The Kia NBA Most Valuable Player award will be announced in the next few days. During the regular season, there were five players realistically in contention for the MVP award: Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry, Houston Rockets’ James Harden, Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, Oklahoma Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul.
NBA MVP Award: Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry is the Best of the Best
All five players have had great seasons, but predicting who will win is problematic in evaluating what is the true criteria for winning the NBA MVP? Realistically, LeBron James should win the award every year. If you were choosing players for an NBA franchise and all players were available, you would pick James first.
If you were concerned about James’ age (despite him not showing signs yet of slowing down), you might likely choose New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis rather than the other four players as having the most potential upside in the years to come. Barring injury, Davis is the most likely player to assume James’ mantle of being the league’s best player and who will probably win a few MVP awards himself before his career is finished.
Traditionally, however, the MVP trophy has been awarded to the best player on the best team. As noted by Howard Beck, the last 32 MVP’s have been on teams with at least 50 wins (or the equivalent in a shortened season). This fact is what indicates that Russell Westbrook will not win the MVP despite an outstanding season.
Here is a breakdown of the top five NBA MVP candidates in ascending order:
5. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma Thunder
Westbrook carried his team despite injuries to Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Westbrook himself was injured for a portion of the season. Yet, Westbrook led the league in triple doubles and led the league with 28.1 points per game. However, the Thunder only won 45 games and missed the playoffs. While not Westbrook’s fault, the team record will likely keep him from winning the MVP.
4. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
Paul had a great season and helped put his team into the playoffs. The Clippers can hopefully can survive a round or two in the difficult Western Conference, but drawing the San Antonio Spurs in the first round was not a good sign. Paul was the league leader in assists with at 10.2 per game. Paul also averaged 19.1 points per game. Paul is a high percentage shooter from three point range and is a great facilitator.
Paul is likely hurt by the fact that the Clippers still seem to under-achieve with all of their talent. In addition, there is some argument that Paul is not even the best player on his team. While it is likely Paul is better than teammate Blake Griffin, that lack of clear dominance hurts his chances at winning an MVP award.
3. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
The four-time MVP James is the best player in the league and could easily win every year until he starts to slow down. James is hurt by the fact that the Cavaliers took some time to gel together as a team. James also was slowed by injury early in the year. However, James demonstrated his value by essentially willing his team to victories and acting as coach as well during the season. In addition, his former team, the Miami Heat, struggled without James this year. But, at the end of the day, James did not have his typical great season and did not have the best team.
2. James Harden – Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets’ James Harden has been the surprise MVP candidate this year. Harden has carried his team on his back to 56 wins, largely without the service of their other superstar player Dwight Howard. Harden also scored 27.4 point per game second only to Westbrook.
It is also arguable that Harden had the weakest supporting cast and put his team into contention in the strong western conference. Harden was also often mentioned during the season as an MVP candidate. It appears to be a two-player race between Harden and Curry and Harden could easily win the award. However, Curry will likely squeak out a close victory and win the MVP.
1. Steph Curry – Golden State Warriors
First, Curry’s Golden State Warriors’ team won 67 games. It is amazing how dominant the team has been in the regular season – nearing the 70-win Chicago Bulls team in 1996. Curry led the league with a record 276 3-pointers made this season. In the game against the Portland Trail Blazers that Curry broke his own 3-pointer record, he also scored 45 points and added ten assists.
But, Curry was more than just a scorer this season. Curry was also a facilitator, a game-changer, a leader and a defensive presence. What separates Curry in the 2015 season from previous years is that he has improved on defense. He is not going to be defensive player of the year anytime soon, but with as much offensive fire power that he adds, he only has to be a decent defender.
Curry was clearly the best player on the best team this season and will win the 2015 Kia NBA MVP.