All hail!!!! NBA training camps have begun again. That means real, live, professional basketball is back. In even better news, unlike baseball, NBA training camp is not months long; real NBA games will be played in only a few short weeks, beginning 17 October 2017.
With that in mind, it is never too early to start discussing the candidates for Most Valuable Player. In my opinion, one player in basketball can truly make the difference between who wins and loses. With only 10 players on the court at once, the team with the best player that night tends to win the game. So, to me, the NBA MVP means more than the MVP awards in other sports.
Over the last few seasons, there has been much debate regarding the criteria for the award. Does it belong to the best player on the best team? Does it go to the best player in general? What does valuable even mean?
LeBron James is the best player in the world. That is pretty much a given. Take him off the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they would be a lottery team. Take Russell Westbrook off the Oklahoma City Thunder, and there is no way Paul George and/or Carmelo Anthony sign there.
Since this is my list, my criterion for MVP is this: Can I put you on any team in the league, and you make that team a playoff contender? That is it. That is how I see it.
Like I said earlier, one player can make such an impact on an NBA game, that to me, that is the only question I care about. That is why you won’t see Kyrie Irving on my list. He is a great player, but he has yet to prove he can carry a team into playoff contention.
Note: The players below are ranked in no particular order, as they all could have a chance at MVP next season in my opinion.
7. Russell Westbrook
Last season, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double (double digits in points, rebounds, and assists). His best teammate was center Steven Adams, and he carried the Thunder to the sixth seed in the very competitive Western Conference.
He is a tour de force on offense, hyper-competitive, and hungry for more. His numbers this season will not be as good as last because he has better teammates coming into this season, but he will be the key to their whole season. He may very well lead the Thunder to the second seed in the West, and they have a chance to challenge the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.
6. James Harden
Last year’s runner-up for MVP. His coach, Mike D’Antoni, made the genius decision to make Harden his point guard, and the rest in history.
Last season, he averaged a career-high 29.1 points per game, 11.2 assists per game, and 8.1 rebounds per game. He’s like an NFL running back running downhill when gets the high screen and attacks the rim. His style of play may dictate the level of his production, but in the modern NBA, space, pace, and shooting fits him perfectly. Chris Paul will take assists away from him this upcoming season, but Harden will have the biggest impact on the Rockets potentially being a third or fourth seed in the Western Conference.
5. Kevin Durant
The NBA Finals MVP. He is the best player on the Warriors, which is saying something. Durant fully committed to the defensive end last year and transformed the Warriors to another level on that end of the court. He is an offensive savant that can get buckets anytime and anywhere he wants. His efficiency is next level. His field goal percentage was an unreal .537%. Did I mention that he is listed at 6’9”, and does the majority of damage from the perimeter? He is really good passer in screen and roll plays and more often than not makes the correct decision. He is the total package. Any team transforms their team to suit his game, that is the sort of impact KD has.
4. Kawhi Leonard
The best two-way player in the game by far. He is on offense when he's defending you. He attacks your dribble with his huge hands and is a treat to block any shot from even the tallest player. His defensive instincts are off the charts. The most amazing thing is his transformation into a great shooter. Coming out of San Diego State, Leonard had absolutely no shot whatsoever, and after six seasons, is a deadeye shooter from the perimeter, just showing how committed he is to improving his game. Amazing.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak. Every year of his four-year career, he has increased his averages in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks, showing tremendous upside. His best is yet to come, but he is already an elite two-way terror. Giannis can take games over and has learned to grind out games when he is not at his best. The future is unlimited, and he is already one of the best wings the game has to offer at the young age of 22.
2. Stephen Curry
Two-time MVP. First ever unanimous MVP. His shooting has changed the way the game is played; pull-up 25 footers are not bad shots for him. He is the first volume shooter that is also ultra-efficient. He is an all-time great already, and will be around for a long time to come; shooting is always the last skill to go. I can see him averaging 15 points at 39 years old as a spot-up shooter. Curry has become one of the premier talents in the league, constantly proving why he is must-see TV, even with three All-Stars beside him. Never count him out of the MVP race, at least for a while.
1. LeBron James
What else can be said about James? He is a defensive dynamo, a passing genius, a ferocious rebounder, can score at will, and is one of the best leaders the game has ever seen. On top of all of this, his team makes the NBA Finals seemingly every year. He will never top Michael Jordan, at least in my opinion, as that ship sailed a long time ago, but he is on the Mount Rushmore of all-time greats.