Tight Race for 2016-17 NBA MVP

Bradley Beal, Isaiah Thomas
Keith Allison/Creative Commons

NBA All-Star Weekend is approaching, and the road to crowning the league MVP is becoming more clear. Five players have separated themselves from the rest and are making their cases to be recognized as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. These players are considered to be heading into May with the highest hopes of grasping the league’s most prestigious individual honor.

  1. Lebron James

The four-time MVP is unquestionably the one person you can say deserves it every year. He is in the conversation because we just expect him to average 25.8 points, 8.8 assists and 7.8 rebounds. This is simply per usual for him, which is completely mesmerizing for someone who is playing in his 13th year in the NBA. It is more than likely that Lebron will lead his team out of the Eastern Conference to contend for a repeat coronation in the finals.

  1. Kawhi Leonard

The 2014 Finals MVP is the best two-way player in the league, with back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards to prove that. Now that Tim Duncan’s shadow is no longer hovering over him, the Spurs are widely recognized as his team. We don’t have to dig into the archives any deeper than the season opener to find Kawhi scoring 35 points against Golden State along with five steals to blow out the Warriors on their home floor. Kawhi leads the Spurs in the team’s most significant games, no matchup more showing than the career-high 41 points he scored in an overtime road win against the reigning champion Cavaliers. There aren’t many elite players that can say they beat the last two NBA champions in the same season, much less as the visiting squad.

  1. Isaiah Thomas

The “Mr. Irrelevant” pick from the 2012 Draft stands at just 5 feet 9 inches, making him incredibly noticeable by his look on the court, if not his play. And although Isaiah doesn’t get the proper recognition he deserves, he lets us know when to pay attention when he points at his wrist. He is “Mr. Fourth Quarter,” pulling out wins for the Celtics with clutch shots to place his team as the current second seed in the east. The January Eastern Conference Player of the Month is aligning his name with Boston all-time greats Paul Pierce and Larry Bird with his 32.9 point average, the third-highest monthly average in team history. Earning a second All-Star nod is just the beginning for what he can potentially do in taking over the league.

  1. James Harden

“Fear the beard” is how NBA teams approach Houston’s spread pick and roll offense. Under first-year coach Mike D’Antoni, James Harden has benefited from his new role as point guard and is making the Rockets look like the team that made it to the Western Conference Finals two years ago. Harden is averaging 29.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and a staggering 11.3 assists because the offense playbook spreads the floor for unbelievable efficiency. Harden is the reason why the Rockets are tied for second in that category, and because of his contribution, he can easily be put as a top candidate for MVP.

  1. Russell Westbrook

It all comes down to how you define the meaning of “most valuable player” and the attributes a player should carry in gracing the award. Westbrook puts the meaning in literally carrying his team throughout this season, averaging a triple double through 55 games. He is the frontrunner because we are heading this deep into the campaign and he’s still averaging that incredible feat. This hasn’t been done since Oscar Robertson did it in the 1961-62 season. 55 years have passed since Robertson’s triple double season average, and if Westbrook can pull it off while taking Oklahoma City to the playoffs, he will more than earn the right to be named MVP.

Contact Oscar Oxlaj at [email protected]