NBA Award Predictions.. MVP

Posted: 11/08/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

Doing this now because I forgot to do it before..  At the end of each of my preview posts, I had a quick list of who I thought would be MVP candidates. Now I’ll expand on them.

LeBron James:
The King always has to come first. He’s won four of the last five MVP’s, and no player has ever won five in six (heck, only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, and Michael Jordan are the only three to have won at least five times, period). I think we all know about LeBron’s talents. Mainly, everything. He can literally do anything he wants on a basketball court. I think that, if he wanted to average 35-8-5 (points-rebounds-assists), he easily could. He could also average 15-10-10 if he wanted to. That’s incredible and it’s why he has to be considered the hands-down front runner for MVP. But that doesn’t mean he is a no-brainer pick, for a few reasons. First and foremost, I think he is going to get a lot more rest this year than he ever has. Erik Spoelstra knows how hard LeBron has played day in and day out, especially for the last three years. Including the Olympics and excluding preseason (so only meaningful games), LeBron has played close to 100 games a year for the past three years, including 62 tough regular season games in the lockout season, which must have felt more like 100. And in fact, he already has felt some wear and tear from this current six game to this point campaign, as he is feeling lower back soreness. I could see Spoelstra sitting James for anywhere between five and 20 games, depending on where the Heat are in the standings, because he recognizes how important rest is and how rare it is to have a chance at four straight finals appearances (the last team to make four straight? The Larry Bird led Celtics in the 80s). And 70 sublime games from LeBron might not be enough to win against, say, 80 elite games from Paul George.

Bottom Line: LeBron is the favorite, but he’s not a clear cut one at this point, given the fact that he will be rested more this year and save himself for the playoffs.

Paul George:
It’s been five games, but it looks like George is all that we thought he could become. The expectations placed on Paul George by pretty much everybody, including myself, were, to say the least, unreasonable and based mostly on last year’s playoff run. Remember, this is a 23 year old player, who, just last year, had well documented issues with his shot. This is a guy who had a 10 game stretch at 35% shooting. In that stretch, he averaged 12.9 points per game. And this is the guys who was supposed to be the main option, even last year. All in all, George averaged 17/8/4 last year with 42% shooting and 2.9 turnovers per game. That’s pretty good for a 22 year old, but not a guy who would be a top MVP candidate in the very next season. But then George minimized LeBron James’s affect in the Eastern Conference Finals and averaged nearly 20 points per game while playing great defense, and here we all.

And all the unreasonable hype looks legit now, although it’s only been five games. George is up to 26 points per game with his eight rebounds and four assists unchanged, and his field goal percentage is up to a greatly improved 48%. Just as importantly, his team also looks to be the very best team in the NBA right now.

Bottom Line: That’s not to say that George should be considered a favorite for this award. The turnovers are still a problem, as he is now averaging 3.2 per game, and he hasn’t upped his assist numbers despite being more of a primary ball handler. But don’t sleep on George.

Derrick Rose:
The start hasn’t been good. Rose’s PER is, gulp, 3.10, with league average being 15. In his two years prior to injury his PER was above 23. He has led the Bulls to a terrifying 1-3 start. He is averaging 15-3-4 with 31% field goal shooting and over five turnovers per game. But then, what should we have expected? He is Derrick Rose and was good in the preseason, but that was preseason. Rose didn’t play one minute last year, just like Andrew Bynum (and Bynum’s been even more of a disaster. Ugh). There should be rust, and there is. But if he wants to have an MVP case, he needs to snap out of it, and fast. MVP candidates can not afford to have extended slumps, because there are just so many other amazing players. Rose needs to turn it around quickly, and he has the skills to do so.

Bottom Line: Rose shouldn’t be ruled out of the MVP race, and maybe it’s just rust, but I’m less confident in him than I was. He’s fun to watch when he is right, so let’s hope he turns it around.

Deron Williams:
We haven’t learned anything about the Nets or Deron Williams, since D-Will has been struggling with an ankle injury and has had a minutes restriction. He’s averaging just 8.5 points to go along with 8 assists (the assists are really good given his minutes restriction).

Williams is the point guard and best player on a good Nets team. He could easily lead the Eastern Conference in assists per game with Rajon Rondo out and the two best facilitators (arguably) in the West (Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio). Williams is also a terrific scorer, and that combination is always terrific. Still, an MVP seems unlikely. A reasonable stat prediction for D-Will would be 18-3-10, but with very little in the area of steals or help defensively. Those aren’t MVP numbers.

Bottom Line: Williams is best described as an MVP darkhorse. In all likelihood, he will likely be between the second and fourth most valuable point guard, and a first or second team all-NBA to go along with a fourth all-star appearance. But if everything breaks right, he could be in the mix.

Kevin Durant:
Durant is another obvious one, and one of these years he is actually going to win. He is entering his prime, as his 25th birthday was in September. Over the last four years, Durant has finished 2nd, 5th, 2nd, and 2nd in the MVP voting (stupid LeBron James). And this could really be the year, especially with James likely to be rested more often and Derrick Rose still very rusty. It seemed like Russell Westbrook being out for the first two months of the season would be a huge obstacle, but Westbrook made an almost Peterson-esque recovery and is already back. And for all of Russell Westbrook’s faults (well he actually doesn’t have very many), the return of the star point guard has already had a positive effect on Durant’s game, and in particular his field goal percentage. Durant shot just 19 of 47 in the first three games (without Westbrook), good for just 40% shooting, a far cry from his amazing, above 50% shooting performance last season. In the last two games, he has been much more like himself, shooting 17 of 35. If Durant can continue to shoot close to 50% and average close to 30 points per game, which seems pretty easy for him, he will have a very compelling MVP case, as he has for the past four seasons.

Bottom Line: Durant is going to win an MVP one of these years, and this one seems as likely as any.

Chris Paul:
Now in his 9th NBA season, at the age of 28, Chris Paul is as reliable, and downright terrific, as always. And much like Kevin Durant, it seems like he is more than due for an MVP (funny how that LeBron James guy leaves a lot of guys empty handed when, in other generations, they’d probably have at least one MVP award). Paul has four top five finishes in the voting, and he looks primed for another one this year. Everything is going right for Paul this year. He has the coach he wanted, Doc Rivers, and is the magician of the best offense in the NBA. His team looks like it is going to be a top-4 seed in the stacked Western Conference. And, best of all, he is playing terrifically, with 22.5 points per game to go along with 12.5 assists and 2.8 steals. He looks en route to leading the league in both assists and steals again, and possibly finishing with his third top-10 points per game finish in his career.

Bottom Line: Chris Paul is a talented player, and he has a lot of help in Los Angeles. He looks as motivated and as intense as ever with a new contract, and looks to be well on his way to another MVP-quality season. The question is: Will he actually win one? Paul is in the same boat as Durant.

Stephen Curry:
Stephen Curry likely won’t have the best MVP candidacy. He doesn’t play enough defense and seems to be a bit too injury prone to have a hole-less campaign, which is what LeBron James has had over the past few seasons. But there is no doubt that there is a plausible way that Curry will walk away with hardware at the end of the season. And by that I mean the MVP and also maybe the NBA championship. What I’m getting at is that the Warriors have been the second most impressive team to me this year (behind just the Pacers), and they’re beating teams by 12.5 points per game. Curry is the catalyst, and given the fact that he looks primed to have a huge uptick in assists and break his record for most 3’s in a season, he looks to have a promising shot at the MVP. Curry is averaging 9.2 assists and 3.6 3’s per game this year, in just 29.6 minutes per game (that is mostly due to the number of blowouts the Warriors have already participated in and due to a small foot injury). Last year, in 38 minutes per game, he average just 6.9 assists and 3.5 3’s per game.

Bottom Line: If Curry can keep his assists in the 9-10 range and repeat his scoring totals of last year, he will have a compelling MVP case, especially given how exciting he is. Let’s just hope he doesn’t tweak his ankle, because that ankle seems very fragile.

Anthony Davis:
The Brow! looked like a longshot MVP candidate when I originally put him on the list, but he has been everything I wanted him to be and more in the first few games of this season. It’s only been five games, but Davis has upped his scoring by seven points (14 to 21 per game), his rebounding by three boards (8.4 to 11.4), his blocks by an astounding more than double (1.9 to 4), his steals by nearly double (1.2 to 2.2), and, most amazingly, his free throw rate (3.8 attempted per game last year to 7.4 this year) and % (77% last year, 92% this year). That shows his dedication and skill set, and this man in 20 years old. I think he has a very legitimate MVP case, at least through five games.

Bottom Line: Although the Pelicans have struggled as a team, Anthony Davis will be my pick for the MVP no matter how bad they are. I don’t think he can continue playing so many minutes (Ryan Anderson is due to come back), but with a guy this talented, it’s always possible.

My Preseason (ish) MVP top 5 ballot:
1. Kevin Durant
2. Chris Paul
3. LeBron James
4. Paul George
5. Stephen Curry

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