The NBA MVP: A Three-Horse Race
I'm not writing this article to try and persuade any readers that they should vote one way or another on the NBA Most Valuable Player.
The award is not even that vital, since all three players up for it are vying for a championship, and could probably care less about the MVP at this point in the season.
That said, there have been three individuals this year whose performances have far exceeded the competition. Let's take a look at the candidates.
Right now James is the favorite to win the award.
Since beginning with the league, he has been groomed to be the new "golden boy" after image problems plagued the NBA in the late 90s, early 21st century.
LeBron is having an incredible statistical year, averaging nearly 31 points, over eight rebounds, and more than seven assists per game. These numbers are unheard of.
Not only can he score at will, but James is willing to pass even though his teammates are average at best.
LeBron has led Cleveland so far to a record of 40-32, right now the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. This year more than any, LeBron has found a way to take over a game in the fourth quarter.
The Cleveland Cavs are even 17-13 against the loaded Western Conference. Unfortunately, that also means they are just 23-19 against the East.
The Cavs have lost three times apiece to both New Jersey and Milwaukee, two teams that Cleveland should beat regularly.
In addition, James' jump shot is still not where he'd like it to be. I realize he's only 23 years old, but if we're considering him for MVP, I'm still skeptical giving the ball to LeBron as time expires knowing the Cavs only have time for a jumper
He has an uncanny ability to get to the rim, but if time is winding down, I'm still not sold that his J is going to drop. LeBron's defense is also a major issue.
Kobe is by far the best two-way player in the NBA.
Although his shot selection could use major improvement, he is able to make almost any shot on the floor. A bad shot for anyone else is a good shot for Kobe.
Kobe cannot attack the rim quite like LeBron, but with the game winding down, I'm actually confident that Kobe can hit a turnaround fadeaway while being double-covered.
Bryant is averaging about 28 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game this year. These numbers might not be up to LeBron's, but the competition Kobe sees on a night-in-night-out basis is far superior.
Playing in the West, Kobe does not get a night off. Nearly every game is against a playoff contender, and even the Blazers and Kings are not sure wins. At one game back of the West lead, the Lakers sit at 49-23, including a record of 30-13 against the West.
The case against Kobe is unfortunate: he has great talent surrounding him.
While LeBron plays alongside the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauaskas, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West, Kobe gets to suit up nightly with Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum (that lineup will be real scary when it happens).
The fact that Kobe is flanked by all-stars has critics saying that he isn't carrying the team the way LeBron is.
While the Lakers are by no means the one-man team they were a few years ago, the competition in the West is so demanding that no one is getting through without a plethora of stars. Put the Cavs in the West and I'd like to see them get in the playoffs.
While Kobe has not single-handedly led his team this year, it is by far the best "team" ball he has played in his career.
Raise your hand if you had the Hornets at 49-21 and leading the West with just a couple weeks to go.
Okay, good, no one.
While Paul is also surrounded by superior talent, sporting arguably the best starting five in the NBA, there is no doubting Paul's contributions to this team.
The point guard from Wake Forest is averaging just under 22 points per game, to go along with four rebounds and 11.5 assists.
His most important statistic, however, is that his assist/turnover ratio is over 4.5. That is unheard of for someone who handles the ball as much as CP3.
Not only is he an incredible decision maker, but he does not make mistakes.
Paul is shooting nearly 50 percent, higher than both LeBron and Kobe. Did I mention that Paul has led the Hornets so far to the best record in NBA's best conference? Incredible for a team that did not even make the postseason last year.
The fact that Paul is not the dominant scorer that LeBron and Kobe are may hurt him in the long run.
When we think of great plays down the stretch this year, a lot of those are LeBron or Kobe getting a bucket in the final seconds. Chris Paul has fewer of these moments. But that isn't to say he doesn't have a flair for the dramatic.
Last night in Cleveland, after LeBron put the Cavs up one with seven seconds to play, Paul splits the defense, draws a double team, and kicks the ball to David West for the game-winner. Unfortunately, West will be the one getting the credit here, and not Paul.
With no disrespect to Kevin Garnett, I believe the other three candidates have just had far superior seasons. Garnett should be a consideration, but will most likely finish fourth in the voting.
So there are the three choices for MVP, and all are more than worthy of winning the award. But at the end of the day, none of those players will be happy if they don't end the season with a ring.
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