By Craig Fields
There are times when there are right and wrong answers. In fact, that is most times. However, picking this year’s NBA MVP may be one of those rare occurrences when there isn’t a right or wrong answer. The race for the NBA MVP is as competitive as the playoff race in the Western Conference.
It is very rare that you have four to five candidates that all have realistic chances of winning the coveted award, and deservedly so. So, let’s discuss the NBA’s 2014-2015 regular season NBA MVP.
My five candidates, in no particular order are Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul. Now, I’m sure that I am not alone when picking these five candidates, but I might be alone when saying that these five men are the only ones who should be in the discussion for MVP. I have heard the names Marc Gasol and Anthony Davis being tossed around at the water cooler, but to me they do not really belong in this conversation.
Do not get me wrong. They are outstanding players and deserve to be on one of the three All-NBA teams, but Marc Gasol’s numbers do not scream MVP consideration, and Anthony Davis’ team might not make the playoffs. Sure, they are still in the hunt, but chances are they will not make it.
Besides, Demarcus Cousins’ stats rival, and are even better in some cases, than Davis’ stats, but Cousins’ do not receive consideration because of his attitude and the fact that his team will not make the playoffs.
Anyway, back to the nitty-gritty. You can not go wrong picking any of the five above listed candidates because they all deserve the award in their own way. There are no favorites regardless of what anyone has to say. Let’s break it down for Russell Westbrook…
Man, oh man. The guy has been simply spectacular. Right? He has the most triple-doubles in the league and has put up numbers close to that of the great Oscar Robertson. While those triple-doubles are impressive and mind-boggling, Westbrook’s game, explosiveness and frame might be equally, if not more confounding.
He plays with a voracity and passion, some would say, not seen since Michael Jordan played the game. He will launch his 6’3” 200-pound frame at the basket to throw down a thunderous dunk over ANYONE in the paint. But those things, though true, are trivial as to why Westbrook can make a case for MVP of the NBA.
Over his last 30 games, he has averaged over 30 points over 10 assists and 9 rebounds a game. With Kevin Durant only playing 27 games this season, and Serge Ibaka out indefinitely with a knee injury since March 11, Westbrook has been the lone bright spot and playoff hope for the Thunder. He has basically taken on the responsibility of carrying his team to the postseason.
He makes his teammates better. I mean, some of the dimes he’s dishing out are as pretty and important as the shots he makes. Anthony Morrow and Enes Kanter have had their game elevated recently because Westbrook demands so much attention. Morrow with wide open threes and Kanter’s dunks in the paint are in large part to Westbrook seeing the floor like a floor general should.
As great and compelling as Westbrook’s numbers have been, they have come at a price. He is turning the ball over a league leading and career high 4.4 times per game. This is mainly due to his NBA leading and subsequently also career high 38.1 usage rate. When you ask so much more of a player you have to accept the good with the bad. Part of Westbrook’s allure and magnetism stems from his reckless abandoned style, but it is that same style that also lends itself to self-destructive play and team hurting decision making.
It can be argued that no other player means more to their team than Westbrook, but it can also be argued that Westbrook’s play, though legendary, has its rough edges and may not be MVP worthy. This writer thinks that if the Thunder can manage to stave off a lurking New Orleans Pelicans team for that final playoff spot, Westbrook will be the front-runner for the award.