Top 5 NBA MVP Candidates

Top 5 NBA MVP Candidates

by December 30, 2019 0 comments

The modern social media era has distorted the definition of what it means to be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. Everyone has their own interpretation, and everyone is free to share it in the massive echo chamber that is the Internet. But, since the NBA has yet to clarify the criteria the media uses to determine a winner, there is nothing stopping sports fans from misrepresenting the award’s purpose while online.

The MVP award is not meant to go to the league’s best player, nor the player most prominently featured on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. And candidates’ team success should only matter to a degree.

As the name suggests, the winner should be his team’s most valuable player. In other words, he should contribute more to his team’s success than any other player on another team contributes to their team’s success. If you were to take the MVP away from his team, that should hurt that team more so than any other team would suffer from losing one of their players.

With that definition in mind, here are the league’s top five MVP candidates heading into 2020.

5. Pascal Siakam

Raptors fans received a stark reminder of just how important Pascal Siakam is to their team when Toronto suffered a 118-102 drubbing by the Celtics at home on Christmas Day without him. Siakam was the team’s second-best option behind Kawhi Leonard during its championship run, and he also won last season’s Most Improved Player award. Though he’s on the shelf with a groin injury, Siakam was already off to an All-Star worthy start this year, averaging 25.1 points, eight rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Take him out of the lineup, and the Raptors have to turn to an inconsistent Kyle Lowry and a burgeoning scorer in Fred Van Vleet to lead the team. The Six better hope Siakam returns soon.

4. James Harden

It’s nearly impossible to understate just how much of the Houston Rockets’ offense runs through James Harden. At the moment, Harden owns an astonishing 38.4 percent usage rate. To put things in perspective, other star guards such as Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, and Devin Booker all have sub-30 percentage usage rates. Harden is the league’s premier isolation player, and nearly every Rockets’ possession results in one of his patented stepbacks, a lop to Clint Capela, or a kick-out to a wide-open shooter. The Beard leads the league in scoring at 38.1 points per game while still shooting an efficient 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. This Rockets team could make the playoffs without Harden thanks to the addition of Russell Westbrook, but they would no longer be a serious title contender. While Harden may be the league’s best player, that does not qualify him to win MVP.

3. LeBron James

Just like every other year since he was drafted in 2003, LeBron is in the mix for MVP. In fact, it appears as though he’s the media’s frontrunner so far thanks to his hot start and the Lakers’ success. While playoff seeding should not have a significant effect on who wins MVP, LeBron definitely deserves to be in the conversation right now. For the first time in his career, the King is officially running point guard for his team. And he’s embraced that role with the Lakers, averaging a league-high 10.8 assists per game. The Lakers built this roster around him with shooters like Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and rim-runners like Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard, and it’s paid off. And though James has morphed into a pass-first player, he’s still putting up 25.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest. The Lakers would still find ways to win games without LeBron due to Anthony Davis and their roster full of veterans, but they wouldn’t threaten teams like the Clippers, Rockets, or Nuggets.

2. Luka Doncic

Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic is easily the most surprising name on this list. The Slovenian phenom had all the tools to succeed in the NBA in Europe, and he proved that he could hold his own in the NBA by winning 2019 Rookie of the Year. His impressive numbers and leadership turned heads in his first year, yet his team still struggled. But this season, Luka has taken a giant leap and led his team to a 20-10 record thus far. He’s averaging an absurd 28.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and nine assists per game, all significant improvements from last season. This Mavericks team would likely be lottery-bound if it weren’t for him, which is a sure mark of an MVP.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Back-to-back MVP award winners are boring. That’s why LeBron has four of them instead of twice as many. But Giannis is making a bulletproof case to win the award for a second straight year. The Bucks do-it-all point forward is putting up 30.5 points and 12.9 rebounds per game and his team has the best record in the league at 28-5. He’s even started shooting threes and is hitting them at a respectable 32.7% clip. Teams used to pack the paint to stop the 6-foot-11 point guard, but now they’ll be at his mercy on the perimeter as well. The “Greek Freak” is surrounded by solid role players and one of the league’s best second options in Khris Middleton, but the Bucks would be a middling team at best without their star player.

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