One of five players is going to win the NBA MVP award in 2015-2016: Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, James Harden and LeBron James. Anyone else who thinks he has a shot should give up now.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
When you look at per minute numbers from last season, you see that Stephen Curry and James Harden basically put up the same numbers, while Curry was a lot more efficient. Personally, I thought Harden deserved to win the MVP because of how much more important he was to his team, while Curry played on the eventual NBA champions. Obviously the Warriors weren’t as good without him, but they wouldn’t have fallen apart considering all the talent on the team.
Personally, I don’t see Curry winning another MVP this season. He’s not going to put up numbers that are too different from last season, even if he did raise his game in the postseason to 28.3 points per game. That’s just not how the Warriors operate for most of the year. Last season was a voters fatigue kind of pick. LeBron James was regular, Kevin Durant was out for the count. The media pushed Harden and Curry, and it fell to both of them. Anthony Davis is rising and is EVERYTHING to the Pelicans. Durant is back. Curry doesn’t need to play like he’s the only one around in order for the Warriors to be as good as last season.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
What is an MVP? The best player in the regular season, or is it a bit more complicated than that? If it’s the importance of one player to a good basketball team (make no mistake, the MVP has to come from a good team), than Davis might be the answer every time. He averaged 24.4 points per game last season, making his first All-NBA first team. And this should be just the beginning. He should be adding some new tricks to his bag courtesy of Alvin Gentry, and overall should be the big man that’s the face of his position in the league for the next few years.
The question will be whether the voters are about numbers, and if he’s healthy, no one is going to be able to compete with Kevin Durant in that department, or about adding a new name and face to the long list of MVP winners. Don’t be fooled. We mentioned voters fatigue before. A narrative, of a player helping a team reach new highs or at least touch them after a long time plays a part in the voting game. Think Derrick Rose in 2011 while the world hated LeBron James. Think Curry last season, taking the Warriors to their best season ever.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
The revenge year. Durant was out for most of last season. Never got into any kind of rhythm, so instead of following up his MVP year (32 points per game on 50.3% from the field) with taking the Thunder, alongside Russell Westbrook, to the NBA finals or at least getting close, the team fell apart. Russell Westbrook took everyone for a wild ride and no one was able to keep up. The end result? The Thunder missing the playoffs, Scott Brooks losing his job, Billy Donovan finally leaving Florida and a new Thunder team.
Same expectations though, and Durant, from what the rumors are suggesting and from what we’ve seen in the preseason, doesn’t have any problems. He’s healthy, he’s hungry, he’s angry. He wants the MVP back. He wants to finally win an NBA title. He wants reporters to stop pestering him, but his little feud with Stephen A. Smith means ESPN and everyone else will milk that until there’s nothing more to squeeze out.
Wait, wait, wait. But what about Russell Westbrook for MVP? No. With Durant next to him, we’re not going to see Westbrook ending up with 28.1 points per game and picking up 30 or 40 point triple doubles like it’s nothing. Westbrook was the scoring champion last season, but he cost his team so many points with how he played (and the Thunder probably didn’t have a choice but let him do whatever he wants) that it was impossible to seriously consider him, especially after they missed the playoffs. At his best, Westbrook isn’t a tornado crashing into everything and everyone on the floor. At his best, he does was Scottie Pippen did next to Michael Jordan, and that might be a lot more difficult than leading a team on your own.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
Harden thinks he should have won the MVP last season. He might be right, but it doesn’t matter. He wasn’t that much better than Curry in 2014-2015. He was more important to his team. Some people think that the fact that the Rockets got knocked out of the playoffs by the Warriors was some sort of way to show Harden he isn’t #1, not last season, but it had nothing to do with the regular season award. Not that it really matters now anyway.
With everything happening around him, it’s hard to see Harden come up so frequently in the MVP discussion another time. Not with Durant, James and Davis hovering around and above. At some point during this season he’ll drop off. He might get a few votes, but nothing that puts him as close as last season. He’s in the picture because Harden is a great player, who is extremely important to his team, which is going to win a lot of games. But for him to be a top 2 MVP vote again is going to take a lot of things happening to better players.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James, believe it or not, hasn’t won the MVP award two years in a row. What?! Yes. The last time that happened it was a combination of Dirk Nowitzki in 2007 and Kobe Bryant 2008 that kept it from him, and James probably deserved the award in 2008 as well. And in 2011, without a doubt. But MVP voters get back at players for historic reasons and for ‘Decisions’. For missing games, and sometimes because they weren’t the best players around.
James, unless Durant or Davis have something special to show us, is still the best player in the NBA. When he felt like it, he showed it last season, and almost all through the playoffs. This season might actually give him a better opportunity to show that because Kyrie Irving is going to miss significant time early in the season. Whether or not Kevin Love plans on showing he’s not just a third option on this team for the long run will probably affect the way we perceive just how good James is, still, as he approaches his 31st birthday, entering his 13th NBA Season.