WHO SHOULD WIN THE NBA MVP AWARD IN 2018?
The case for MVP is a rather difficult one to make. Some would say that "most valuable" would be towards their team in terms of mentality or other non-statistical categories. I'm not going to go there. Though emotional arguments and "mentality" is something to be fit in, it can't be the basis of any debate. The debate today in 2018 is why the MVP trophy should be held up primarily under three categories: Individual statistics, team statistics, and overall value to their specific team.
Who then is in the running? I'll start by who is not. Kevin Durant has subtracted himself from any talks with the subtraction of Steph Curry. The Golden State Warriors have been plagued with injuries this year, (though not the worst team to get hit by the injury bug). Unlike Anthony Davis who has risen to the occasion without the defending champion’s All-Star cast, KD has been 0-5 when hitting 40 or more points. I’ve said from the very beginning of the year when everyone was talking about who GSW’s will play.
I said it won’t be the Warriors. It will be the Rockets. Turns out, that the conversation is turning towards a possible Rockets and Cavaliers matchup. Even then, it’s up in the air. Kevin Durant will have to play the first round without Steph Curry and the pressure is ON. He’s had decent numbers this year averaging 26 PPG, 7 RPG, and 5 APG but he’s on the Warriors- not the Pelicans. He’s had an unusual year of technical fouls and ejections which carries the question of whether he can handle the pressure of being “the guy” with the absence of another former MVP Steph Curry. All eyes are not on Durant this year, nor should they be. Steph Curry is the most valuable asset on the team- even if Durant may be the more flexible and diverse player on the roster. The Warriors ended their season in the 2nd spot with a 58-24 record. If Durant went down with an otherwise healthy roster? Business as usual for the stacked Warriors team. If Durant goes off on a shooting tirade? Turns out, they still lose. He’s not the engine of the team. He’s not the most valuable.
Russel Westbrook is averaging a triple double for the 2nd year in a row. It’s an impressive feat, but not when you’re boxing out fellow teammate Carmelo Anthony for an extra board. The former MVP has put up monster numbers once again, but why is this not as impressive? The former teammate of both James Harden and Kevin Durant was given the gift of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Their season has been anything but pretty. At times they flex their muscles, and at other times- it’s Russel Westbrook throwing up a ton of bricks. He’s averaged 25 PPG, 10 RPG, and 10 APG going 48 and 34, (a record shared by the Jazz and Pelicans). Why isn’t this as impressive as last year? Sure, they gave up the possible Most Improved Player in Oladipo, but they received two super stars in return. Sharing the same record with Anthony Davis in the West is not the same with two mega stars. Anthony Davis had to conduit the gap alone. Creating a bridge. Just like his eyebrow.
This of course leads to The Brow. Will Anthony Davis get to hoist up the MVP trophy one year? Probably, just not this year. The competition is stiff, and he’ll have to wait at least a year or two to show us how dominant he can be. He’s averaged great numbers after his sidekick went down, and what a sidekick he had. Demarcus Cousins in 48 games was averaging monster numbers. 25 PPG, 13 RPG, and 5 APG earning him a starter spot on this year’s All Star team. That’s two guys on the same team collecting starter honors. To say that AD did it on his own is to ignore Cousins’ incredible season. That said, AD picked up the slack when DeMarcus had his horrific injury. Davis’ numbers are great. He averages 28 PPG at 53% shooting along with 11 RPG and a block and a half. Their record sits alongside Westbrook’s at 48 and 34 minus PG and Melo. So, who has been their next up guys? Jrue Holiday has averaged a solid 19 PPG, 6 APG, and 4 RPG. Their recent acquisition of Mirotic has been wonderful. He’s notching just under 15 PPG and 8 RPG. Let’s not forget the crafty Rajon Rondo either. Though Cousins went down, Rondo came back in as a floor general averaging 8 PPG and an impressive 8 APG. AD’s numbers are terrific, but he’s operating under the center position. Over half the season he’s been paired with Cousins, and Cousins was a beast. Does AD deserve a tip of the hat towards MVP? Yes. But the tip of the hat gets him 3rd place. Not a bad place to be at all.
Who’s on second? The beard follows the brow. This is where the emotional argument must be down played. One of the main arguments surrounding Harden that I’ve heard is, “It’s his turn.” Unfortunately for him, we’re no longer in grade school. Should he have been MVP last year? Maybe. His former teammate took the crown. How about years prior? That belonged to another former teammate of his in KD who then went to HIS teammate for two years in Chef Curry. This year he’s been phenomenal averaging 30 PPG, 8.8 APG, 5.4 RPG shooting 36% from the 3 and 45% from the field. Those are some great numbers, right? Maybe even MVP numbers if the “M” was not there. Their record does take the “M” with a crazy 65 game crown. So why not Harden? Let’s take a look at his teammates. Chris Paul, arguably a top 10 pure point guard of our generation is averaging close to 19 PPG, 5 RPG, and 8 APG. When Harden was not in- they still won most of the games he was absent. Just like Durant, they keep trekking along with or without their treasured asset. Clint Capella as well is having a monster year. Their pieces in Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Tucker, Green, and of course their coach D’Antoni have really meshed well together. They are a three-point shooting juggernaut. Harden averages a startling 10 free throws a game. He hooks the hands and gets the calls. No doubt that if this was any other season, he’d be walking away with the crown. But then… there’s someone who already has the crown and his name is also James. Unfortunately for Harden, his name is King James.
In his 15th season James has averaged career bests in APG 9.1 and RPG 8.6. He played all 82 games averaging 27.2 PPG shooting 54% from the field, 36% from the three, has more field goals made than Harden and continues to shatter records. Remember that double digital record he shattered this year from MJ? Or the time he became the youngest in NBA history to reach 31,000 points? Or the categories in which he became the only player in history to, (fill in the blank). What can we count on? If LeBron is out- Cleveland loses. He’s played with two different coaches and two different teams this year. The first half was awful- playing with the oldest team in the league. The second half has been more fruitful- pairing alongside former bench players like Hill, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. Their season has been RACKED with injuries including IT, (coming off the bench of the Lakers) D Rose, (coming off the bench of T Wolves) D Wade, (coming off the bench of Miami) Hood, Nance Jr, Love, TT, Calderon, Hill, and Shumpert. Who did the Cavaliers give away? They gave away men who have started on their roster, only to come off the bench on other teams. Who did they receive? Men who came off the bench on lesser teams only to start on theirs. If the “every position James” goes out, who will take over? They do not have a Chris Paul or a Jrue Holiday.
They have a 59 game Kevin Love averaging a solid 17 and a half PPG with 7 and a half RPG. For the tenth year straight, LBJ has clinched division title winning 50 games. In no way has it been a breeze. I know, I know. LeBron is boring. Let’s have someone different. Let’s bring someone who has been waiting in line. This is a competition, and LBJ has more APG than Harden as a guard. He has more RPG than Harden. He has more FGM than Harden. As a small forward, he shoots identically at the three point line as Harden. He shoots more efficiently in FG% than Harden. What does Harden have? He has a few more points and a lot more free throws per game. All crazy accomplishments and monumental career achievements that LBJ has earned this year aside- if you just look at every category- LBJ is better, more efficient, and just plain… better. Is it James Harden’s turn to win MVP? It would be if that other pesky James wasn’t here. Who will it go to? Conversations have been swarming around Harden all year. “It’s his turn, it’s his turn.” Let’s hope that those who vote remember that this is a league of professionals. It’s not a line standing outside a kindergarten class. All five men are elite but the question centers itself around the “most.” LeBron James is the most. If Harden wins it won’t be a question of “the most,” it will be a question of his turn on the swings. Hopefully, the NBA recognizes that turns don’t really matter in the game of basketball.