The NBA season ends in just a few days and we’ve seen several players contend for the league’s most valuable player. There are many prospects who are worthy of being recognized as the best player this season. Factors that contribute to my top candidates are more than just numbers; the include the overall impact each individual has on and off the court, how the team feeds off their energy and overall performance in-game closing situations. With the regular season ending on Sunday and teams still fighting for playoff positioning, these players still have time to get voter’s attention.
Below are my top 3 MVP candidates.
1. Nikola Jokic– When star point guard Jamal Murray went down many thought the Nuggets’ chances of competing for a NBA title would completely diminish, and rightfully so. Instead, the Nuggets have clinched a top-4 seeding in the Western conference and are only a game out of 3rd place in the Western Conference. This teams grit and tenacity hasn’t lost a step because of the Serbian superstar Nikola Jokic. What’s quite remarkable is that in an injury plagued season, with players taking nights off due to load management, and simply needing rest, “The Joker” hasn’t missed one game. When deciding this award durability is key for me. Nikola is averaging 26 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists per game at 6 foot 11 inches. He’s shooting 56 percent from the field, including 40 percent from deep. We haven’t seen a true big put up these numbers in quite some time…maybe ever. The NBA is a perimeter oriented league, where someone on the interior has to be able to shoot from the outside. Jokic fills that void. Imagine a center putting up Russell Westbrook numbers in his prime; It simply doesn’t happen. When was the last time a true center won the league’s most valuable player award? It could happen this year.
2. Giannis Anteokounmpo– This man is so dominant that it has become boring to some. What can’t be debated is, not just his consistency, but his willingness to perfect his game. Winning back 2 back MVPs, and a chance at a third, The Greek would join the likes of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird. Giannis is shooting 56 percent from the field and averaging 28 points, 10 rebounds and nearly 6 assists per game. Don’t be surprised to see Giannis potentially raise his 3rd consecutive NBA MVP trophy, which has only been done 3 times in NBA history. Ultimately, I think voters will hold his past struggles in the playoffs against him.
3. Chris Paul– Every organization that CP3 has joined, he’s changed the psyche and culture into a winning franchise. Of course, not having a NBA title under his wings places him on the back burner for some voters, but what can’t be denied is what he’s done for the Phoenix Suns this season. Paul has helped Phoenix solidify a number 2 seed, and infused his mentality on an organization that hasn’t been relevant since the Nash, Stoudemire and Shawn Marion regime. There is a new culture in Phoenix with Booker, CP3, and Ayton. We’re talking about a team that has been a complete dumpster fire and is now a legit threat to dethrone the reigning NBA champion Lakers (if not healthy). CP3 may not have the staggering numbers to bring home the award, but the fact the Suns, who were on a 10-year playoff drought until his signing, are not a playoff contender speaks for itself .
Russell Westbrook– A record, whom many deemed to be unbreakable, was shattered after Russ completed yet another season averaging a triple double – making it 4 of the last 5 seasons in which he’s completed the miraculous task. Westbrook passed “The Big-O”, Oscar Robinson, with a career 182 triple doubles, now making it the most in NBA history. In his last 5 games, Russ is averaging 23 points, 16 rebounds, and 18 assists, which according to NBA stats, makes him the only player in NBA history to reach the threshold. These numbers are ridiculous. A month ago the Wizards were a laughing stock, now sitting in the 10th seed, with a 2.5 game lead over the Bulls for the last playoff position, the Wizards are a team with firepower in their back-court you would look to avoid in the first round.