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The Fives: The 2014-15 NBA MVP Race

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You could certainly argue that there are more than five legit candidates for MVP this season but as far as I am concerned it is a three horse race. That being said if Anthony Davis had been healthy all season it would almost certainly be a four horse race. Regardless this is as tight an MVP battle that we have had in quite a long time. With about six weeks left in the regular season any one of these guys could step their game up and cement their case for being this year’s most valuable. But as of now let’s see where and how they stack up.




5: Marc Gasol

Unfortunately for Marc it’s going to take a minor miracle for him to win this award this season. His numbers simply won’t jump out at you but don’t forget that he is playing alongside the likes of Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and now Jeff Green, who will leach points and rebounds away from Gasol. Where he really makes his impact is from a leadership standpoint on the defensive end and his consistency on both ends of the floor. He is the focal point and protects the rim for the NBA’s best defense and the team with the NBA’s third best record. While it remains to be seen if the Grizzlies can truly compete for a title without a true go-to guy down the stretch, Marc Gasol is the reason they are even in contention. Their only hope for winning a title this year is to see the 30 year old seven footer dominate the paint on both sides of the floor like he has done all season long.


4: Lebron James

Was Thursday night’s performance too little too late from Lebron? As far as I am concerned it was, but only because of the list of players that I have ahead of him on this list. This time last year the Cavs were battling for ping pong balls, now they are within striking distance of Toronto for the #2 seed in the East. While I can’t give Lebron all the credit for that fact, because of the other pieces they brought in and the fact that Kyrie Irving has had another year to grow but Lebron certainly deserves the bulk of that praise. You can’t argue with the success that Lebon and the Cavs have had since he returned early in January from an eight game absence. Since then the Cavs are 18-4, including a twelve game winning streak to get right back into contention in the East. In the 20 games he has played in over that stretch Lebron has averaged over 27.15ppg, 6.6rpg, and 6.8apg. Lebron has certainly risen to the occasion to get this Cavs team back in the thick of things before the playoff begin. The problem with giving him another MVP award is that you would have to throw out the entire season leading up to this 20 game stretch in which Lebron pouted and routinely missed time. He tried to get his coach fired, he took shots at Kevin Love, he complained to the media about how the Cavs weren’t playing well together, as if it had nothing to do with him. The Cavs are the favorite to win the East largely because they have Lebron James, but if we are going to give him an MVP trophy for numbers in a 20 game stretch that have been matched by a handful of players throughout the season, would be insane. Why bother playing 82 games if that is the case?


1C: James Harden

As far as I am concerned this is a three horse race. Slotting Harden in at #3 would be disrespectful for what he has done for that Rockets team this year, so I have pulled a cop out and put him as #1C because any of these final three guys could win this thing and would deserve to win this thing at that. You can make as strong a case as any for Harden being the NBA’s Most Valuable Player this year. He is currently in line for a scoring title to go with seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals per contest. Not to mention when you take a look at the advanced stats Harden tops the charts for “EWA” or “Estimated Wins Added”. The Rockets this season have gone through several changes to their roster as well as several injuries, most notably to Dwight Howard, yet they have the third best record in the West and fourth best in the NBA because James Harden is running that team. The entire offense is run through him and without him they could very well be headed for a lottery pick. When considering who is the “most valuable” yes you can make as strong a case for Harden as for anyone else, but if he wins it I may have to make a list of the worst defensive players to win the award because he would be high up on that list. While that may be a bit unfair given how much responsibility he has on the other end of the court, shouldn’t the MVP impact the game on both side of the game? Also, while this may not be part of the voting process, when the Rockets draw either the Clippers, Mavericks, Spurs, Thunder or Blazers in the first round of the playoffs, is James Harden enough to win any of those series? Maybe the Mavs? Are they even favored, even with home court, against anyone other than the Mavs? Harden has cemented himself as a top five player in this league but I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him as MVP this season, not with these next to guys out there.


1B: Steph Curry

What can be said about this kid that hasn’t already been said? He has averaged 24ppg, 8apg, and 5rpg for the team with the best record in the NBA. Not to forget that he and the Warriors have done it in the loaded Western Conference. By the way Curry is looking at shooting percentage splits of 48% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the free throw line. There aren’t too many players in NBA history that can say they did that, especially when you factor in that he will probably lead the league in three pointers made as well. There is no player that is more fun to watch in the NBA right now and while that doesn’t exactly mean he should be in the MVP conversation it certainly helps Curry’s resume. That team has been built to fit his game and he is excelling because of it. Five to ten years from now you will either remember Curry or this next guy as “The Guy” from this season over the rest of this list and the rest of the NBA.



1A: Russell Westbrook

While there is no doubt in my mind Russell Westbrook would have argued this before but as of right now he is the single best basketball player on the planet. There is absolutely nobody that is better than him and if it were to be put to a vote right now, and if I had a vote, my vote would be for Westbrook. While he and the Thunder have been without reigning MVP Kevin Durant for a large portion of the season, Russell has put the team on his back, even when Durant has suited up, and taken over. Make no mistake this IS Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder. I don’t care if that means Kevin Durant is going to call me a “dickhead”, for at least this year this is Westbrook’s team. Despite missing 14 games this season due to a variety of injuries, Westbrook’s EWA is eight at 13.6. If you take Westbrook and those 13 wins off the team the Thunder are sitting at 19 wins good for third worst in the West, and that’s being generous because they’d probably be even worse than that. Without the reigning MVP on the floor Westbrook has taken over as he is sitting second in line to Harden for the scoring title with 26.5ppg to Harden’s 27.0 but has averaged both an extra assist and rebound per game while turning the ball over fewer times.

At the beginning of February the Thunder sat on the outside looking in of the playoff hunt with an under .500 record of 23-24. Then Russ took over posting a 9-3 record in February while averaging 31.2ppg, 10.3apg, and 9.1rpg. That includes four triple doubles including a current streak of three straight games with a triple double, not to forget the All-Star MVP award.

It’s a shame the Thunder are still trotting Scott Brooks out as their head coach because it seems to have impacted the attitude of this team. Kevin Durant seems constantly aggitated but it may have helped Westbrook as he has thrived playing pissed off hoops. You can see it in his game. There is no way he is going to let the Thunder miss the playoffs and god help whoever draws him and the rest of the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

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