Who Will Be 2015’s NBA MVP?

The 2014-2015 NBA regular season is nearing its end. With each game scratched off the schedule, speculation regarding the year’s MVP intensifies. The only thing that is given in this year’s MVP race is that Kevin Durant will not return to the podium. The current top four for the MVP this year are Stephen Curry, James Harden, Lebron James, and Russell Westbrook.

Stephen Curry

Why He Should Be MVP
Any speculation on Stephen Curry’s potential as an MVP is tied to the success of the Golden State Warriors as a whole. Curry has has led the Warriors to an undisputed and, prior to the 2015 season, unforeseen first seed in the highly competitive Western Conference. Leadership aside, Curry plays an efficient game with .482 in field goal percentage and an even more impressive .436 from the three-point line. He is the best three-point shooter in the MVP pool and one of the best passers as well. He averages 7.8 assists a game, which is good enough to put him at sixth overall in the league for the stat. Another notable offensive statistic for Stephen Curry is his free-throw percentage. In the NBA, free-throws can be huge. Anyone that has seen the “Hack-A-Howard” or “Hack-A-Jordan” strategy played out knows that being efficient from the line can mean victory or defeat for one’s team. Curry is the best free-throw shooter in the league (.919). Defensively, his main strength is steals. He averages 2.05 steals a game and is third in the NBA for steals per game.

Why He Shouldn’t Be MVP
Stephen Curry may be impressive in comparison to the many point guards in the NBA but he isn’t the undisputed best point guard, let alone the best player in the league. In comparison to other MVP candidates, he falls short in scoring and assists. These two statistics are huge to the point guard position. He also does not excel at statistics which aren’t necessarily associated with point guards such as rebounding. This would not necessarily be a problem if there weren’t other point guards in the race who did well in those categories (e.g. Westbrook).
On top of all this, he has been blessed with a relatively healthy roster. He hasn’t had to put the team on his shoulders like James Harden and Russell Westbrook have. This shouldn’t necessarily keep him from a MVP award but when choosing the best player in the league, all things should be considered.

James Harden

Image from bloguin.com

Image from bloguin.com

Why He Should Be MVP
James Harden is a fantastic offensive player. He’s one of the hottest scorers this year, only falling behind Russell Westbrook in points per game. He puts up similar numbers to Stephen Curry in many respects with both players averaging similar stats in regards to assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals per game. James Harden pulls away from Curry in points (27.5), rebounds (5.7), and games played (75).
While the Rockets haven’t necessarily had to deal with same injury problems that plague the Thunder or Blazers, Harden has still had to play through the absence of Dwight Howard (Howard has only played 36 games this season). Not only has he kept the Rockets in the playoff race but he has propelled his team to the top three of the Western Conference. Meanwhile, his defense has improved. He currently boasts 0.75 blocks and 1.92 steals per game. Last year, he averaged 0.4 blocks and 1.6 steals a game. His blocking may seem insignificant when contrasted with the likes of Anthony Davis (2.95) or Serge Ibaka (2.42), but he overshadows the likes of Stephen Curry (0.22) and Russell Westbrook (0.22). Flops aside, Harden is great shooting guard. He dominates his position as he ranks first in points, first in steals, first in assists, second in rebounds, and fourth in blocks among NBA shooting guards.

Why He Shouldn’t Be MVP
One of my biggest problems with James Harden being MVP is how much he flops. He is the foremost player in free-throw attempts per game with 10.2. While most of these free-throw attempts likely had merit and contact to justify them, Harden is notorious for flopping. Some of his flops are hilariously bad (just type in “Harden flopping” to Youtube or Google) though the referees seem to be suckers for bad acting. Some folks feel that flopping isn’t a terrible practice and that all players embellish/create contact to some extent. Others support the league’s recent anti-flopping measures. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see how a player who flops incessantly could use flopping to inflate their points per game.

Lebron James

Why He Should Be MVP
Whenever I hear about Lebron James and the MVP race of 2015, I’m often confronted with the phrase, “He did it before and he can do it again.” I choose not to take that approach because each season can showcase new highs or new lows for each player. That being said, Lebron James is a terrific small forward. Within his position, he is first in points (25.6), first in assists (7.3), seventh in blocks (0.71), and ninth in rebounds (5.9) per game. He also is second in field-goal percentage among small forwards (.490), only behind the budding Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo. As a leader, he unquestionably runs the Cavaliers. This has been the source of some ridicule when it comes to James’ relationship with Blatt. Though his dominant personality brought a lot of speculation regarding the Cavaliers’ chemistry problems, it seems that the Cleveland-based franchise has made big strides toward playing as a team.

Why He Shouldn’t Be MVP
While Lebron does have a commanding presence in his position, he doesn’t demand the same amount of respect that Harden does among the shooting guards. Harden is in the top five of most categories for his position while James only is with points and assists per game. Without taking positions into account, James does not have one statistic that he can call his own among the NBA. He is a great scorer but he is surpassed by Russell Westbrook and James Harden. James can pass well but six players come between him and assists per game gold. A player doesn’t need to be perfect to be MVP. Expecting an MVP to be first in all categories would result in no MVPs. Nonetheless, James neither has the positional dominance or the presence in the league that would nail down an MVP award.

Russell Westbrook

Image from probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com

Image from probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com

Why He Should Be MVP
Russell Westbrook is a jack of all trades. Through the absences of Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, Westbrook has kept the Thunder afloat at number eight in the Western Conference. Westbrook has a strong presence in the NBA as he ranks first in points (27.6), second in steals (2.13), and fourth in assists (8.7) per game. Within his position, he exhibits a stronger dominance by placing first in points, first in rebounds (7.3), first in steals, fourth in assists, and third in double-doubles (28).

Why He Shouldn’t Be MVP
While Westbrook’s numbers are among the best in the league, he isn’t among the more efficient players in the NBA. Just among his position, he is nineteenth in field goal percentage (.422). Elfrid Payton ranks higher and he’s a rookie. His three-point shot is second worst among point guards (.292). When a team’s power forward (Ibaka averages .376 from behind the arc) is better than their MVP candidate point guard, that’s cause for concern. On top of all that, Westbrook is the worst player in the NBA regarding turnovers per game (4.4). In all fairness, a lot of stars are featured among the bottom dwellers of the turnover statistic.

My Prediction: James Harden
I went into researching this blog thinking that I would support Russell Westbrook for MVP. As I watched my Blazers win a nail-biter against Westbrook’s Thunder, I could only say, “What a fantastic player.” I still think that Westbrook is a strong candidate for MVP but the reality of his troubled shooting will hurt his chances. Harden’s shot is far more developed and his title of best shooting guard is hard to counter. With Dwight Howard back to join one of the West’s most ferocious duos, the Rockets will be a tough team to beat in the postseason.

Works Cited
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: 3-Points.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Assists.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Scoring.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Blocks.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Double-Doubles.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Field Goals.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Free-Throws.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Rebounds.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Steals.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
“2014-2015 Regular Season Statistics: Turnovers.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.
Brenner, Jordan. “The Truth about James Harden.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 22 Dec 2014. Web. 3 April 2015.
Smith, Sekou. “MVP Ladder.” NBA. NBA Media Ventures, 27 Mar 2015. Web. 3 April 2015.

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