The 2016-17 NBA MVP race is one of the best in league history. So, who will take home the award?
LeBr….no Westbr….ahhh…Hard…ugghhhh…Kaw…dammit man! I don’t know. This season’s NBA MVP award is going to be incredibly difficult to decide upon. I mean, you have the best player in the world in LeBron James. The triple-double machine single-handedly carrying his team in Russell Westbrook. James Harden, who is leading the league in assists and second in scoring. Then Kawhi Leonard, who is the league’s best all-around defender and an efficient scorer.
Honestly, I’ve flip-flopped approximately 15689984088467 times on who I think should win the NBA MVP. Here’s the case for each of these well-deserving stars.
***This list is in alphabetical order, so y’all don’t think I’m playing favorites***
“The Beard” has always been a laughable MVP candidate, to me, in previous years. He was almost a caricature of himself, with his disdain for defense and black-hole mentality on offense. Don’t get me wrong, Harden has always been a load to handle with the ball in his hands. However, this season, he has openly displayed the results of the hard work he puts in during the off-season. Harden has maintained his ability to score, while actually increasing his offensive efficiency. He has applied more effort on the defensive end. But, the biggest difference in Harden’s game is that he’s now making a consistent, concerted effort to get his teammates involved on the offensive end. His 26.7 PPG, 11.3 AST and with the Rockets on pace to win 55 games, He’s also second in overall EFF. Harden is firmly entrenched in the conversation.
Just as it was for Jordan, Shaq and Kobe, you could award the MVP to LeBron every year with a valid argument. James has been his usual dominant self. Averaging 26/8/9 for the best team in the Eastern Conference makes his case really strong. The defensive intensity, leadership and on-court intelligence are always key intangibles when considering James. As much as we like to talk about James’ surrounding cast and how good they are, the Cavs are 0-6 without LeBron in the lineup this season. Like most players of his stature, Per usual, James is top-5 in EFF. LeBron has spoiled the majority of fans and voters in regards to year-after-year MVP consideration. That being said, it doesn’t take away from the greatness that is LeBron James.
The ever-unassuming Leonard has completely taken the baton from his predecessor, equally unassuming Tim Duncan, as the leader of the Spurs. Leonard has done what many lockdown defenders can’t do. He’s assumed a much larger offensive load without negatively impacting his defensive effort and effectiveness. His 26 PTS, 6 REB and 2 STL per game are legitimately MVP worthy. It speaks volumes for Leonard’s game that he doesn’t have the personality to be perpetually force-fed. But, Kawhi does need help to take home the trophy. If the Cavs continue to struggle down the stretch, Russ fails to average that triple-double and Harden eases his way into the playoff, Leonard can stake his claim to the MVP.
Averaging a triple-double in the NBA is akin to winning the triple-crown in baseball. It’s so hard to do in the modern game. Barring a colossal collapse, Russ is going to be the first player since Oscar Robertson during the 1961-62 season. Westbrook’s accomplishment, in my opinion, is more impressive than Oscar’s. When you consider each player’s stature, the pace of the game then vs now and the level of competition, Russ has put together a season we may never again witness. Also, not many teams and/or stars could withstand losing a top-3 player like Kevin Durant. Westbrook and the Thunder have managed a very respectable 43 wins thus far (good for 6th in the loaded West). Love him or hate him, dropping 32/11/10 every night is f****** insane!
What the Defy Life crew has to say about it:
Alvin Glymph: “Up until a few weeks ago, I was backing Kawhi. I like the way he dominates on defense and offense. But now I gotta go with Westbrook. The triple-doubles and lack of supporting cast makes me a believer.”
Keyonne Small: “I have to go with Westbrook. Averaging a triple-double is crazy. Never thought we’d see that happen. And to think, OKC had Russ, Harden and Durant. At this point next year, they may have none of them.”
J.R. Glymph: “Russell gets the nod. As impressive as Harden has been and as steady as LeBron and Kawhi are, for Westbrook to maintain that energy, focus and fire all season long is damn near unheard of.