The NBA season is coming to a close, and though it has been a disappointing one for DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings, the world continues to turn. Cavs forward Kevin Love endorsed former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook rather than current colleague LeBron James, creating a bit of a stir. Was he wrong? The Western Conference has dominated the year, so it’s no surprise that the top three candidates for MVP come from the Best Coast. Here’s a case for all three, plus one dark horse candidate.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Consider him mentioned.
1. Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
The simplest argument for Curry is that he’s the best player on the best team, but that would be a disservice to the ridiculous year he’s having. On a basic level, 23 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals to go with a .479 field goal percentage is… phenomenal. Looking at some advanced numbers, though, it gets even better. His PER of 27.7 is third best in the league behind Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, and currently sits at fifth in the league in True Shooting Percentage. Curry is not only exciting to watch, but is lethally efficient for the most dynamic team in the NBA.
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
In addition to Westbrook being one of two players with a higher PER than Curry, his MVP-Caliber running mate Kevin Durant has only played 27 games this season. Westbrook, somehow, has kept his team in the playoff race, amassing nine triple doubles this season (ten, if not for some questionable stat-keeping). Westbrook deserves strong consideration for singlehandedly keeping the Thunder from an absolute disaster of a season that may even save his coach’s job.
3. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Dwight Howard has only played 33 games this season, and the two players not named James Harden that have logged the most minutes for the Rockets this year are Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas. Remarkably, the Rockets are on track to win more than 50 games and currently occupy second place in their division. Beyond that, Harden, a notoriously apathetic defensive player, is average a career high 1.9 steals per game and has helped lead the Rockets to the fourth-best defensive efficiency rating in the league.