Very soon a panel of 130 writers and broadcasters will be given a ballot and an impossible task to accomplish. They will determine who is going to receive the 2016-2017 NBA Most-Valuable-Player (MVP) award. No matter what they decide there will still be pundits who will claim that the panel made the wrong choice because there really isn’t any hard criteria or definition for the voters to go off of. What is an NBA MVP? Is it the best player on the best team? Is it the best two-way player? Is it the player who has elevated his team to new heights? Or is it the player whose team would be nothing without him? With all these different definitions and expectations lying around it’s easy to see why everyone has an opinion and why this year’s race has been more interesting than most. Here is how every voter could end up with a different MVP:
The best player on the best team: LeBron James
No, the Cleveland Cavaliers do not have the best record. They will enter the playoffs as the second seed in the east behind the Boston Celtics and yet everyone has already penciled in the Cavs for the Finals. Why? Because they have the best player in LeBron James. As NBA fans we have become too used to LeBron’s excellence year in and year out. For example no one seemed to notice or care that LeBron set personal bests this year for assists and rebounds. In addition The Cavs went 0-7 this year with their star out of the line-up. LeBron will find himself off of many ballots this year because everyone has become used to his greatness but 6 straight NBA Finals appearances (with a seventh potentially coming this year) seems like a good enough reason to be at the top of an MVP ballot any year right? Oh and averaging 26.4 points, 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds a game doesn’t hurt his case either.
The best two-way player: Kawhi Leonard
At first glance Kawhi’s numbers might not jump off the page at you. He’s 9th in scoring, 8th in steals and 69th in blocks. But here’s a stat that helps his case: Kawhi is one of four players this season to have more steals than fouls (John Wall, Jimmy Butler and Trevor Ariza are the other three). Additionally if you’ve ever watched the Spurs this year you know that Leonard is the life blood of their team and one of a very select number of players that can truly lock down any offensive player. Given his incredible versatile playmaking nature and the Spurs second place standing in the West Kawhi will find himself on some MVP ballots. His only real chance to bring home to trophy however is if Harden and Westbrook split the first place votes and he finds a way onto enough ballots.
The player who has elevated his team to new heights: James Harden
The Houston Rockets were the 8th seed in the playoffs last year. One year later they are sitting five seeds higher as the 3rd seed in the West thanks to the phenomenal play of James Harden. A large part of the team’s improvement can be traced back to Harden moving from shooting guard to point guard this season. In his new role Harden also flourished personally in regards to the stat sheet. Harden finished the season 2nd in points with 29.1 points per game and 1st in assists with a career high 11.2 dimes a game. With his points and assists Harden was personally responsible for 4,554 points this season, an NBA record.
The player whose team would be nothing without him: Russell Westbrook
No one in the modern NBA era has averaged a triple-double. No one until Russell Westbrook that is. In a season of broken records Westbrook’s accomplishment still seems to stand out from the rest. Russ’s mark of 42 triple doubles was 20 more than anyone else and reason the Thunder made the playoffs this year as the 7th seed in the West. Beside his insane stat line the Thunder would legitimately be nowhere without their star. According to Basketball-Reference.com Westbrook’s contributed 37 wins-above-replacement for his team, meaning without him the Thunder would’ve won around 10 games this year. Very rarely in today’s NBA do you see a single player will and carry his team to win after win but we were all witnesses this year.
130 people will vote and decide the MVP. Do they pick the man averaging a triple-double? The man responsible for the most points in a season? One of the NBA all-time greats having yet another great season? Or the two-way player whose personality makes him fly under the radar? Unfortunately only time will tell.
Written by: Harry