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DAR Sports: The 2016-2017 NBA MVP Race

By @TrueGodImmortal 



So we are now about 20 games into the season, and for the most part, everything has shaped up just as we expected. The top 2 teams in the NBA are the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, while in the West, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers are heavily competing for that no. 1 spot as well. However, as we see playoff ambitions continue to form for a number of teams, the individual play from a number of top tier players has been outstanding. This leads me to look at the MVP race so far, and look at some top candidates and a few Longshots who would have to perform a miracle to seriously be in the running, but their numbers are great. Some of the top candidates have a much better shot at winning than some others, but regardless, at this point, these are the most logical options based on the criteria from the past. Who will take the MVP award this year? Let's take a look.

Longshot Candidates
-These are the candidates that aren't likely to win due to missing the playoffs, or not getting enough wins to secure votes for the award. Some of these are damn near impossible, some are just pretty unlikely, but all of these candidates rely on a "What If" scenario to fuel their chances to win.

*Anthony Davis



-The issue with AD being in the MVP race boils down to simply his team and their record at the end of the season. Nothing else. His numbers are outrageous so far, but with him being the driving force of his offense, it hasn't done much to helped them. They went 1-10 to start the season off, but have won 5 of their last 6, and with some players returning to the lineup, it could mean the Pelicans make a run at the playoffs. If AD can carry them to the 6th and 7th seed with the numbers that he's got, I'd be willing to think he could at least get a few votes, but he'd likely have no shot at winning.

*Damian Lillard 



-The Blazers are off to a rocky start. The one thing that could tip the scales in Dame's favor is him going crazy in order to set up an epic win streak. He started off the first few games on a frenzy, but the production has slowly dipped some since the first week or so of the season. Now we're beginning to get into the thick of things, and with about 60 plus games left on the season, the fear is that Dame could burn himself out and if the Blazers make the playoffs, an early exit is likely. I don't really have Dame as a contender, and with the way the West looks right now, it's very possible that the Blazers could miss the playoffs. Stats aside, Dame would have to step up because the Blazers are in peril right now, and it doesn't seem likely that they'll be a high enough seed to justify him getting those MVP votes. However, there's still three quarters of a season left, so I wouldn't FULLY count him out. It's just unlikely.

*Kemba Walker 



-I think Kemba is having a great year so far, and has the Hornets in playoff contention early on, but they've admittedly slipped up some since resting nicely in the 2nd spot in the East for the first 7 games or so. Kemba is putting up great numbers, and it's obvious he's the leader of this Hornets team, but I can't see him REALLY gaining the MVP vote without bringing the Hornets to the 2nd seed or somehow possibly overtaking the Cavs for the no. 1 spot. Regardless, Kemba is a possibility if the Hornets can secure one of the top two spots in the Eastern Conference. Highly unlikely, but the right record and position in the conference could work wonders.

*Kyrie Irving 



-The only things standing in the way of Kyrie being a serious contender for this award is the NBA voting system and LeBron James. Kyrie is the leading scorer on the Cavs and I expect it to likely be that way for the rest of the season. Kyrie doesn't have the all around numbers to justify being the MVP and we've seen already that the Cavs struggle without LeBron on the team. So with that being said, it's really not likely that Kyrie gets the vote, but  I'd keep him as a longshot just for consideration because he's proven to be clutch when he's needed.

Top Candidates 
-These are the more likely candidates to win the award. Some have a much better chance than others, but all of these players have a possible claim to it depending on how the rest of the season turns out. Unless injury occurs or a decline out of nowhere happens, these are the players in the running for the MVP title.

*DeMar Derozan 



-The Raptors backcourt was seen as the best in the East and I can't see a reason to fully disagree with that, but it's clear who the leader of that backcourt is now. After a successful run in the Olympics with the USA team, Derozan came back with a vengeance, and he is currently in the race for the scoring title. He also set records for the most 30 point games early on in the season since, guess who, Michael Jordan. That cannot be ignored, but the only thing that might hold him back from winning this award is simply the voting criteria and the Raptors record. If the Raptors manage to steal the no. 2 seed again, I'd like to see Derozan in contention if he keeps this level of play up. Simple as that.

*Jimmy Butler 



-I'd never expect the Bulls to manage to be tied for the 2nd seed. Hell, I was just hoping we would be in playoff contention at all. It looks like if we stay healthy and keep this up, the Bulls are certainly headed to the playoffs. The one thing that has made the difference for this team is Jimmy Buckets. Yes, Dwyane Wade and his veteran knowledge helps the team as well, but it's obvious that this team is Jimmy's team without a doubt. With some solid numbers on the year, Jimmy is the driving force behind this Bulls team and a big part of their success. If the Bulls could somehow manage to overtake the Cavs for the no. 1 spot or solidify the no. 2 spot with over 50 plus wins, I'm 100% sure he would get some well deserved votes.

*Russell Westbrook 



-What is troubling to say the least is that Russ was my pick early on. He seemed like he could pull this off and lead the Thunder to a 2nd or 3rd seed, yet here we are. The Thunder have struggled very much, but Russell still puts his numbers up every single game. He's been the cause of many wins, but also blew the final shots to cost his team the game. He's not exactly a longshot, because his numbers are just that damn good, but the wins for his team is the only thing that keeps him from being a 100% front runner. He's got them in playoff contention, but a 5th or 6th seed finish won't be enough, despite Russell being a triple double machine. He's got 7 so far this season, which is amazing, but it's not going to be enough without the record to go with it. Honestly, I'd love to see the Thunder go on a frenzy and win enough games to secure the 3rd seed, and watch Russ get the award. It's possible, but not very likely.

*James Harden 



-I'm not a big fan of James Harden, but I respect his talent and his stats. Whether Harden has a tendency to stat pad is not the question, the fact of the matter is this man is a force on the court and he can easily get to the basket when he wants. However, the issue with him possibly winning this award is the same as the issue for a number of these other players: his team won't have the record to justify it. Now, in 2015, Harden had a possible claim to the award, though I know why Steph Curry won it. Harden helped the Rockets get to the 2nd seed in the West, but that's not likely to happen this year, so it'll be a stretch to get Harden to that MVP trophy.

*Stephen Curry 



-The back to back MVP is in a much better position to win the award for a third time than many of the picks of the "casual fan". While the "Warriors blew a 3-1 lead" jokes are still continuing and will likely not die (unless the Warriors win a title this year), Steph is having a pretty good year so far, and he's on pace to have an even better year than his FIRST MVP season. With that being said, what makes Steph such a contender is that he's having this season while Kevin Durant is also on the team. He's no. 8 right now on the scoring list, has multiple 30 point games so far, a 40 point game, over 70 three pointers in just 17-18 games (if he keeps this pace, he could crack 310-320 by year end), and he broke the record for the most three pointers in a single game after going one game without making a three. Is he the easy front runner like last year? No, but if the Warriors stay consistent and finish with the best record in the NBA again, it might come down to him and his teammate, both of which deserve many votes so far. If he doesn't win it, he could very well end up in 2nd or 3rd place in the voting.

*Kevin Durant 



-If you ask me who the MVP is so far in the West, it comes down to three names: Steph, Kawhi, and KD. It's amazing that Durant seems to be better than ever by design. His stats are amazing so far, as he's no. 7 in scoring, is averaging a decent amount of blocks, pulling down rebounds, and his shooting efficiency is top notch. To come into a new team that have the best backcourt in the West, as well as an overall force in Draymond Green, and to lead them in scoring so far and have one of the best seasons of his career by the numbers, KD is coasting. If the Warriors manage to win 67-70 games this year, which is possible, Durant might just end up earning his 2nd MVP award, an amazing feat to accomplish for him, especially with a new team. All the hate against him would likely seem pointless if he wins the MVP and gets to the Finals, because his decision to leave OKC would be more than justified.

*Kawhi Leonard 



-The Spurs are officially the 2nd best team in the West and they hold a blowout lead over the Warriors already on the season. Kawhi offensively is stepping up, and if he can manage to keep the Spurs in the 2nd spot or overtake the Warriors for the 1st spot in the West, he's definitely got a chance at winning the award. He's still an elite defensive player, and has gone to great lengths to flex his defensive muscle so far this season as well. If there was ever a front runner to win from the West that's NOT on the Warriors, I'd have to give it to Kawhi, as Harden and Westbrook won't have the record to justify it, but Kawhi and the Spurs seem likely to have it. I'm anxious to see how his year turns out, and I'm pulling for him as MVP.

*LeBron James 



-The 4x MVP is coasting to a great year and might be able to average a triple double this season, which would make it very hard to vote against him, especially if the Cavs win the 1st seed in the East, which is likely. In his 14th year, LeBron is more polished as a player with the absolutely best basketball IQ in the game. I'd like to see someone like Westbrook, Kawhi, or even Durant win this, but if LeBron keeps up his pace and doesn't fall off at all, this MVP award is very, very possible in his favor. He's got all the cards working that point to him earning that 5th MVP award. Will he win it? Time will tell, but he is in prime position and the main front runner as of now.

The final four front runners right now after the first quarter of the season: Steph, Durant, Kawhi, and LeBron. Those are the legit final four front runners as of now, with Westbrook as the ultimate darkhorse. Could this change as the season goes on? Of course. Time will tell, but this season is shaping up to be one for the ages, and the MVP race could be a fight to the finish.

-True 

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