We’re just about heading into the 2018 new year, and the NBA has been eventful to say the least. Superstars such as Lebron James and Kevin Durant have continued to pave their ways towards another superb season, while some surprises have emerged as contenders for the NBA MVP award. Here are five different names that are involved in the MVP race, as well as their case to win the merit:
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Giannis Antetokounmpo, also referred to as “The Greek Freak”, is a surprise candidate in eyes of most for the MVP award this season. Across the board, almost every single statistical category for Antetokounmpo has seen an increase (in comparison to last year), as he has taken the league by storm. While the Bucks may be just a few ticks above the .500 mark, the lengthy small forward has proven to be one of the most versatile players in the NBA this season.
Through the month of December, Antetokounmpo has scored at least 25+ points and 7+ rebounds per game, and has shown virtually no signs of slowing down. The media often doesn’t give Antetokounmpo the same amount of attention or overall respect as some of the other candidates, but he should be considered a serious contender for this award. The current race for NBA MVP is going to be up for grabs between a few players, and don’t be shocked if The Greek Freak is one of the names brought forward.
4. Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
I placed Durant surprisingly low among this list, but for fair reasoning. His FG% and rebounds per game are viewing a decrease, and his free throw attempts per game are currently at a career low. While there is plenty of time to turn this around, Durant is a surefire name to bet on in almost any MVP race on an annual basis.
Scoring nearly 30 points and over 5 assists per game this season, Durant has evidently improved an already-lethal Warriors roster. The franchise will once again be viewed as the favorites heading into the upcoming postseason, but I’d like to see a few statement games out of Durant once the 2018 year comes along. The month of December has certainly benefited Durant’s case for MVP, but the second half of the season is going to be crucial for his case.
3. Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)
After six consecutive seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, point guard Kyrie Irving opted to create a legacy of his own, and so far, it has paid off. Everything about Irving’s story screams 2017 MVP, as he is on pace to score nearly 25 points per game once again. While his numbers don’t fare well to the likes of the other candidates, Irving has been forced to repeat his statistics without the assistance of Gordon Hayward.
Irving seems like a stretch for the NBA MVP, but don’t count him out. The Celtics are valued as one of the most elite teams in the NBA with Irving on the court, and with justified reasoning. If the Celtics can showcase Irving’s ability to distribute in the second half of the season, his case will become a lot more realistic.
2. LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
On an annual basis, anyone who doesn’t consider LeBron James within the MVP conversation is foolish. Even at 32-years old, James is finding a way to have a career season, even without Isaiah Thomas on the court. Straight down the statistical line, James is seeing an increase in his numbers in almost every category in comparison to 2016, and the fact that the Cavaliers have cleaned up their act in the month of December doesn’t hinder his chances either.
Although James suffered losses to both the Bucks (with Giannis) and the Warriors (with Durant) towards the end of December, he will still receive a handful of votes when the time comes. As long as James is on the court, his case will always be a valid one, but it’s almost always about how the regular season closes in the NBA.
1. James Harden (Houston Rockets)
James made an appealing case for the NBA MVP last season, but came up short to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. This season, James somehow found a way to improve upon his game, and make an even bigger statement towards his MVP argument. Likely to lead the NBA in scoring to end the 2017 calendar year, James is also the only player in the league averaging 4+ three-pointers per game.
His percentages have seen an increase from the free throw line, field, and from beyond the arc, and the fact that the Rockets are continuing to win games behind Harden is astounding. It would be a fair statement to make that most don’t view Houston as a postseason threat, but in my opinion, the Rockets are currently a bigger threat to the Warriors than the Cavaliers could ever be.
The race for the NBA MVP is a lot closer than most believe, as outsiders such as Russell Westbrook and Kristaps Porzingis are also making somewhat valid cases. Who comes away with it all? Don’t be shocked if this is a race that becomes more clear towards the end of the season.