PBT Awards: MVP

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

2. James Harden, Houston Rockets

3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

5. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

I flip-flopped on this up to the end, but in my mind, people underestimate Curry’s value to the Warriors (+15.7 per 100 possessions when he’s on the court) because he doesn’t do it in a traditional way. His gravity opens the Warriors’ offense for Klay Thompson and everyone else. The Warriors are the best team in the league, and they are not near where they are without Curry.

Brett Pollakoff

1. James Harden, Houston Rockets

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

5. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

This is an impossible choice, and there is no argument to be made against Curry winning it. He’s been the best player on what’s been the league’s best team all season long, and he’s been the most entertaining player to watch.

But Harden has been just as incredible. He led the Rockets to the two-seed in the West, despite the team losing two starters for the season due to injury (Patrick Beverley and Donatas Montiejunas), and with Dwight Howard missing 40 games, as well.

Harden leads the league in 40-plus point performances, and with no other real offensive threat on that team, he’s the focus of opposing defenses every single night. Curry will probably win it, and he’s equally deserving. But what Harden did for a Rockets team that desperately needed him to be consistently great is, in my opinion, more worthy of being recognized.

Sean Highkin

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

2. James Harden, Houston Rockets

5. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

5. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

The real choice here is only between the top two guys. Curry is the best player on the best team and Harden is the one that managed to drag a flawed team to the second seed in the West despite a slew of injuries. They’re basically 1 and 1a and there’s no wrong answer. Insert any number of other ways to hedge this choice.

But I’m going with Curry. He has better teammates than Harden, but just his being on the floor completely changes the way teams approach everything defensively. He’s improved on that end, too. It’s an impossible choice. It really is.

Dan Feldman

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

2. James Harden, Houston Rockets

3. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

5. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

I hate having to leave Russell Westbrook off the ballot. He has a case for No. 1. But in this deep pool, he’s my No. 6. His lack of minutes – insert “availability is the most important ability” cliché – keeps him (and Davis and LeBron) outside the top three, and his lackluster defense drops him below the other two.

Curry has played with better teammates, but he took the Warriors from a little above average to historically great. That’s not a lesser accomplishment than Harden taking the Rockets from bad to very good. It’s a close call between those, but I think Curry played just a little better this season.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.