above all leagues like so many of its fans and media cheerleaders have proclaimed? Let’s take a look!

The following is how all SEC teams faired against non-conference Power 5 opponents in 2017: 

SEC Team (record) Opponent (record) Result
#1 Alabama (13-1) #4 Clemson (12-2)* W 24-6
#1 Alabama (13-1) Florida St (7-6) W 24-7
#2 Georgia (13-2) at GA Tech (5-6) W 38-7
#2 Georgia (13-2) #3 Oklahoma (12-2)* W 54-48
#10 Auburn (10-4) at #4 Clemson 12-2) L 14-6
#18 LSU (9-4) Syracuse (4-8) W 35-26
#19 Miss St (9-4) Louisville (8-5)* W 31-27
Arkansas (4-8) #9 TCU (11-3) L 28-7
Florida (4-7) Florida St (7-6) L 38-22
Florida (4-7) Michigan (8-5)* L 33-17
Kentucky (7-6) Louisville (8-5) L 44-17
Kentucky (7-6) #17 Northwestern (10-3) L 24-23
Missouri (7-6) Purdue (7-6) L 35-3
Missouri (7-6) Texas (7-6)* L 33-16
Ole Miss (6-6) at Cal (5-7) L 27-16
South Carolina (9-4) #23 NC ST (9-4)* W 35-28
South Carolina (9-4) #4 Clemson (12-2) L 34-10
South Carolina (9-4) Michigan (8-5) W 26-19
Tennessee (4-8) GA Tech (5-6) W 42-41
Texas A&M (7-6) Wake Forest (8-5)* L 55-52
Texas A&M (7-6) at UCLA (6-7) L 45-44
Vanderbilt (5-7) Kansas St (8-5) W 14-7

The following is how all SEC teams faired against Group of 5 opponents in 2017: 

SEC Team (record) Opponent (record) Result
#1 Alabama (13-1) Colorado St (7-6) W 41-23
#1 Alabama (13-1) Fresno St (10-4) W 41-10
#10 Auburn (10-4) #6 UCF (13-0) L 34-27
#10 Auburn (10-4) Georgia Southern (2-10) W 41-7
#10 Auburn (10-4) UL Monroe (4-8) W 42-14
#18 LSU (9-4) Troy (11-2) L 24-21
#19 Miss St (9-4) Louisiana Tech (7-6) W 57-21
#2 Georgia (13-2) Appalachian St (9-4) W 31-10
Arkansas (4-8) Coastal Carolina (3-9) W 39-38
Arkansas (4-8) New Mexico St (7-6) W 42-24
Florida (4-7) UAB (8-5) W 36-7
Missouri (7-6) UConn (4-9) W 52-12
Missouri (7-6) Idaho (4-8) W 68-21
Ole Miss (6-6) Louisiana (5-7) W 50-22
Ole Miss (6-6) South Alabama (4-8) W 47-27
South Carolina (9-4) LA Tech (7-6) W 17-16
Texas A&M (7-6) New Mexico (3-9) W 55-14
Texas A&M (7-6) Louisiana (5-7) W 45-21
Kentucky (7-6) Southern Miss (8-5) W 24-17
Kentucky (7-6) Eastern Michigan (5-7) W 24-20
Vanderbilt (5-7) Middle Tennessee (7-6) W 28-6
Vanderbilt (5-7) Western Kentucky (6-7) W 31-17

The following is how all SEC teams faired against Independent opponents in 2017: 

SEC Team (record) Opponent (record) Result
#2 Georgia (13-2) #11 Notre Dame (10-3) W 20-19
#18 LSU (9-4) #11 Notre Dame (10-3) L 21-17
#18 LSU (9-4) BYU (4-9) W 27-0
#19 Miss St (9-4) BYU (4-9) W 35-10
#19 Miss St (9-4) UMass (4-8) W 34-23
Tennessee (4-8) UMass (4-8) W 17-13

Notes

  • All rankings are based on the final AP poll and do not reflect the rankings of the teams at time of play.
  • An asterisk (*) signifies a neutral site game.

Compiling the records, here is how the SEC faired in a number of categories in 2017:

Opponents/Situation Record Against
Non-Conference 48-15
FBS Schools 35-15
FCS Schools 13-0
Finished Top 25 4-6
Power 5 10-12
ACC 7-5
Big 10 1-3
Big 12 2-2
PAC-12 0-2
Group of 5 20-2
American 1-1
C-USA 6-0
MAC 1-0
Mountain West (MWC) 3-0
Sun Belt 9-1
Independent 5-1
Home 35-6
Away 6-3
Netural Site 7-6

Based on the overall record alone, one would be tempted to say that the SEC was dominant against non-conference opponents.  However, look more closely and one sees that the conference struggled against Power 5 opponents, finishing under .500.  If you subtract the 13 wins against FCS schools, the SEC was 35-15 against non-conference FBS schools, still dominant, but not quite 48-15.  It’s also fair to note that when facing off against Sun Belt Conference Champion Troy and American Athletic Conference Champion UCF, the SEC was 0-2 despite #18 LSU hosting Troy at home and #10 Auburn playing #6 UCF on a neutral site at the Peach Bowl with a chance to knock off the last undefeated team remaining in college football.  In other words, the best of the Group of 5 was able to do just fine against 2 of the best SEC programs in 2017.  However, 20-2 overall against the Group of 5 is still pretty telling that the gap overall between the SEC and G5 schools definitely exists.  With that said, it’s interesting that the SEC only played AAC schools twice (the other was a Missouri win over lowly UConn).

The biggest takeaway from the breakdown? The best teams in the SEC in 2017 (Alabama and Georgia) could play with and beat anyone, but the other teams in the SEC were fair game.  In other words, the conference was more top heavy than one would think.  Take away #1 Bama and #2 UGA and the SEC went 6-12 against other Power 5 programs.  That kind of record hardly puts any weight behind those “S-E-C” chants so many fans of teams in this conference love to chant.  In fact, one could argue that most of the rest of the SECs teams “big wins” were against each other.  Take #10 Auburn, for example.  Their claim to fame in 2017 was a shellacking of then #1 Georgia at home and another convincing win over #1 Alabama at home.  However, against their best opponents outside of the SEC, the Tigers lost to #4 Clemson and #6 UCF.  In other words, one could argue that they could beat the best of their own conference but not the best outside their conference.

Ultimately, the SEC as a whole produced the College Football Playoff finalists and, as a result, the CFP winner, but one doesn’t have to look at the records outside of conference too closely to wonder what might have happened if the SEC played the Big 10, Big 12, and PAC-12 more often.  The ACC isn’t listed here, because the SEC posted a 7-5 mark against them, including Alabama’s shellacking of Clemson in the CFP Semi Final.  However, pump the breaks on the “S-E-C” chants until more non-conference games are scheduled against P5 schools and the top G5 foes (i.e. UCF, Boise State) instead of padding wins against against FCS and lower-tier G5 schools.  Unlike what most SEC coaches and fans would like you to think, the SEC is basically like any other P5 conference in that 1 to 2 teams are great (Alabama, Georgia) while everyone else is either good (Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina), average (Missouri, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Texas A&M), or just outright bad (Florida, Tennessee Vanderbilt, Arkansas).  The results from 2017 speak for themselves.

LeBron James, Scrub of the Week?!? (Ep. 30)

Eddie & Sidney Crosby

On this episode, Eddie and I talk about all kinds of topics not including the Super Bowl coverage that everyone in the sports world is stuck on. We start with stud and scrub of the week, then move in to talking about the Cleveland Indians dropping Chief Wahoo, then move into the Alex Smith trade to Washington, the NFL Hall of Fame inductees, Russell Westbrook pushing a fan that came onto the court, the NHL points race, and even Virginia and Villanova being the teams to beat in college basketball.

3 Man Pod w/ Eddie and Ryan including the greatest GOAT! (Ep. 29)

Logo Model 1

On this episode, Eddie and I are joined by Ryan Magura to talk about the greatest greats of all time. We start off the episode as usual covering our stud and scrub of the week, then we talk a bit about FSU with Ryan before talking about the GOATs (Greatest of all time) in a few sports before asking the question “Who is the GOAT of all GOATs?”