This is a very competitive year in the NBA. There is no clear favorite for the title, there is no clear favorite for the MVP race, and the Knicks-Sixers rivalry for worst team in NBA history is picking up steam.
Below is my top five MVP rankings for the first half of the season:
Number 5: John Wall 17.2 PPG, 10.1 APG, 4.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 21.2 PER
I was not a believer in John Wall when he entered the league. During his rookie season, I felt he had “too much” athleticism with not enough basketball IQ. I felt he always rushed his shots, and was too turnover prone to become a successful point guard. I was wrong. John Wall just might be the best pure point guard in the NBA right now. Over the past couple seasons, he gained a reliable 15-footer, which forces the defense to respect his shot and play up on him. Defenders playing an extra foot up on Wall, enables him to destroy defenses not only with his quick first step, but also with his uncanny ability to find teammates. Basketball guru Zach Lowe does a much better job explaining Wall’s gift than I ever will.
I know the Hawks are the hottest team in the East right now, and Lebron is Lebron, but as long as Wall stays healthy, I see the Wizards coming out on top in the East.
Number 4: James Harden 27.6 PPG, 6.8 APG, 5.6 RPG, 27.99 PER
It is extremely rare for someone who plays such subpar defense to crack my top five, but I couldn’t leave Harden out of this race. He currently leads the league in scoring with a deadly shot off the dribble and a great euro-step. However, with this logic, I could name ten other players who may deserve this spot.
Harden’s ability to facilitate separates him from the rest of the shoot-first superstars in the league. He averages 6.8 assists per game, which is the highest average at the shooting guard position, but even that impressive number does not do him justice. Basically every bucket in this rockets offense runs through Harden. Oklahoma City Thunder fans shed a tear every time they watch a James Harden pick and roll. You’re guaranteed an open shot every time.
For anyone debating that Harden should be higher on my list, you must remember that offense is only half of the game, and although Harden has improved defensively from last season…
…he still has a long way to go
It is worth noting when Harden is engaged, he can be a very good on-ball defender. He is quick on his feet, and is very strong for a shooting guard, but his inconsistency off the ball can be very hard to watch.
Number 3: Lebron James 26.2 PPG, 7.4 APG, 5.6 RPG 1.5 SPG, .7 BPG, 26.1 PER
The most valuable player does not just have to do with who has the best stats, but how a certain team would play without the particular player. This summer many people, including myself, thought Lebron left the decaying Miami Heat, to join an offensive juggernaut in Cleveland. But man, do the Cavs suck! The Cavs are 1-8 without Lebron. Although the King is only 30 years old, the amount of mileage he has put on is flabbergasting. Lebron James has logged more minutes at the age of 30 than any player in NBA history. With lingering knee and back injuries, his MVP days might be over. Watching Lebron play this season reminds me of Chris Paul. He will coast through the first 3 quarters, trying to get Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love going, and then when it’s a close game in the fourth, it’s his turn to take over.
The good news for Lebron is that he is playing in a horrible Eastern Conference, so his quest for the finals may not be as difficult as it has been in the past. However, it is clear that he is not in Miami anymore.
Number 2: Stephen Curry 22.8 PPG, 8.2 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 27.4 PER
The Warriors are on fire this year, and we can credit a lot of their success to this dude. I know Curry is only 26 years old, but I’m willing to bet that when it’s all said and done, he will go down as the greatest shooter of all-time. You can argue that Kyle Korver is having a historical shooting season and is on pace to be the only player in NBA history to go 50%FG-50%3FG-90%FT. You can also argue that Ray Allen and Reggie Miller are pretty darn good at shooting too. Well, you would be correct, but I don’t recall a time when Allen, Korver, or Miller had to cross up Russell Westbrook at half-court and then bury a 3 in his face. Curry is 6’ 3” on a good day, and has to create off the dribble. The three other shooting studs I named before all have something in common that Curry does not: the luxury of running off picks without the ball, catching and shooting. Curry has to dribble around defenders, look for the open man, and worry about getting the ball stolen in an era where the point guard position has never been this talented, and he’s still unconscious from deep.
An interesting statistic this season is that Curry is currently shooting .396% from deep, which is the worst percentage he has shot in his six seasons. However, his PER is at 27.4, which is significantly higher than every other season. Clearly, he is doing something right. The Golden State Warriors currently sit at 36-6, which is the best record in an impossible Western Conference. Curry puts so much pressure on the defense that it frees up his teammates constantly, making his passing game a breeze. If Stephen Curry is your MVP, I can’t blame you.
Number 1: Anthony Davis 24.5 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, 2.9 BPG, 31.8 PER
Fans have seen duplicates of greatness. Critics have compared Magic to Lebron, Jordan to Kobe, and Chamberlain to Shaq. Good luck comparing Anthony Davis to any legend. Anthony Davis is 6’ 10”, with a 7’ 7” wingspan, plus he has the speed and quickness of a guard. The 21 year old out of Kentucky is playing in his third season, and he is already unguardable. He has a tremendous mid-range jumper, and he can put the ball on the floor in order to elusively blow by thicker big men. Whenever Davis is lucky enough to have one of his teammates suck in his defender on a drive, he is an alley-oop machine. The ‘Brow is the league leader in PER, and he is definitely a favorite to win defensive player of the year, leading the league in blocks as well.
The only factor hurting Anthony Davis stock is that the New Orleans Pelicans are currently 24-21, which is the 9th seed and not even a playoff team because the West is crazy. No NBA player has ever won MVP without making the playoffs, but I strongly believe Davis deserves some consideration. If you believe that no man deserves to win MVP if he is unable to bring his team to the playoffs, then good for you. I disagree, especially considering how scary the western conference is. The efficiency Anthony Davis brings to every aspect of the floor is outstanding, and he is without question the most valuable player in the NBA.
Notable Mentions: Russell Westbrook, Demarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kyle Lowry.