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The NBA MVP race is heating up with only a few days left in the regular season and the playoffs set to start on Saturday, April 18.
Highlighting the conversation is Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden, New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
All players listed above bring something different to the table and are the best players on their respected teams. Curry is a lights out shooter while Davis is a freak athlete. Westbrook is a triple-double machine while Paul seems to never stop being elite. Harden draws fouls like no other while James is…LeBron James.
They can all make a case for MVP. However, when it comes down to who is truly the most valuable player, the race can be narrowed down to two people: Curry and Harden.
Unfortunately, the term MVP is used too lightly and can often be misinterpreted. It’s defined differently by just about everybody and has dozens of different meanings. However, it’s ultimately left in the hands of the voters and –as history will show – the award almost always goes to the player who is truly the most valuable to his team.
It’s not just picking the overall best player in the league, but picking the player that impacts his team the most. It’s combining the individual statistics of a player with the overall success of his team.
For example: a point guard scoring 18 points and dishing out 10 assists a game on the best team in the league has a much higher chance of winning the coveted award compared to a point guard scoring 25 and 12 on a team that won’t even make the postseason.
History supports this claim.
Since 1985, the MVP winner has always been on a team that was a top-three seed in his conference heading into the playoffs. Since Shaquille O’neal won in 2000, only players on the top-two seeded teams have won the award.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar in ’75-‘76 is the only player to ever win the award on a team failing to make the playoffs and that was simply due to an unprecedented stat-line that will never be duplicated.
If history repeats itself, that automatically throws both Davis and Westbrook out of the conversation (both teams are fighting for the eighth place in the West).
Does this mean that Davis or Westbrook aren’t two of the best players in the league? Of course not. Both of them could make a legitimate argument for being the best there is right now. Westbrook is having a record-breaking season and Davis – if he could stay healthy – would be too.
However, all of that goes out the door when it comes to the MVP race if your team has a 50/50 chance of even making the playoffs come April.
This is why I’ve narrowed the race down to Curry and Harden. The Warriors are having a historical season and – if they win their remaining two games – will be in a tie for the sixth best overall record of all-time with the Jordan Era ‘91-‘92 Chicago Bulls. If you take Curry out of the equation, it’s safe to say Golden State wouldn’t be in the same conversation as a ‘90’s Bulls team.
Harden’s Rockets are currently in sixth place in the West at 54-26, but are only half a game back from the second place San Antonio Spurs in a chaotic Western Conference playoff race due to division records. They’ve managed to do this while two of their best players after Harden – Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones – haven’t been able to suit up in over half of the games due to injuries. Without Harden, I could easily see the Rockets being down in the conversation with the Pelicans and Thunder.
LeBron’s Cavs are second in the East at 51-29 and Paul’s Clippers are third in the West (also 54-26). They’re both the best players on successful teams, but neither are having a season quite like Curry and Harden when you combine individual play with team success.
Curry and Harden are truly the two most valuable players as of right now and have been throughout the course of the season. However, when the regular season comes to a close and all of the votes are cast, Curry will beat Harden and be crowned as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
A player averaging 24 points, eight assists, and two steals a game while shooting 49 percent from the field, 44 percent from beyond the three-point line, and leading a team to 65 wins more than deserves to be the MVP.