Season’s First Quarter M.V.P. Candidates
Early on in the NBA season, us fans have been treated to a bunch of star power. A 60-point performance, 34-point first quarters, most threes in a single game by an individual player, and such.
But we have also all seen star power over the course of the entire first quarter of the NBA season that has helped guide its teams up the NBA standings with the superstar player carrying the heaviest load of all on their shoulders to lead their clubs.
Early on, we take a look at the five players that have done the most for their respective squads to see which player, in the early goings of course, has the top shot at the league’s most valuable player award!
5) LeBron James – 25.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 9.0 APG
The Cavaliers are 18-6, first in the Eastern Conference and are once again being led by the best player in the game in LeBron James, who is as always putting up some ridiculous numbers.
Averaging a near triple-double on 52% shooting, James has been enjoying a season that is not even crazy good by his standards, but nevertheless, his team is winning and James keeps climbing every single record list. Of course, LeBron is what makes the Cleveland Cavalier team tick. He is the leader on the defensive end, and the floor general on offence.
Unfortunately for LeBron’s M.V.P. bid, he has two stars in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on his side, both of whom are balling out in their own right, and whether the Cavs coast through a part of the season, rest LeBron a few more times, or LeBron simply allows his two star teammates to do a bit more on some nights, winning his fifth M.V.P. trophy may be something LeBron just does not have his sights set on anymore.
Or maybe, we are just taking LeBron’s greatness for granted now and just expect more?
4) Kawhi Leonard – 24.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.1 APG
Tim Duncan is now gone, but nothing seems to change in San Antonio.
Kawhi Leonard has continued his growth into superstardom, helping propel the Spurs to a 20-5 mark early on, good for second in the entire West. While Gregg Popovich has used his rest everybody psychology yet again, be it LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili, Leonard has played every single game, playing like an absolute stud on both ends of the court.
He is shooting well at a 47% clip, 39% from three, defensively he shuts down the the opposition’s top player and the offence simply runs through him. He has become the next star of the San Antonio Spurs, and unfortunately because he is a “boring Spur”, he is not getting enough shine in the M.V.P. fixture.
As the season moves on, and the Spurs and Warriors continue to duke it out for first place in the West, leaving the rest of the competition behind them, Leonard will only continue to climb.
3) Kevin Durant – 25.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.6 APG
Similar to the LeBron situation, having Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as teammates has its cons, especially when it comes to the M.V.P. race, but that should not take away from how incredible Kevin Durant has been as a member of his new team.
He did not have a 13-three point game like Curry, or a 60-point night like Thompson, but Durant has been steady all season, shooting at a 53.5% clip, while really being the Warriors’ best player since day one.
The Warriors are also the best team in basketball, but again this is a team that won 73-games without Durant even in the fold last season. For Durant to make an even stronger case for the trophy, he will have to produce outer-worldly numbers by the time the season comes to an end, and with the fact that there is only one basketball in a game at one point in time, that may turn impossible.
2) Russell Westbrook – 30.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 10.6 APG
A big thing with Russell Westbrook is he is putting up video game numbers. The Thunder have played 26-games, and the guy is averaging a triple-double, which is incredible. It is highly unlikely that Westbrook will finish his season averaging a triple-double, but even if he goes 30-games averaging these numbers, that is already an unbelievable feat.
But when it comes to the M.V.P. award, he will, or at the very least, should continue to drop as the season moves on. The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently sitting in seventh place in the West. They are closer to eighth than they are to the top half of the Western Conference playoff bracket.
The Thunder have a lack of scorers and a lack of playmakers, which allows Westbrook to see his usage rate go through the roof. The guy is shooting only 42% from the field, yes he is carrying his team, but he is allowed to do a lot on the floor and with that, numbers will come. That is not to say he is not as good as he looks, Westbrook is a beast and a top five player in the world, but Oklahoma City is now his playground and he is putting up crazy stats across the board.
Sadly for ‘Brodie’, winning an M.V.P. is not only about the numbers, but finishing far higher than seventh in the conference.
1) James Harden – 27.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 11.8 APG
At the very top of the list, is none other than ‘the Beard’, James Harden.
Shooting 44% from the field, 35% from three, Harden should be the M.V.P. favourite thus far. The Rockets are tied for third in the west at 18-7 and it is all because of ‘the Beard’. The shooting guard turned point guard under the new Mike D’Antoni system has put the entire team on his back and has been carrying it through the first quarter of the season.
No more Dwight Howard, the Rockets have surrounded Harden essentially with pawns, good ones, but really just pieces that Harden can use at his disposal. Shooters, bigs, wing players, you name it. Harden is leading the league in assists, is one of the top scorers in basketball, and has become one of the most dangerous superstars in this league, who is averaging a near triple-double himself.
At an 18-7 mark, can there really be any argument against Harden?