Most teams in the NBA have about 25 games left to play. The playoff races in each conference are heating up, and the teams out of contention are preparing to tank. The individual races are heating up as well. None of the races are decided yet, and all are very competitive. The MVP race is the most competitive, with five candidates all having a legitimate shot at winning it. Here is where each candidate stands.
Harden has come so close the past couple of years, and this may be the year he finally wins it. He is the leader of the pack right now and the clear favorite. Harden fills up the box score like no other. This season, he is averaging 31.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and nine assists with 1.8 steals per game. He has been better on defense this season. The Rockets are also tied for the best record in the league. If you want to go the analytics route, Harden also is the leader among all candidates in win shares. His only blemish is missing seven games with a hamstring injury, but he has been so spectacular in every other game it doesn’t matter. Leading the league in scoring with great efficiency helps his case the most.
The Greek Freak is not getting enough MVP love, and he should be. What hurts him the most is his Bucks are 11 games behind Harden’s Houston Rockets. Don’t blame Giannis, because he has been great; the Bucks just stink when he is on the bench. Like Harden, Giannis fills up the stat sheet. This season he is averaging 27.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. That is ridiculous. He also is a defensive player of the year candidate. In Win Shares, he is second only to Harden. For him to pass Harden, he would have to lead the Bucks on a winning streak down the stretch and likely secure homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. His team’s record is the only thing holding him back.
James had a one-month stretch when his team was terrible, no one got along with each other, and James’ play itself had slipped. That one month may come back to bite him, but outside that month, he has been the best player in the league. James is having one of his most well-rounded seasons, averaging 26.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and one block per game. His teams’ record is a little better than Giannis’ but still well behind Harden and the Rockets. James’ advanced metrics are great, but he’s behind Harden, Giannis, and even Jimmy Butler. Like Giannis, James will need to lead the Cavaliers to a great record down the stretch while keeping up his excellent play for him to have a chance. The good news is with his new teammates he has looked better than ever. Don’t write him off yet.
Don’t forget about Steph! He missed a month earlier in the season with an ankle injury, but outside of that time, he has been incredible. Last night, he reminded everyone he is still in the race with 44 points. Curry is putting up remarkable numbers this season: 26.5 points, 6.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals. His efficiency is off the charts with a 66 percent true shooting percentage this season. Winning is not a problem, as his team has the best record in the league. His team is likely to keep winning down the stretch, so for Curry to win, he is going to need to put up more performances like he did last night.
Steph’s teammate is still very much in the mix as well. Both can actually hurt each other’s chances if they play better. It’s an interesting situation. For Durant, he is having an excellent season with 26 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.9 blocks. His analytics aren’t as good as some of the other candidates, but he is second in true shooting percentage only to his teammate Steph. Like Steph, his team’s record certainly helps him. Right now, Durant is a dark horse, but for him to have a chance, he will have to deliver a few special performances down the stretch.
Add it all up, and the answer is James Harden. He is the MVP right now, and he will be the MVP at the end of the season. His team is succeeding because of him, and he is having one of the best offensive seasons in the history of basketball. Give the man the MVP!