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:
- James Harden
- Kevin Durant
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Lebron James
- Russell Westbrook
- Stephen Curry
- Anthony Davis
Please comment or write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know who your MVP is!