The Most Valuable Player race for the NBA is about to come to a close as the regular season has officially ended with the playoffs about to begin.
While there has been many standout performances from top players across the league, much discussion and debate has driven a contentious conversation about just who exactly should take home the moniker of the “Most Valuable” to the team.
Some cases argue that the MVP award should distinguish the best player on the worst team or present the best player in the league, but just as there are a healthy diversity of concerns, there is also no shortage of a healthy option of choices to pick from to award the title.
Below, several staff sports writers provide their commentary on who should be named the NBA’s MVP for the 2016-17 season.
The Case for Russell Westbrook
Sports Commentary by Thomas Robeson
Russell Westbrook is no doubt having the best NBA season statistically that anyone has ever seen. He has set multiple records this year and broken one that has stood for fifty-five years.
Westbrook’s season is so substantially great because he is one of two people to ever average a triple double through eighty-two games. He is averaging 31.6 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, and 10.4 assist per game.
When you look at these stats and compare them to James Harden, Westbrook averages more points and rebounds but less assists. You can also see that Harden averages more turnovers per game and more minutes, so you can’t say that Harden does not have the same opportunity Westbrook does especially with Harden having a better team than the Thunder.
Another stat that shines out is Westbrook’s rebounding, for being a point guard where usually that position is where the smallest players tend to play, so to be in the top ten on pulling down rebounds is unheard of.
The thing that was most impressive was this year the Thunder could have fell apart with the loss of Kevin Durant, but it didn’t.
Westbrook was a man on a mission this year to prove even though his best teammate left he would only shine more and do whatever it takes to keep his team competing in the playoffs.
If you were to take Russell Westbrook off the Thunder they would be contending with the worst teams in the NBA for the lottery pick.
Westbrook was probably the most clutch player in the league with hitting four game winning shots as well as three other shots that forced overtime for the Thunder.
Another factor you have to look at is that the Thunder are the second worst three pointer team in the league so that means they are one of top contenders in the West even though they are a two point team in a three point generation league.
Westbrook also had the most fifty point triple doubles in history which was three all while doing this and being ranked nineteenth in minutes per game, so if he was really a stat stuffer he would play the maximum minutes available for him. He also played less minutes than Oscar Robertson and still averaged a triple double.
When you have legends such as Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan saying that Westbrook is the MVP, I think that’s enough said.
The Case for Kawhi Leonard
Sports Commentary by Thomas Touchstone
The NBA season is winding down to a close with the playoffs set to start this weekend. The MVP race is really starting to heat up as some of the big names in the NBA look to achieve the coveted trophy.
In my opinion, the term “MVP” mostly means how well a team would play or succeed with or without a certain player on the court.
For me, Kawhi Leonard should be the MVP of the league. He is the most indispensable player in the league, because the Spurs would not be able to compete with the best teams in the NBA without him.
Probably the leading candidate for the MVP, Russell Westbrook, is another one of those players who is indispensable to his team.
Kawhi sets himself apart from Westbrook because of his consistency and tenacious defense that is feared by even the best scorers in the league.
Other players such as Steph Curry and James Harden have teammates around them who could still carry a team deep into the playoffs. Without Kawhi, the Spurs would not be able to hang with many playoff teams.
While his stats may not be as flashy as some of the league’s most dynamic scorers, Kawhi has those basketball intangibles that just cannot be learned overnight.
He shoots 88% from the free throw line, 38% from the three point line and has almost two steals per game.
Some of the best defensive work in the league comes at the expense of fouls. Draymond Green, another great defender, averages 2.9 fouls per game, while Kawhi only averages 1.6 fouls per game.
Even Lebron James, one of the best all-around players in history, is averaging 1.9 fouls per game this season.
Kawhi is the best all-around basketball player in the league and is the most valuable player to his team, and that is why he should win the MVP.
The Case for James Harden
Sports Commentary by Bennett Rowan
As the season is coming to an end, the MVP race is only getting closer.
Many people headline the possible candidates, such as James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, Isaiah Thomas and Kawhi Leonard.
The Most Valuable Player is not just an individual award as it may seem, it is also very much a team award. For example, a great player on a bad team may not get the award over an equally as good player on a better team.
That is exactly why James Harden deserves to win this year’s MVP.
James Harden has been an outstanding player all year and on top of that, the Rockets are one of the best teams in the league.
Harden averages 29.1 points per game which is second best in the entire league. He also leads the league in assists at a whopping 11.2 assists per game.
He also has a 44% field goal percentage and shoots 35% from behind the arc. At the free throw line, he is very consistent with a 85% free throw percentage.
Above all these stats, Harden has led the Rockets to a 55 win season with only 27 losses. This has gotten the Rockets a 3 seed in the Western Conference of the upcoming NBA Playoffs.
The playoffs start on Saturday, and the Houston Rockets will ride Harden as far as he will take them.
The individual and team success of Harden and the Rockets is the exact reason why James Harden deserves this year’s MVP award.
The Case for LeBron James
Sports Commentary by Jake Johnston
If the NBA Most Valuable Player award was given to the best player every year, LeBron James would’ve won the last nine.
LeBron has been the most well-rounded player in the league for a long time now as he is consistently one of the most effective scorers, defenders and leaders in the league.
LeBron averages 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game this year, and his team is second in the Eastern Conference and was also given the second best odds to win the finals.
If the MVP award is decided by a combination of stats and the success of that player’s team, LeBron clearly has the best argument for MVP.
LeBron also plays the role of a leader on his team with his experience desire to win.
His ability to shoot has made him the most difficult player to guard in the league as his size and power allows him to drive and score whenever he wants.
His defensive effort sets an example for his team as he can shut down almost any opponent.
LeBron James is clearly the best and most valuable player in the league.
A Case for Jeremy Shu-How Lin
Sports Commentary by Sam Martin
This year’s NBA MVP race, while being headlined by Russell Westbrook and James Harden, has another, less known, contender. Jeremy Shu-How Lin has lead the Nets to a stellar 20-62 record, giving them the 15th place in the Eastern Conference.
Averaging 14.5 points a game and 5.1 assists proves Lin should be at least considered in the MVP race.
Lin’s 19.33 PER is only 10 behind Russell Westbrook. This may seem like a lot, and it is; however, Lin is significantly under-ranked in the particular category.
Because Lin is on the Brooklyn Nets, a sub-par team that failed to make the playoffs, he is a much less known player in the NBA world. During Lin’s time on the Knicks, however, he was one of the most widely known players, not only in the United States, but around the world.
Lin’s small build, being 6’3, 200 pounds, hasn’t stopped him from becoming a rebounding monster, averaging 3.8 rebounds a game.
Lin has also contributed highly on the defensive side of the ball, averaging 1.1 steals per game and .4 blocks.
Jeremy Lin’s shot has improved immensely in the past few years. In the 2010-2011 season, Lin shot .200 from the three-point line and had a .389 FG%. Lin now has a .372 three-point shot and a .438 FG%, while also shooting 82% from the free-throw line.
Lin graduated from Harvard University, making him one of the smartest players in the NBA, and at the young age of 28, he has lots of room to grow and improve his basketball skills and IQ.
Lin’s hairstyles alone should be reason enough for him to be win the MVP. His various hair-do’s make him stand on not only on the court- but off it as well. Perhaps his most favorite, the mohawk, was during his time a Charlotte Hornet.
Lin has nearly the same yearly salary as Stephen Curry, one of the other elite guards in the game, only bringing in about 12 million dollars.
A Less Serious Case for Isaiah Thomas
Sports Commentary by Thomas Robeson
Isaiah Thomas should be a legitimate consideration for MVP not just for his performance as an individual but also for how he has launched his team to the number one seed in the East over the reigning champs, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Thomas made his team a serious contender in the playoffs for a championship this year and made the Boston Celtics a team that must be respected as one of the best in the league once again.
He took his team to another level this year from the 5th seed all the way to the number 1.
He has not only boosted his team to a new level of respect, but his personal stats must always be taken into consideration too. Isaiah is the third leading scorer in the league and just 0.1 points behind second place holder James Harden.
One of the reasons he should be looked at from a higher standpoint is because of his height.
He is only 5’9 and one of the smallest players in the league while dominating a sport where height is a main key.
Another thing you can put on his resume is how he was never supposed to blow up like this and become an all-star, but he did. Thomas was chosen as the last pick in the draft, and this makes this story much better because of how much an underdog he was.
Going deeper into stats, you can look at Thomas’ shooting percentages, shooting 46% from the field, 38% from three-point range and 91% from the free-throw line. All three of these categories are better than James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Lets also take into consideration that Thomas is probably the most clutch fourth quarter player. This is what he is known for, and other players on the court must respect that when the clock hits that time they have to be on their “A” game has to be on to stop him.
Thomas has racked up five forty plus point games in this season alone, while most players get that many points one time in their whole career.
Overall, Isaiah Thomas has made the Celtics a much better team as well as being one of the best players on the league too.
If he does not win the MVP, he should at least be in the top three, and it should be a really close run in the end.
Another Case for Russell Westbrook
Sports Commentary by Nathan Stewart
Russell Westbrook has been making a very strong case for most valuable player. Russ is averaging 32 ppg with a fg % of 43%.
James Harden in comparison has a 44% shooting while only averaging 29.1 ppg.
There is talk harden should receive the award because he elevates the play of his team, but the MVP is not about wins, it’s about individual production.
Russ game in and game out puts the team on his back where Harden has other weapons to assist him.
Russell also averages fewer minutes than a lot of other guards starting in the NBA.
Also, Russ broke the triple double record this season with 42 triple doubles, and topping one of the greats, Oscar Robertson. He also has the most 50 point triple doubles in a season with three.
Russell Westbrook is also a charismatic leader for his team, and when the game is on the line he’s the one with the ball in his hand.
His swagger on and off the field demands the respect of the league. Also, he does not care what anyone thinks of him.
This season has been very similar to Tom Brady’s crusade aimed at Roger Goodell, where Russ is proving a point to KD he doesn’t need him.
Russell Westbrook hands down deserves the MVP because no player has ever had a single season as impressive as this.