The MVP Race: And the Winner is…
After arguably the most exciting NBA season in years, we’re finally heading towards the postseason and with that comes awards season.
Although the MVP race isn’t officially a done deal, many believe it to be all but over. Houston Rockets guard James Harden has shocked many of us by leading the Houston Rockets to best record in the NBA and while averaging 30.6 PPG (first in the NBA) and 8.7 APG (third in the NBA) .
The Beard has been in the mix for league MVP for several years now, and if it weren’t for two historically great seasons from Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry, Harden could have already been a two-time league MVP. This year it has been Harden who has been a part of the historical season, and the Beard has been excellent.
But the same can be said about LeBron James. Unfortunately, the King has been largely removed from the MVP conversation this season in part due to the Cleveland Cavaliers being arguably the most dysfunctional team in the entire NBA. Sitting at 49-31, the Cavaliers still run the risk of not hitting the 50 win mark for the first time since LeBron’s grand return to Northeast Ohio.
With that being said, in his fifteenth season, King James has been averaging close to a triple-double on averages of 27.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 9.2 assists per night. Considering how dysfunctional things have been in Cleveland, perhaps James deserves credit for keeping the team afloat at all.
Unfortunately, only one man can win the award and below is our final pick for the 2017/2018 NBA MVP.
James Harden (30.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 8.7 APG, 29.9 PER) Houston Rockets (64 – 16) It looks as though James Harden is finally going to break through and win his first league MVP. The question now is whether or not Harden we be named the second unanimous MVP in league history, because the gap between him and the field has only widened as the season has progressed. Harden has been an absolute force all season long and absolutely deserves to win the award that has alluded him thus far in his career.
LeBron James (27.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 9.2 APG, 28.6 PER) Cleveland Cavaliers (49 – 31) Once again LeBron James has put together a phenomenal season. Unfortunately for the King, the Cavaliers have struggled mightily throughout the season and the constantly changing supporting cast has done nothing to help the situation. Outside of James, Jose Calderon has arguably been the Cavs most consistent player, which highlights the kind of season they’ve had in Cleveland.
Anthony Davis (28.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 29.0 PER) New Orleans Pelicans (46 – 34) Since the all-star break Anthony Davis has proved to everyone that he is the future of the NBA. Unfortunately for Davis, before he went down with an injury there was a legitimate argument that DeMarcus Cousins was the MVP of the Pelicans. The good news is that if New Orleans can add the right pieces in free agency, the Pelicans will have a very, very high ceiling next season.
DeMar DeRozan (23.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 5.2 APG, 21.1 PER) Toronto Raptors (58 – 22) The Raptors are currently putting the bookend on the best regular season in franchise history and DeMar DeRozan deserves a lot of the credit. For the Raptors, however, the success of the season hinges entirely on their performance in the playoffs. DeRozan is the best player on the best team in the conference, so if the Raps fall short a lot of the responsibility will fall on his shoulders.
Damian Lillard (26.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.6 APG, 25.1 PER) Portland Trail Blazers (48 – 32) The days of Damian Lillard being overlooked and underrated should be firmly behind him for good. Lillard has been incredible this season, leading the Trailblazers to the third seed in the Western Conference. Few saw Portland locking up such a high seeding, but Lillard’s ability to rise above expectations is slowly becoming the hallmark of one of the elite point guards in the NBA.
Kevin Durant (26.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.4 APG, 26.2 PER) Golden State Warriors (58 – 23) Outside of the injuries which have been a very real issue for the Warriors, Durant himself has had a very unusual season. Despite Stephen Curry missing 30 games this season Durant has had a largely mediocre season by his own lofty standards and what’s even more surprising is that Durant leads the league in ejections (5 on the season) and is third in technical fouls (14 on the season). In saying that, you know you’re an all-time great when 27 PTS, 7 REB and 5 AST is a “down” year.
Kyrie Irving (24.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.1 APG, 25.0 PER) Boston Celtics (54 – 26) Outside of the injuries, Kyrie can’t complain about how the season turned out. A lot of people questioned whether Kyrie could be a leader of a title contender without LeBron and I think it’s safe to say he has answered his critics. The Celtics are a squad with a bright future and when they get both Irving and Hayward back on the floor, the Eastern conference will have to be on notice.
Victor Oladipo (23.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.3 APG, 23.0 PER) Indiana Pacers (48 – 33) Victor Oladipo may very well end up being this year’s Most Improved Player, but he definitely deserves recognition as an MVP candidate as well. When Paul George was traded to OKC, most assumed this would be a rough year for Indiana, but somehow Oladipo has put the Pacers in a more competitive position than they were last season.
Russell Westbrook (25.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 10.1 APG, 24.9 PER) Oklahoma City Thunder (46 – 34) How times have changed. Just one year ago Westbrook was rounding out a historical season in which he became only the second player in NBA history to average a triple double and won league MVP. This season, although he is only 0.2 rebounds away from completing the feat once again, his team has struggled despite the improved personnel.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 27.6 PER) Milwaukee Bucks (43 – 37) There were a lot of lofty expectations on Giannis this season and although his individual play lived up to the hype, the Bucks have really had a hard time taking a step forward. It’s too early to say whether firing coach Jason Kidd was a good move or bad move but the Bucks have a lot of questions to answer this offseason. Giannis is legitimately one of the top players in the league, but he needs to lead his team to success to truly breakthrough.