By Avery Lamphere
The season is coming to end, so the media is arguing about who is the current MVP. To say that one player is the MVP with two weeks left in the season is somewhat ridiculous. There is still about 10 percent of the games in the regular season to go and to declare one player as the MVP cannot be done. A lot of things can happen in a two week stretch that can alter the MVP race. However, there are really only three that have a shot at winning NBA MVP: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard. And yes, that is the order I have them in right now but they all could easily be the MVP of the league in two weeks.
The case for Kawhi Leonard is pretty simple. The Western Conference is a superior conference to the Eastern Conference. The Spurs could end up with the number one seed in the West which is quite impressive. Right now they stand two and a half games behind The Golden State Warriors, but if the Spurs can grab the one seed Kawhi might emerge as the favorite. Right now Kawhi is the best offensive and defensive player on his team. There are only a few select players that can say that. LeBron James, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all players that are the best offensive and defensive players on their respective teams. Kawhi is averaging 26 points a game which is top ten in the league, ahead of Lebron I might add. Along with being a top ten scorer, he is one of the select few in consideration for Defensive Player of the year. The last player to average over 26 points and win Defensive Player of the Year was Hakeem Olajuwon, who averaged 26 points in 1994 along with being the DPOY. Hakeem did it before in 1993, averaging 27 points while winning DPOY. Only one other player racked up over 26 points and won DPOY in a year, that was Michael Jordan. In 1987, MJ averaged 35 points while winning DPOY. If Kawhi Leonard can do something only that two of the best players in history have done, that is pretty special.
The case for James Harden is that he is second in scoring and first in assists. He is averaging 29 points and 11 assists. There is only one other player in the history of the NBA who has achieved those numbers and that man was named Tiny Archibald, one of the greatest players of all time. In the 1963 season, Tiny Archibald led the NBA in both points and assists which has not been done since. However, Harden has led the Rockets to the third seed in the Western Conference, a very big accomplishment given the lack of talent on his team. He has also had 14 triple-doubles, matching Hakeem Olajuwon’s total in 16 seasons with the Rockets. He has also tied Oscar Robertson’s record of five 40-point triple-doubles. This season he also had two 50-point triple-doubles, tied for the most in a career with Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. That is some very elite company that James Harden is being compared with. So, if James Harden is able to surpass Russell Westbrook for points per game and hold his mark as assist leader and the Rockets grab the number three seed in the West, James Harden could very well be the 2017 NBA MVP.
Now for my top choice, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is averaging 31 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. Wait, let me say that again; Russell Westbrook is averaging 31 points, 10, assists and 10 rebounds! He is leading the league in scoring, third in assists, and tenth in rebounding, all as a point guard. There has never been a player who has been top 10 in the three major categories. Lebron, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson, three of the best players of all time, have never achieved that goal. And speaking of Oscar Robertson, he is the only player to ever average a triple double in a full NBA season. While growing up as a kid, that record was one that people thought could never be broken, just like the Bulls 72-10 record in the regular season, but last year’s Golden State Warriors proved us wrong. Records are made to be broken, and Russell Westbrook is showing us just that. Right now he has 34 triple-doubles in 69 games. That means in almost 50 percent of the games Russell Westbrook has played in he has gotten a triple double. If you were only to take his triple-doubles from this year with two weeks remaining in the year, he would rank top 10 all time in triple doubles. That is absurd. If Russell Westbrook can average a triple double for this entire year, I feel that he should be the MVP.
Now there are two weeks left in the year and it is too early to pronounce one player the MVP. A lot of things can happen in two weeks. At the end of the two weeks though the seeds will be set, the statistics will set in stone, and the media will have a better understanding on who should become the MVP. But which one of these three players should win the MVP. I cannot remember another year where there was a better MVP race. There are three legitimate candidates that all are setting ridiculous type numbers. It should be a fun two weeks. If you like my sports opinions, or hate them, you can listen to me on The Freshman 15 on WJMF Radio on Tuesday nights from 9pm-10pm.