In my 25 years of living, I don't think there has been a closer MVP race than this year. You might go back to the couple of years where Jordan didn't win the title, but I'm not sure if there were 4-6 players with a legitimate chance of winning the award. Another thing that's very different about this MVP race is that the guards dominate the race, with only one BIG man in the bunch. I'm sure everyone has their own rankings on who should win it, but here is my list, in no specific order...
Steph Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden
Honorable mention: Chris Paul, Anthony Davis
I just asked myself 3 questions to figure out who should win the title. Why?, Why Not?, Who is the supporting cast?, and the head-to-head matchups. I haven't chosen a winner yet, but after researching and evaluating the scenarios, I came up with this analysis:
Steph Curry - 24 points, 8 Dimes, 4 Boards, 49% FG, 44% 3PT
Why?: Steph is the number one player on the best team in the NBA. Warriors have the best record and Steph is the main ingredient for that historical feat. This is the franchise's best season ever and Steph has the potential to be the franchise's first MVP winner since Wilt Chamberlain, back in 1962 for the Philadelphia Warriors (Franchised moved to California in 1962 as the San Francisco Warriors then became Golden State Warriors in 1971).
Steph is 4th in 3-point percentage and leads the league in total trey balls made with 284, also setting a new season record and breaking his own 272 mark he set back in 2013. Curry now holds 3 of the 5 spots for most trey balls in a season, Ray Allen and Dennis Scott the other two.
It's no surprise that Chef Curry is cooking from behind the arc; we've seen him do this since he entered the league. What we haven't seen is him exhibit much defense, except for now. With Steve Kerr, Curry had his best season defensively, covering the top guards in the league on a regular basis. His team is also one of the best defensive, holding teams to 42% FG.
Why Not?: Curry has a very good supporting cast. One could argue that without Curry, this team would still be a playoff contender. When you compare what he has to work with to Russell and Harden, he doesn't have to face the same obstacles.
Supporting Cast: Steph is lucky enough to have one of the best two guards in the backcourt with him...Klay Thompson. Klay averages 21 points game and has made 239 trey balls, 2nd behind Steph. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are the perfect x-factors and Andrew Bogut has been fairly healthy this season.
Head-to-Head: 4-0 vs James Harden, 0-1 vs. Lebron James, 1-1 vs Russell Westbrook
James Harden - 27.5 points, 7 dimes, 6 boards, 44%FG, 2 Stls
Why?: When Harden decided to leave the Thunder 3 years ago, I thought it was a bad decision. Now in retrospect, I was 95% wrong about him departing OKC; the remaining 5% is whether or not he wins championships. Harden has made himself into a MVP caliber player with his ability to score from anywhere on the court. He is 2nd in scoring, setting a new career high and dropping 30+ 34 times, 40+ 10 times, and 50 twice, most recently against the Kings.
With the Rockets having injury troubles all season, it has given Harden the opportunity to showcase that he is a complete player. Only he and Trevor Ariza has started more than 70 games on the Rockets' roster. Harden has done almost everything, leading the team in points, assists, and steals.
Efficiently, Steph may be the better scorer, but Harden is the purest scorer of the bunch. He never struggles to find a shot or to get get one off, plus he knows how to get to the line. Harden has gone on record saying he doesn't looked to get fouled, but I don't believe that one bit. Harden has mastered the ability to create contact, which is the reason why he leads the league in total free throw attempts with 816, 2nd place being Russell Westbrook with 637.
Why Not?: Harden hasn't had much success against the other MVP candidate, Steph Curry. Against the Warriors, Harden shoots 41% from the field, 27% from the 3-point line and is 0-4 this season.
Supporting Cast: Harden does't have a strong cast since the Rockets were plagued by injuries this season. Trevor Ariza has been the most consistent sidekick for Harden, starting in all 81 games he played in. Dwight Howard, who is supposed to be the main sidekick, or even star, has only played in 40 games this season. Starting point guard, Patrick Beverley, has only started in 55 games.
Head-to-Head: 1-0 vs LeBron James, 0-4 vs Steph Curry, 2-0 vs Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook - 28 points, 9 dimes, 7 boards, 2 steals
Why?: It's very unfortunate that Kevin Durant couldn't finish this season because I think if the Thunder got a few more wins and a higher seed in the playoffs, The Thunder would be the first team to have two different players as back-to-back MVPs. Russell's numbers are undeniable and if you just want to go by the numbers, he is the MVP. Not to mention, he has been doing this with limited help, with KD only playing in 27 games and Serge Ibaka ruled out for the season in early March after his knee injury. That didn't stop The Russell Show.
Russell has dropped 11 triple-doubles this year, which is insane. What makes it even more crazy is that 9 of them came after All-Star Break. Some people still complain about Russ not passing the ball, but he has 22 games with 10+ dimes, 17 of which came after All-Star Break.
Like I said, Russell's numbers are undeniable. In a point guard driven league, I think he has solidified himself as the top PG. I don't think there is another player at his position that can control the game from every aspect like him, and for that reason I would crown him MVP.
Why Not?: One of the main criteria for MVP is team success. If the Thunder was in the Eastern conference, their 44-37 would have them 6th in the East, but in the West they are outside looking in on the playoffs. They need a win against the T-Wolves and a Pelican loss against the Spurs on the final day of the season. Some would also knock his shooting percentage and turnover numbers, but I think the teams lack of success is the main reason.
Supporting Cast: No disrespect to the rest of the Thunder roster, but compared to everyone else team, Russell doesn't have any help. KD hasn't played since January and Ibaka is done for the season. The acquisition of Enes Kanter has helped, averaging 18 points and 11 boards since joining the Thunder but it is still an uphill battle for Russell.
Head-to-head: 0-2 vs James Harden, 1-1 vs Steph Curry, 0-1 vs Lebron James
LeBron James - 25 points, 7 dimes, 6 boards, 48% FG
Why?: Last season the Cavaliers won 33 games. 2014-15 they eclipsed that number by 19 games, LBJ being the main ingredient for that turnaround. It's hard not to put Bronny in the MVP conversations because right now this is his league. He is the best player in the NBA, and it will be blasphemous not to consider him as a candidate, especially with the Cavs new found success.
Bronny has also made some individual accomplishments this season, working his way up on the scoring list, currently 25th with 24,913 points. He also dropped his 50th career triple-double against Pistons Monday (6th all-time), 2nd in the month of March. When it comes to numbers, Bronny got 'em all day.
Jr Smith came out and said that his new teammate is the real MVP, which pretty much inspired this article. He also said that Bronny could win it every year and I agree with him to a certain extent. Like I said, Bronny will always be in that convo because no matter what, his numbers will show MVP.
Why Not?: If Bronny were to win the MVP this year, it would be his worst MVP season. He is averaging less points, rebounds, and assist than his previous 4 MVP seasons. He is also shooting less than 50%, which is also a drop from his other 4 MVP seasons. While the others are having career years, he is having an average season for his standards.
Supporting Cast: LeBron has the best supporting cast out of all of the candidates. He has a top PG in Kyrie Irving, who dropped 50+ twice this season, also shooting 41% from behind the arc. A great group of role players in JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, and Kevin Love who is the third option. Can't forget about Tristan Thomas. Without Bronny, this team would still make the playoffs.
Head-to-Head: 1-0 vs Steph Curry, 0-1 vs James Harden, 1-0 vs Russell Westbrook