Daniel Decides: NBA MVP

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Steph Curry and James Harden (Graphic Credit: Devaughn DC Philips)

Making the case for NBA MVP

 

The 2014-2015 NBA season has been witness to a number of talented players rising to a never before seen level in their careers. There are two current trends in the NBA: Having flashy guards with killer crossovers and a seemingly unlimited range, and having lean, yet powerful big men capable of shot-blocking and running up and down the court with the best of them.

 

These versatile styles of play are taking the league by storm.

 

The likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis exemplify why the future of the Association is in good hands.

 

When discussing what determines a player as “valuable,” several attributes must be present. For instance, not only does a player need the physical prowess to dominate a game at any moment, but the mental capability to lead their team during a lengthy losing streak, motivate to a certain extent where the head coach cannot, and be a role model to the less experienced players.

 

A way to describe this year’s MVP race is the phrase, “so close, yet so far.” The margin of error has been thin all year due several worthy candidates–much more than the norm. However, the discrepancy between the two front-runners and the rest of the pack is substantial.

 

It’s been pretty well agreed upon that Rockets guard James Harden and Warriors guard Stephen Curry are the two clear-cut front-runners to win the prestigious award. Unfortunately for Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, and Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who are all reasonably deserving of the award, what Curry and Harden have done for their respectively teams cannot be compared.

 

Simply put, although Westbrook had a statistically absurd end to the season, finishing with 11 triple-doubles, the fact that the Thunder missed the playoffs is the biggest reason why he will not win it.

 

Anthony Davis will not win the MVP because even though his numbers, 24/10/3, are excellent, the Pelicans barely made the playoffs and Davis missed fourteen games.

 

The closest contender to Harden and Curry to winning the MVP is LeBron James. James put up his usual numbers again this season, but his two week absence in January, combined with the several games here and there hurt him the most.

 

The case for Curry:

Stephen Curry has led his Golden State Warriors to an NBA best 67-15, an unprecedented 39-2 mark at home, and a career best 24/4/8 line. Most fans recognize Curry as a guard with unlimited range and a flashy style of play rivaled by few.

 

Curry topped the 30-point mark eleven times, along with  45 and 51 point performances. Curry also averaged a career high 7.7 assists per game, with a season-high fifteen versus the Pacers. The way Curry has progressed throughout the past few years has helped transform the Warriors from a mid-tier Western Conference team to a perennial league powerhouse.

 

 

The case for Harden:

In many ways, James Harden’s case for MVP is very similar to Curry’s, but in other ways very different. Harden’s Rockets have been so decimated by injuries that the weight put on his shoulders would be too much for other stars to bear. Harden has always been labeled as a skilled ball handler, an elite scorer, and a guy with a prolific beard.

 

The former Thunder southpaw has undoubtedly become the leader of the Rockets, and it especially showed when star center Dwight Howard’s season was cut short due to injury. Harden averaged a career high 27.4 points per game, and was second in the league in triple-doubles with four.

 

The Decision:

There are a few small differences I see that will decide who wins this year’s MVP award.

 

Firstly, the difference between the two teams. Golden State and Houston are the two top teams in the western conference standings, but the Rockets played exactly half of the season without Dwight Howard. Had number twelve been healthy, who knows how many more games Houston would’ve won?

 

Secondly, you have to look at the rosters built around Harden and Curry. The biggest reason the Warriors won 67 games was because of their depth and talent. Klay Thompson stepped up greatly, Draymond Green is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player, and they were one of the healthiest teams in the league.

 

On the other hand, the talent surrounding Harden was very questionable. Veteran journeymen Trevor Ariza, Pat Beverly, and the incumbent Josh Smith are no one to fear, and with Howard missing 41 games, the burden on Harden was even greater.

 

James Harden should be the player to win this year’s MVP award, but Stephen Curry will ultimately win it because he was on the best team in the league, he has near limitless shooting ability, as well as ball-handling, and he’s much more popular among younger fans and players alike.