There are only 7 legitimate candidates who have a realistic chance to win the MVP this year. Those players are Lebron, CP3, Westbrook, Kawhi, KD, and Curry. Yet only one will be holding up the trophy after the season is over and that player is Chris Paul. Below are the reasons why each of the other candidates won't win and the realistic truth to why Paul will.
Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry
Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry will ultimately cancel their own individual brilliance out because neither player is decisively more valuable than the other. KD had an incredible scoring exhibition against his former teammates in the Bay Area, and then Steph followed suit with a record breaking-13 three-pointers against the Pelicans several games later.
Those type of back-and-forth performances will certainly weigh on the voter's minds. Think LeBron and Dwyane Wade in 2011.
Without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook is on a religious crusade. The triple-double machine is already averaging 31/9/9, with no end in sight, and he’s won over the hearts of the fans and media members alike in the process. And, being the hero of the people may go a long way, but so does winning, and there hasn’t been an MVP outside of the first or second seed in nearly 30 years.
Oklahoma City isn’t second-seed-bound, and Westbrook isn’t Michael Jordan, so sorry Thunder fans.
Kawhi Leonard has had one of the most successful first-five-seasons in NBA history, including back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Finals-MVP, and 1 Championship -- and he’s showing no signs of falling off. Now that Duncan has officially entered basketball Nirvana, retiring as the great “power forward” of all time, Popovich can finally hand Kawhi the keys to the sweetest Lamborghini in basketball, the Spurs franchise. And, while the Spurs are perennial contenders, early losses to the Clippers and Rockets and poor shooting performances aren’t great starts for Kawhi’s MVP hopes.
James Harden is flourishing under Mike D’Antoni’s offense-obsessed system, and like Westbrook threatening Oscars’ triple-double record, James Harden could potentially be the first player to lead the league in scoring and assists since Tiny Archibald in ‘72.
Still, Harden is allergic to defense, and that crippling stigma was so glaring that it prevented the Associated Press from even voting Harden to an All-NBA team. So between him not enjoying “defense”, whatever that is, and the Rockets not being a first or second seed, don’t expect the Harden-train to gain much momentum.
LeBron James has been top 5 in MVP voting for the past 11 seasons. That's a record for most consecutive years being a top 5 candidate. He's won the award four times already and is certainly aiming for his fifth to match Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. LeBron has been extremely durable throughout his career and mastered the art of pacing himself before the playoffs in recent years. That pacing could very well hurt his chances with Kyrie being fully healthy this season and playing a much bigger role in taking most of the scoring load.
The Cavs will still most likely finish with the best record in the East, but LeBron will be coasting for the duration of the season. The biggest challenge for CP3 is that even with LeBron "coasting", he’s still better than 99% of the league.
Chris Paul: The Inevitable MVP
To understand the case for CP3 winning MVP is to understand how Karl Malone won MVP over Michael Jordan in 1997.
Malone was entering his 12th season, and had never won an MVP, let alone played in a finals series. But, he had finished top 5 in MVP voting in four separate occasions prior. The year before, the 1995-96 Bulls had set an NBA record 72 wins, and naturally, Jordan took home the MVP and his fourth Larry O’Brien trophy. So with historic momentum, Mike rolled through the ‘97 season, lauded as the universal favorite to take home his fifth MVP award, leading the league in scoring (29.6 points), and leading his Bulls to an NBA-best 69 wins. Then ESPN writer Jackie MacMullan wrote an article asking why Karl Malone couldn’t win MVP after staging an impressive campaign of his own, averaging 27 points on 55% shooting, 10 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. And, the rest is as they say, “history”.
Fast-forward 20 years later, and Chris Paul has found himself knee deep in eerily similar waters. 31 years old, entering his 12th season with no MVP or championship ring to show for his individual brilliance. And, yet like Karl, he’s found himself in the top 5 of MVP voting exactly four times prior. But, it gets better. Last year the Golden State Warriors broke the aforementioned 1995-96 Bulls regular season wins record, finishing the season with 73 wins. Single digit losses!
Like Karl, the MVP odds certainly aren’t stacked in Chris Paul’s favor. He’s an aging superstar facing unbelievable young talent. Curry, Westbrook, Harden, Lillard, and even blossoming talents like D’Angelo Russell, Kris Dunn and Emmanuel Mudiay. But, the Clippers have been the best defensive team in the league, blowing out 8 of the 9 teams they’ve played on their way to the best start in franchise history (9-1).
Sure CP3’s numbers don’t pop off the stat sheet like Westbrook, Harden or LeBron’s, but the Clippers winning ways do, especially when you win two back-to-back nationally televised games.
The Clippers have two back to back nationally televised games ahead. These are the two of the most important games of the year for Chris Paul's MVP discussion.
Yes I know, they're only the Kings and the Grizzlies who haven't been that good all season. But for CP3's MVP case, these games will be on full display with Jeff Van Gundy commentating. He's one of the most influential commentators that complains about certain rules that gets the ball rolling for change. Remember when players were getting away with flopping with no consequences? The fines were implemented when JVG kept calling them out publicly for not doing something about it. And like Jackie MacMullan, JVG will be voicing his opinion to the world on why CP3 should be a lead candidate for MVP. That will start to get his name in the minds of voters and get the ball rolling for later on down the season which will ultimately be the main reason why Paul will win the award with Clippers holding on to a 1 or 2 seed in the Western Conference.