|Smile If You Are The MVP|
4) LeBron James.
Reasons for: He's the best player in the world. He does more on both ends of the court, and to some degree, the general manager position, than any player in his generation. While he's not the explosive above the rim player that he used to be, he's also less prone to shooting his team out of rhythm, not that this was ever a big issue. You can vote him for MVP every year and not be wrong, or at least, not very wrong.
Reasons against: Durability is the first ability, and he's missed games this year. The ref whining is getting more pronounced over the years. Played in the lEastern Conference by choice, which is padding the win total, lessening the number of minutes he has to play, and ducking the challenge of the world's best players until the Finals. His freeze-out of Dion Waiters, push for the Kevin Love trade and subsequent hard behavior towards the flawed asset, and thinly disguised antipathy toward rookie coach David Blatt are doing his team no favors. It's difficult to make the case that you should be the MVP when your team's won-loss record is lacking.
Prognosis: You have to mention James, just as in past eras, you had to mention Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. That's just how good he is, and if he can add another ring this year, the drumbeat for Best Player Ever is going to move another rung away from present day hyperbole.
But none of that is about the 82 games of the 2014-15 regular season, which is what the award is about. Pass, and watch him use the "slight" to tear through the lEast in the playoffs like Sherman going through Georgia.
3) Russell Westbrook.
For: At 27.5 / 7.2 / 8.6 in the three main popcorn stats, plus 2.1 steals per game, it seems impossible to *not* make him the MVP. Career highs in points, board, assists, and free throw percentage. Ridiculous string of triple doubles certainly has the air of an MVP. From the eye test, might care more about winning than any guard since Allen Iverson, and no, I don't say things like that without care.
Against: He's shooting less than 42% from the field, and the turnover count is also off the charts, to the point where he's less than a 2 to 1 ratio to assists. Has missed a good chunk of games. Team is barely on the periphery of the playoff picture. It's one thing to vote for an Iversonian candidate when they are at the top of the standings, in a year were there are no other historically amazing candidates. It's quite another when they are, maybe, an 8th seed, and there are better players ahead of him.
Prognosis: What's happened with Westbrook this year is simply usage, and that's not a perfect comp for value. With the rest of the Thunder missing time hand over fist, he's strapped this club to his back and dragged them up... but the percentage and turnovers show that he's not quite there.
2) James Harden
For: 27.5 / 5.7 / 7.0, but with 44% shooting and 86.5% from the line. Harden offers a better version of Westbrook, in that he hasn't missed time, shoots for a better percentage, and his team has a far better won-loss record. Career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throw attempts (likely) and free-throw percentage. Playing dramatically better defense that last year's matador routine.
Against: Not much, really, though 4 turns a game is also a career high and a little worrisome with the Rockets not having Patrick Beverly to close the year. As good as he is, can shoot you out of rhythm, particularly from 3-point distance, where it sometimes feels like he's doing you a favor. He's playing 37 minutes a game, which takes a touch of air out of the raw total numbers, and the Houston pace also adds a little more to that. Better than last year on defense is not going to get him on an All-Defense team; still "conserves" there, if you catch my drift.
Prognosis: Would be the MVP in many, many years, and will feel jobbed for not being in as major a media market, or not appearing on as many commercials, when this one doesn't go his way. But in the final analysis, he's just not....
1) Stephen Curry
For: The best player on the best team, and that best team isn't a small thing, as Golden State is on pace to have the second-best record in NBA history, in what might be the toughest conference ever. Shooting 48% from the floor, 43% (!) from 3, and 91% from the line, and the scary part of this is that it's not even a career best in any of those ratios. Career high in assist to turnover ratio and steals per game... and all of that in less than 33 minutes per game, because the Dubs have blown so many teams out that being on the floor in the fourth quarter is relatively rare. Worlds better on defense than in past years, and the handle is now among the league's best. Hasn't missed any real time. Honestly, it's hard to imagine someone playing better at the point guard position.
Against: Some will look at the line of 23.6 / 4.3 / 7.7 and wonder how on earth he's ahead of Westbrook and Harden in the conversation, because they aren't getting that the minutes drive such things. From the eye test, a little timid / deferential at times, particularly when trying to get others involved, and can be denied the ball from sheer physicality. As with all guys of relatively normal stature in hoop, rarely seems as valuable as the bigs.
Prognosis: Look, the rules of this award are simple -- most valuable player in the regular season. Not Best Player (James), Doing The Most With Least (Westbrook) or Coolest (Harden). Most Valuable is Curry, and it has been for a really long time. His efficiency is off the charts, his team has been one of the best in NBA history, his numbers are not lacking and downright amazing given the minutes played. Seriously, you can add 10% more to his popcorn numbers just to equal them out with Harden and Westbrook, and now he's right there, while still lapping them in the ratios. And from the eye test, the Dubs are just one of the most watchable teams ever.
To me, it's Curry, and the only reason it seems close is because people aren't watching the games or the standings.
Or just need something to write about.