The NBA awards will air live Monday, June 26th, on TNT. The three finalists for this year’s MVP are…
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs).
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder).
James Harden (Houston Rockets).
Let me preference this article by writing, there are no wrong answers or choice here. All three candidates are worthy of the nomination. Trying to pick one, is like trying to decide who is a better actor between Oscar winners, Leonardo DiCaprio or Daniel Day Lewis. But, with that said, I am a firm believer as to who the MVP should be. A lot of fans and media were shocked that Cleveland’s, LeBron James, was not one of the finalist. I am LeBron’s biggest supporter but to be honest, He didn’t have an “MVP like” regular season. One could argue that LeBron is still the best player in the NBA, and he is clearly the MVP in every playoff series but the Cavs underachieved this year. They only won 51 games and finished 2nd behind the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland is at the point where they just rest their players during the season and everything is geared towards getting to the Finals. How high has the bar been set for “King James”? I just wrote he didn’t have an “MVP-like” season. Yet, he averaged 26.4 points, 8.7 assists, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. That is a once in a lifetime, career game for most, LeBron did that the entire year.
The man they call “The Beard” had one of the greatest regular seasons in the history of the NBA. He averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists 8.1 rebounds and led the league in free throw attempts as well. Harden helped the Rockets to a 55-27 record as well. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has made Harden his point guard and it seems to be a perfect fit during the regular season. The problem here is both Harden and his coach refuse to evolve defensively and in big games that will always cost them. Harden gets the Bronze Medal in the MVP race.
Westbrook did something this season that may never be done again, he averaged a triple double for entire year. Westbrook was probably the most consistent player night in and night out. He scored 31.6 points, grabbed 10.7 rebounds and dished out 10.4 assists per game. The former UCLA standout, broke Oscars Robertson’s 55-year-old NBA record for most triple doubles in a season. Westbrook still takes bad shots late in the games and turns the ball over at crucial times but I admire the fact that he has elevated his play since Kevin Durant jumped ship last year for the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder went 47-35 and they probably would have won 20 games without Westbrook. #0 gets my Silver Medal in the MVP race.
The man they call, “The Claw” became the 3rd player in the history of the NBA to receive two All-NBA first team selections and two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards. I know the post-season has nothing to do with the MVP Awards, but the Spurs were a plus 21 with Leonard on the court against the Warriors, they were minus 87 without him. In four games,that is a 27 point swing per game average. San Antonio’s starting lineup is tremendously flawed. LeMarcus Aldridge averaged 17 points per game as the teams number two option but he is beyond inconsistent. He takes off games and weeks at a time. Their Point Guard play was done by committee with Patty Mills and Tony Parker. Danny Green would play 15 minutes per game as a shooting guard on almost any other playoff team. Their Center position was Pau Gasol, David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon. Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Leonard is the only MVP candidate who is called upon to lead the team in scoring and stop the other team’s best player on defense. Without Kawhi, even with Gregg Popovich on the sideline, this team wins 15 games and is in the lottery. The Spurs won 61 games because of the former San Diego State star in the tough Western Conference. How great has Leonard been? The Cleveland Cavaliers will go to their 3 straight NBA finals, they won 51 games. Kawhi and the Spurs won 10 more than the Cavs during the regular season. I don’t think KL will win this award but he should.
Leonard is my Gold Medal Winner for the MVP.
Follow The Sports Whisperer on Twitter: Montetjwitter11
And listen to #TheFullMonte Podcast, Monday and Thursday’s at 6 PM