The MVP Race: And the Winner is…
Well, the 2016/2017 NBA regular season has finally come to an end, and what a season it was. Full of historical performances, jaw-dropping moments, epic storylines, this season will surely go down as one of the most exciting seasons in NBA history… and it isn’t even over.
But there is one question that still needs an answer – Who is the 2017 Most Valuable Player?
It is a shame that we actually have to choose one person out of the crowd this year because there are so many deserving candidates, that any other year could have walked away with the award. We saw a lot of MVP-type performances this season, but just like every year, when the members of the NBA’s media family cast their votes, they only have one first-place vote to give.
What makes this season even more interesting is the fact that the award will not be given until after the playoffs are over.
Unfortunately that means the magic from this year’s regular season could potentially be forgotten or overshadowed by the magic of the playoffs.
We saw this last season after the NBA Finals.
When LeBron James pulled off the impossible and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA championship, beating the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the process, many NBA fans began to question the legitimacy if Stephen Curry’s unanimous MVP selection. Many proclaimed that LeBron was the real MVP of the 2016 season after his historic performance in the finals. However, the fact was that Curry WAS the most valuable player in the regular season, while LeBron was the most valuable player in the playoffs.
What is important to remember this year, with the award show coming after the playoffs, is that that this is a regular season award. Hopefully the performances in this year’s playoffs match the brilliance of what we have seen thus far in 2016/2017, and don’t sully what an epic regular season this has been.
So without further ado, I present to you the Off the Glass selection for the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player…
1. Russell Westbrook (31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 10.4 APG, 30.6 PER)
It has to be the Brodie. I’ve been down on him all year long for the sole fact that his team just hasn’t won enough games (OKC finished with a 47-35 record). But I just can’t deny that there is something magical about Westbrook’s performance this season. He averaged a triple-double, something that was genuinely deemed impossible in today’s NBA and he secured a record-breaking 42 triple-doubles this year, meaning he had one in more than half of his games played. Just as the season was winding down Westbrook went on a tear, having 9 triple doubles over an 11 game stretch and recorded two 50-point triple doubles in the closing weeks. He did absolutely everything for this team this year, and unlike anyone else on this list, he honestly deserves 100% of the credit for his team’s success.
2. James Harden (29.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 11.2 APG, 27.3 PER)
James Harden did everything he needed to do to win the MVP award this season. Unfortunately, this is just a case of Westbrook having a season that people will remember 50 years from now. He has been great all year and, along with Mike D’Antoni, has turned with the Rockets from an average NBA team to a championship contender. He was every bit as great as Westbrook during the early part of the season, however, just when Westbrook found that extra gear that only the truly great players do, Harden and the Rockets began to taper off a little. He was still sensational, and even posted back-to-back 40-point triple doubles in March, but there were too many games down the stretch where Harden seemed disinterested and unmotivated.
3. LeBron James (26.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 8.7 APG, 27.0 PER)
If you had told me in preseason that LeBron James would average a career-high in rebounds and assists, while scoring 26+ PPG, and wouldn’t be the league MVP, I would have laughed in your face – yet, here we are. LeBron has been incredible all year long, but the Cavaliers have been anything but. They have been terrible during the second half of the season, going 17-19 since the all-star break. They may have won 50+ games, but the 8 games that LeBron missed to rest ended up costing the Cavs the first seed as the team went 0-8 without him. With that being said, the Cavaliers (and LeBron for that matter) know that legacies are made in the playoffs and perhaps they had just become bored with the season. He may not be the MVP, but now it’s time for LeBron to prove that he is still the King of the NBA.
4. Kawhi Leonard (25.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 27.5 PER)
Kawhi has been spectacular all year long. He has been a star at both ends of the floor and has really transformed into a superstar-type talent this season. There is a good chance that Coach Popovich has found a future MVP of the league to carry the torch for the San Antonio Spurs. But this season is not his season. The fact that the Spurs were 6-1 in games that Kawhi did not play, hurts his level of value – after all not too many former MVPs can say their team had a better winning percentage when they were weren’t playing. Nonetheless, the future is bright for the Klaw, and is likely still the best two-way player in the entire league.
5. Isaiah Thomas (28.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.9 APG, 26.5 PER)
What a season it has been for Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics. The question all year long was ‘who will take the number 2 seed in the East? Because it was a far-gone conclusion that the Cavs would lock up the top spot. Ney, say the Celtics as they battled down to the last day of the season to secure home court advantage through all Eastern conference matchups in the playoffs. At 5’9”, Isaiah Thomas has put together probably the greatest single season performance of any sub six-foot player in NBA history. He is the emotional leader for this gritty Celtics team and despite his size, he is one of the toughest players on this team as well. Before being slightly edged by Russell Westbrook, Isaiah was leading the league in 4th quarter points, and every single one all of those clutch buckets were necessary for the C’s to grab the number one seed.
6. DeMar DeRozan (27.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.9 APG, 24.0 PER)
DeRozan has been great for the Raptors all year long. From the early offensive surge all the way to the late-season heroics once backcourt mate Kyle Lowry went down from injury, DeRozan has led the Raptors to success. He is scoring the ball more efficiently and more effectively than ever, but at the same time he has made significant strides as a rebounder, defender and playmaker. When Lowry had to miss time due to a wrist injury, DeRozan put the team on his back and the Raptors wen 14-7 over that stretch, enough to secure the number 3 seed in the East, tying the Cavs for the second best record in the conference.
7. John Wall (23.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 10.7 APG, 23.3 PER)
John Wall put together another great season this year and proved once again that he is one of the league’s top point guards. After missing the playoffs altogether last season, Wall and Beal helped the Wizards secure home-court advantage against the Wizards in this year’s post-season. Wall is arguably the best two-way point guard in the league and proved it this season by leading the league in steals. The only real weakness is Wall’s game is his poor three-point shooting, but even that has been steadily improving. At 26 years old, Wall continues to get better and is slowly becoming the most complete point guard in the league, not named Russell Westbrook.
8. Steph Curry/Kevin Durant (25.3/25.1 PPG, 4.5/8.3 RPG, 6.6/4.9 APG, 24.7/27.6 PER)
It’s really hard to choose one over the other here because they are both so important to what the Warriors do. Both players were the MVP of this team at different points throughout the season, Durant being the early go-to-guy and Curry leading the team down the stretch. The Warriors had another historical season and they are still the favorites to win the championship, but they have some kinks to work out. The fact that 25, 5 and 7 for Curry or 25, 8 and 5 for Durant is considered a “down-year” is both hilarious, yet telling of how truly great each player is. If these two can figure out how to best complement each other, it’s going to take a lot more than a herculean LeBron James to stop them in the Finals.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo (22.9 PPG, 8.7 APG, 5.4 APG, 26.0 PER)
Giannis and the Bucks have had a very up and down season thus far, but the bright spots have genuinely outnumbered the bad ones. The play of both Giannis and Jabari Parker has to be exciting for Bucks fans as they both look like future all-star forwards. Giannis especially is having a special season. He is averaging a career high in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percent and free throw percent. He was named an all-star for the first time in 2017 and led the Bucks to the number seed in the East. At 22 years old, the Greek Freak is looking more and more like a future star in the NBA.
10. Jimmy Butler (23.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.5 APG, 25.1 PER)
Somehow, some way, Jimmy Butler managed to drag the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs. Right when it looked like a completely wasted season, Butler managed to give the Bulls something to look forward to. Averaging 27 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST and 2 STL, Butler led the Bulls to a 7-3 record over their final 10 games which was just enough to squeak into the number 8 seed. Considering that Dwyane Wade missed 12 of the team’s final 15 games, a lot of credit has to be given to Butler for willing the Bulls into the postseason.