Breaking Down The NBA’s Top MVP Candidates For 2015

Source photos: Keith Allison/Flickr/Creative Commons 
This season has seen some of the craziest numbers ever put up by NBA players, making the MVP award contest one for the history books. There simply are no clear contenders. We narrowed the field down to four frontrunners—favourite Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and four-time winner LeBron James. Here’s what makes each athlete a top choice, and what challenges they face when it comes to netting the coveted award.

Stephen Curry

The highlights: Curry is this year’s top candidate for MVP. He is one of the most accurate shooters of all time, hits a whopping 43.4 per cent of three-point shots and leads the league with a 91.8 per cent free throw average. He does it playing an average of 32.88 minutes per game, which doesn’t even get him in the top 40 players.

The downside: Curry could win MVP almost unanimously if it were left up to public opinion. However, the level of talent in the MVP pool is as staggering as Curyr’s numbers. Even Curry’s former coach Mark Jackson admitted the player wouldn’t be his first choice.

James Harden

The highlights: Speaking of the player Jackson would vote for, Harden just netted a career-high 51 points—his second over-50 game this season, making him the only player other than Kyrie Irving to hit a half century this year. Harden’s shot selection is hyper-efficient, with a practically non-existent mid-range game that leaves him open for three-point shots, which he makes 37.8 per cent of the time.

The downside: While his numbers are impressive, Harden just isn’t the flashy superstar that Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook are—or, at least, he wasn’t until recently. His lack of highlight-worthy tape may spare him the MVP award.

Russell Westbrook

The highlights: Westbrook’s game is borderline reckless thanks to a combination of laser-like focus and aggression, and the fans love it. The league’s scoring leader just tallied his 10th triple-double (11th if you count the one the NBA threw out after contesting an assist). That’s one more than the next three top triple-doublers have combined, despite Westbrook having played nine games less on average. There’s also the fact that Westbrook has almost singlehandedly kept Oklahoma City gunning for the playoffs with Kevin Durant sidelined by injury—no small feat.

The downside: Back to those missed games—although Westbrook ranks 25th in minutes played this season, he has only played 60 and missed 15. And although Durant’s injury has given Westbrook an opportunity to shine as a solo act, sticklers on the judging panel may not be too keen to reward Westbrook for a teammate’s misfortune.

LeBron James

The highlights: After Durant’s MVP victory last year, it’d be easy to discount James as a repeat MVP contender. However, even without hype reaching back to the early weeks of this season’s campaign, James has single-handedly taken the Cavaliers to playoffs contention after a controversially rocky start that had critics him a false prophet of sorts. James led Cleveland to a franchise-record 13-game winning streak and has since kept the team on a trajectory to the championships—with or without help from Coach Blatt.
The downside: The Return Part II has soured public opinion of him, and there’s a chance that fans—the ones outside Ohio, at least—might think that four MVP awards for King James are sufficient.
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