Kurt Helin

David Stern, LeBron James

51 Questions: Who will win MVP?


We are in the home stretch of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For more than a month (and continuing through the start of the NBA season) we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We are entering the prediction portion of the preview season, today the PBT staff is tackling:

Who will win the MVP?

Kurt Helin: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

It’s tempting to choose Russell Westbrook or James Harden here — both guys are going to put up MVP-level stats this season. However, traditionally voters tend to pick the best player from one of the best teams in the league (55 or more wins) for the award, and I don’t see the Thunder or Rockets getting there. I will go with LeBron, knowing full well that the past couple of seasons he has dialed it back a little during the regular season so he could turn it up to 11 during the playoffs. Last season “dialed back” LeBron averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game with a true shooting percentage of 58.8 percent — those are still MVP numbers. With all the stars in Golden State siphoning off shots and votes from each other, I’ll take LeBron to win his fifth MVP.

Dan Feldman: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will split opportunities for production and, therefore, votes. I’m tempted to take LeBron James, but he has cruised through the last couple regular seasons, and every Finals trip gives him more incentive to relax the next year. So, I’ll pick Leonard, who’s a superstar and the clear top player on a team that could win at a clip that typically produces MVPs.

Dane Carbaugh: James Harden, Houston Rockets

James Harden is part of a new Rockets offense crafted by Mike D’Antoni, one unencumbered by the player who led the league last year in post touches in Dwight Howard. Harden is already a constant in the scoring title race, and now it appears his assist numbers — an overlooked part of his game — are on pace to become absolutely eye-popping. Factor in a potential step back for the Spurs, the Warriors foursome cannibalizing each others votes, and a finish in the Top 6 out West for the Rockets could very well get Harden the MVP.

Dan Gilbert tweets out look at Cavaliers’ championship banner

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Here it is, the first banner to go up celebrating a Cleveland sports championship since the year the Beatles first went on the Ed Sullivan Show, since Dr. Strangegolve was in the theaters, and the Warren Commission Report was released.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA champions and on Oct. 25, when the NBA season tips off, it does so with the Cavaliers players getting their rings and a banner being hoisted to the rafters at the Quicken Loans Arena.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert tweeted out a look at the banner.

Savor the moment Cleveland, you earned it.

Clippers’ Chris Paul sprains thumb, but it’s reportedly not serious

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Without Chris Paul, the Clippers quickly go from the fourth best team in the NBA to pedestrian. CP3 is arguably the best point guard in the game — certainly the best traditional point guard and the best game manager at the point — and if he’s not lobbing to DeAndre Jordan and feeding Blake Griffin the rock, the Clippers are not near the same team.

So when he’s skipping practice with his hand wrapped, it’s a story. But the injury is not serious, according to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

While Paul didn’t practice Sunday because of his hand injury, he’s not expected to miss any real time. Paul’s officially being called “day-to-day” with a sprained left thumb, and injury he likely would be able to play with if the Clippers were in the regular season.

“He’ll play in definitely one of the two (remaining preseason games), and that tells you it’s not that serious,” Doc Rivers said.

That’s good news, both for the Clippers and basketball fans everywhere. Paul is a joy to watch play for basketball purists.

Paul and Griffin can be free agents next summer (expect both to opt out for sure), which adds a certain urgency to the Clippers season. They may well be the fourth best team in the NBA — but is that good enough to get out of the second round when San Antonio and Golden State are still in your conference? To have any hope, they need a healthy Chris Paul.

Watch Russell Westbook drop 26 on Minnesota Sunday

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Russell Westbrook is going to put up monster numbers this season.

As the season is approaching coach Billy Donovan gave Westbrook a little longer run Sunday night — 30 minutes — and he dropped 26 points (on 21 shots) and 1o assists on the Timberwolves in a 112-94 Thunder win. In the first quarter he was blowing by defenders, getting the and-1, and never looked back. Steven Adams added 20 points and 10 rebounds in the game.

Westbrook is going to put MVP-caliber numbers this season, but will the Thunder be good enough to get him into serious consideration for the award? It’s going to be an interesting season.

Celtics’ Thomas: “if you don’t have Kobe or Shaq or Michael Jordan, the triangle doesn’t work”

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas shoots a 3-pointer over New York Knicks guard Sasha Vujacic (18) during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

It’s long been a criticism of Phil Jackson and the triangle offense: Of course he won, he had Michael Jordan, then Kobe Bryant with Shaquille O’Neal, then eventually peak Pau Gasol took over for Shaq. It’s a rather ridiculous criticism of Jackson — I’d like you to name the coach that won an NBA title without elite talent — but there are people who stick with that criticism of the triangle.

Add Celtics’ All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas to that list. That would be the Thomas that played for Knicks’ coach Jeff Hornacek in a running system back in Phoenix. Via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“I just think if you don’t have Kobe or Shaq or Michael Jordan, the triangle doesn’t work,” the Celtics All-Star told the Daily News….

“(Hornacek will) figure it out, even if he does do it a little bit. I see they’re trying to run it every now and then,” said Thomas, who torched the Knicks in four games last season while averaging 26.8 points and 7.5 assists. “I mean, it might work. Just hopefully not against us.”

The Knicks are running some hybrid of the triangle this season, it will be interesting to see how much it evolves over the course of the campaign. Will they run it more? Less? How much will Derrick Rose come to hate it (like many other traditional point guards have)?

The triangle offense still has a role in the NBA — virtually every team runs segments of it. The full triangle offense is a read-and-react offense — when a player gets the ball his action is based on how the defense reacts — and with the right roster, it could still win. It might need tweaks to get more threes, but the goal of the offense is spacing, it can be made to fit the modern NBA with some modification.

But yes, you need elite talent. Any system does.