Since the start of the season, there were two names from the Western Conference that have been discussed as leading MVP candidates. One is Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry and Houston Rockets guard James Harden. In the last few weeks, however, the race seems to be getting crowded with surges in performances by Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook. With about 20 games to go, the MVP race is going down to the wire. Here is why they are the top candidates.
1) Steph Curry (23.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 7.8 assists) – Curry is the top gun in the league’s best team. Sure the Hawks have a one game edge over the Warriors in the standings but the East is so weak that if the playoffs started today, two teams with losing records would make it. Curry’s efficiency is impressive. He is a 50-40-90 guy (field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage) and leads the league in steals which makes him a great defender.
2) James Harden (26.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 7.0 assists)— Harden is arguably the league’s most potent offensive force. He is enjoying a banner season averaging career-bests in the 3 categories above. He can shoot, he can drive, and he goes to the free throw line more than anyone else (9.5 free throw attempts per game). With Dwight Howard missing a lot of games, Harden has been carrying the Houston Rockets on his back. However, the Rockets are a far fourth in the Conference standings and we all know that historically MVP’s come from the top player in a top-tier team.
3) LeBron James (26.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists)— Four-time MVP winner LeBron James is still the best player in the league although he is at the tail end of his prime. Like Curry, one of the knocks on James’ body of work this year is the fact that he is playing in a loaded team full of superstars. It is also a point against him that Cleveland is only a far No.2 in the weak East. I would be surprised if the “King” wins a fifth one but the Cavs are the hottest team now and are favorites to go all the way to the NBA Finals.
4) Russell Westbrook (27 points, 7 rebounds, and 8.2 assists)—Wow! Barely two days ago, Westbrook posted career-highs with 49 points and 16 rebounds to go with 10 assists, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989 to post 4 consecutive triple-doubles. Westbrook is definitely a monster and like Harden, is posting career-bests in scoring, rebounds and assists. Without Durant, he has been able to keep the Thunder’s playoff hopes alive.
5) Anthony Davis (24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists)— The MVP discussion won’t be complete without mentioning The Brow. He probably won’t win it this year but Davis will be a leading MVP candidate for years to come. His athleticism and skill-set is simply phenomenal in spite of his young age. If he can only keep healthy, he is definitely next in line after James and Kevin Durant.