One thing is for certain…this season, a new face will be crowned NBA MVP at seasons’ end. Two-time reigning MVP Steph Curry fell victim to their being too much talent on his own team. Elsewhere, Lebron James has been busy trying to find a way to ignite his Cavaliers as they gear up to defend their title. So with those two out of the mix, who will reign supreme this season?
5. John Wall, PG, Wizards
The Case for Wall: It’s about time the NBA community showed Wall some respect. To be fair, it’s taken the Wizards a while to ascend to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. This season, Wall has taken his game and his team to another level. With a refined jump shot, incredible passing skills, and the ability to drive to the basket against any opponent, Wall is a nightmare to defend. He won’t win the MVP Award this season, but Wall and the Wizards are going to be a lot of fun to watch come playoff time.
The Case Against Wall: If only KD had taken his talents to DC. Wall’s MVP pursuit lost a ton of steam before it even began due to the fact that Washington D.C. is not a very large basketball market. The Wizards have had their best season in quite some time, yet still haven’t had many of their games televised nationally. That leaves us to wonder…what if Kevin Durant had decided to head home and play for the Wizards as oppose to the Warriors?
4. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Celtics
The Case for Thomas: Welcome back Boston Celtics to the ranks of the NBA’s elite. One look at their lineup will tell you how well this roster has been constructed. All the Celtics needed to get them over the hump was the extra oomph provided by a star. Enter IT. Thomas has taken his game to the next level, averaging over 29 points per night on efficient shooting. Also, who doesn’t love a clutch fourth quarter performer? Thomas has taken over numerous games in the late stages this season, just another reason why the Celtics are still in the hunt for the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
The Case Against Thomas: Thomas has seen his level of play decline just a tad down the stretch. The Celtics are hungry for that #1 seed, but overworking Thomas right before the playoffs would be downright silly. Point guard has become such a stacked position in the NBA, and the fact that Isaiah Thomas can’t call himself the best player at his position doesn’t help his case. Don’t sleep on the little man in the coming years though!
3. Kawhi Leonard, SF, Spurs
The Case for Leonard: As far as all-around talent goes, Leonard is one of the top three players the NBA has to offer. When he first arrived in the league, he was a solid defender who was very raw offensively. My oh my has that changed. Now in his sixth NBA season, he’s found his offensive game in a big way, averaging a career-high 25.9 points per game this season. Leonard is a quiet superstar, which fits in well with the quiet bunch that the Spurs have put together this season. Leonard won’t win the award this season, but he’ll be in the discussion for years to come.
The Case Against Leonard: Leonard’s quiet nature and the fact that no one pays proper attention to the Spurs is what hurts Leonard’s case the most. The NBA has by far the biggest culture and social media presence of any major sports league in America. I’m not saying that if Leonard was outspoken, he’d take home the MVP honors. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt if he showed up to the arena each night in a crazy outfit, or rocking a trademark beard.
2. Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder
The Case for Westbrook: Russell Westbrook is a statistical god. It’s just that simple. Say what you will about the Thunder not having the talent around him to compete for shots and touches on offense, but 38 triple-doubles is just absurd. Additionally, every time it seems as if Westbrook’s MVP candidacy is falling behind, he turns in a performance to remember. Most recently, he brought the Thunder back for an overtime win over the Magic. He dropped 57 points in the win, the most ever in a game in which that player recorded a triple-double.
The Case Against Westbrook: Despite Westbrook having the best individual stats in the NBA, it’s those team stats that are holding his MVP chase back. In recent history, the NBA MVP Award has only been given to players on championship caliber teams. The Thunder are far from a championship caliber team.
1. James Harden, PG, Rockets
The Case for Harden: The James Harden point guard experiment couldn’t have yielded much better results for Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets. Harden sits atop the NBA in assists, notching 11.4 per game, and recently became the first player in NBA history to to both score 2,000 points and assist on 2,000 points in a season. The Rockets are an offensive juggernaut that’s ready to make a run at the Western Conference title. Harden is their linchpin.
The Case Against Harden: Although Harden has been putting up absurd numbers all season long, they don’t quite measure up to those of Russell Westbrook. Both Harden and Westbrook have blessed NBA fans with a statistical season to remember in 2016-2017. It’s just hard to argue against Westbrook’s 38 triple-doubles being the most astounding stat in recent history.
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