This season has been one of the most unique, intriguing season to date. There have been so many performances, both team and individual, that has made this season one to remember.
With 20 or so games left in the regular season, there have been five players (Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Isaiah Thomas) that have solidly etched their names in the MVP race.
Here are the reasons these candidates will or will not win the MVP:
Why he will win: LeBron James is the best player on the planet. From his physical attributes to his seemingly unmatched basketball I.Q., James is not only on a whole other level from the rest of the league, but he is the engine, wheels, headlights, and steering wheel that is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yes he has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs are 0-4 when James does not play and 4-19 since 2014 when ” The King” does not suit up. Also, the Cavs have a plus-minus of +18 when he’s on the floor and -18 when he’s off.
What makes James even more scary is he continues to improve year after year, he turned 32 this season.From his increased three point percentage to his court vision, James is actually having one of his best seasons in his career.
Why he will not win: As quiet as it’s kept, the Cavaliers have underachieved this year. Currently, the team is 42-21. While that is a good record and they are sitting comfortably at the top of the East, the Cavs were projected to win 67 games this season.
The Cavaliers have a defensive problem. Whether it is due to lack of care or just the inability to focus long enough on the defensive end of the floor, Cleveland is a middle of the road defense and James is part of that problem. He is not a terrible defender by any stretch, but he really is not helping the cause either. Definitely expect him to tun it up a notch on that end of the floor once the postseason starts, but this is a regular season award.
Why he will win: Westbrook has the chance to be just the second person in NBA history to finish the season averaging a triple double. Currently, he is averaging 31.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.1 assists per game.
He leads the league with 32 triple doubles this season (which is second most for a season in NBA history) and is just 9 triple doubles away from becoming the only player in NBA history with more that 41 for a season.
Remember that car analogy I used for LeBron James, it also applies for Westbrook (except Westbrook is the whole car.) After losing Kevin Durant in free agency, the Thunder were projected to struggle mightily this year. Yes they still had Westbrook (and everyone knew he would go on a tear this year), but the need for a second scorer was nonexistent. Turn out all you need is Westbrook! Behind his play night after night, the Thunder currently sit in the seventh seed in the Western Conference and look primed for a long first round series.
Why he will not win: The MVP trophy has never been handed to a player on a team outside of the top two spots in their conference. While Westbrook has been everything for OKC, that has only gotten them to the seventh seed in the west (even with Steven Adams, and Victor Oladipo.)
Yes, Westbrook is averaging nearly 32 points a game, but you have to look at the just how many times he shoots the ball. He currently shoots 24 times a game (and has a couple 30+ shot attempt games) this year and only shooting 42 percent from he field and 33 percent from three.
The icing on this cake has to be his turnover rate. Westbrook is second in the league in turnovers and he averages five a game. The only MVP to ever average more than four turnovers a game was Magic Johnson in 1989.
Why he will win: Being 5’9 is one thing, but being 5’9 and second in the NBA is scoring is another.
Thomas has the chance to average the most points in a season in team history this year. Yes, the same Celtics that had Larry Bird, one of the greatest shooters in the history of the sport. Whether it is getting to the rim or shooting the long ball, Thomas can do it all! When Boston needs a bucket, they look no further than Thomas and he very rarely disappoints.
When the fourth quarter rolls around, many players lock in and play their best, but no one has been better in the fourth quarter than Isaiah Thomas. “Mr. Fourth Quarter” is averaging nearly 13 points in the quarter alone, which is highest in the NBA.
Regardless of his size, Thomas has led Boston to the third seed in the East and primed for a deep run in the playoffs. Despite his stature, Isiah has the complete package offensively.
Why we will not win: There are 482 players in the NBA. Thomas is ranked 476 in defensive efficiency. So it is safe to say he is one of the worst defenders in all of the NBA. Some of this is his fault, some is due to unchangeable variables.
Because of his height, taller players are able to simply shoot over him with ease. It doesn’t help that the point guard position may be the deepest in the league. It gets even worse when he is switched on another, even taller player.
On the other hand, Thomas gets lost time after time on switches. He ball watches too much that allows a abnormal amount of backdoor cuts and easy lay ups.
With all Thomas’s glory on the offensive side of the ball, his defense is down right awful.
Why he will win: Remember when Kawhi Leonard came into the league and he was seen as nothing more than a solid defender? Now, Leonard (the two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year) is the regarded as simply the best two-way player in the NBA.
Not only is Leonard a great player, but he leads the Spurs to the second best team in the entire NBA. From his lockdown defense to his much improved jump shot, there is nothing Leonard can do. The “Quite Assassin” is playing even better than he did last year (and he finished second in the MVP race last year).
To be honest, there is nothing bad you can really say about his game. Kawhi plays within himself at all times, he doesn’t wast movement whether on or off the ball. He is a “actions speak louder than words” leader, which works for the Spurs. That being said, he is having one of the most efficient years in team history.
Leonard is as complete as a complete player can be and it shows night after night.
Why he will not win: It is hard to find anything wrong with Leonard’s game. It’s more of the surrounding factors that might cost him the MVP trophy. As great as Leonard has been this year, his name has not been in the spotlight enough this season.
It does not help with the season Russell Westbrook and James Harden has been having, but his team is second in the West, which doesn’t hurt his chances.
That’s it really.
Why he will win: James Harden and the Rockets where primed for a tough season this year by many analysts and pundits. They lost Dwight Howard, got a new coach and Harden made the move from shooting guard to point guard. What we got however, is one of the best players and teams in the league.
Harden has been nothing short of amazing this year. Even though Harden is one of the best scorers in the NBA, it is his court vision that has shined. Along with sitting third in the NBA in scoring (28.9 ppg), Harden leads the league in assists with 11.2 a game (better than Chris Paul, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook). He also leads a team that was projected to win south of forty games to currently sitting third in the West and the third overall best record in the NBA (yes, even better than Cleveland).
If Harden climbs the ladder and leads the league in scoring and assists, he would be the first player to do so since Nate “Tiny” Archibald. If the standings remain the same, Harden would be the first Rocket to be in the top five in both scoring and assists.
Had the season ended today, he would be one of three guards to finish the season averaging a double double (John Wall and Russell Westbrook).
Why he will not win: Jame Harden recently broke the record with the most turnovers in a single season (382), a record he set last year with 374. THERE IS STILL 20 OR SO GAMES LEFT IN THE SEASON. Harden is turning the ball over so much that if he keeps this pace up, he could break the all-time turnover record (4524 by Karl Malone) in six seasons.
He leads the league in turnovers with 5.8 a game (which is also a NBA record for averages) and does not look to be slowing down anytime soon. No MVP has ever average more than four per game in a season.
Oh and Harden’s defense is still horrible. Not ” Youtube montages” bad, but still pretty bad. While players are only scoring 38 precent of the time Harden is guarding them straight up, that number balloons to 49 precent on switches.
If Harden wins the MVP, it would be the first time a winner wold rank first in turnovers and in the bottom percentage of the league in defensive efficiency in the same season.
The MVP race has shaped up to be one of the tightest races in NBA history. No matter who wins, we as fans should cherish what these players do on the court night in and night out.