This is the most fun the MVP race has been in years. You can make a legitimate case for five guys at least — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. And that leaves off guys who should get mentions and votes like Chris Paul.
Everyone has an opinion. Mine keeps changing every 48 hours it seems as I study it more.
Former NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade has an opinion — he likes the guy who goes to the rim knowing how to draw contact and put pressure on the opposing defense. From friend of this blog Shandel Richardson of the Sun-Sentinel.
“Right now, I would say James Harden,” Wade said before Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. “It’s tough. Any one of those top guys could be MVP. I would say James Harden from everything he’s done for the full season, the entire season. With the injury to Dwight Howard and carrying that team in the tough Western Conference and being right up there. That’s pretty impressive and he’s done it all season long.”
Watching Harden draw fouls can be reminiscent of Wade circa 2006. No wonder he likes him.
Harden’s case rests on the fact that he has played more minutes and scored far more points (257) than anyone else in the NBA — the Rockets are the three seed in the West because he has carried them all season long. Houston is lost without him stepping his game up to a new level. (And if you are going to argue “he doesn’t play defense” I suggest you watch some Rockets games — he’s improved on that end. He’s not a stopper, but he’s improved.)
But again, you can make a very good case for other guys, too. Stephen Curry is more than the best player on the best team; the Warriors are 18 points per 100 possessions worse when he is off the court (a higher number than Westbrook or Harden). Westbrook has been a triple-double collecting force of nature who will carry the Thunder into the playoffs on the strength of his play. LeBron remains the best player on the planet and has played like it at both ends since he came back from those couple weeks off. Davis has been the best player in the NBA over the course of the season and done it efficiently — his PER of 31.4 so far this season would rank in the top 10 all time, putting him in Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain territory.
Wade and other players don’t have a vote on MVP (much to the dismay of Kevin Durant) but they wouldn’t have an easier time than the media this year. There is no clear-cut leader.