We’re now approaching the business end of the NBA season and the race for the playoffs is starting to take shape. Defending champions and tipsters favourites Cleveland Cavaliers are once again in the hunt for glory but the Golden State Warriors will take some beating with the likes of Kevin Durant and former MVP Stephen Curry in fine form.
This year, Curry hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season but Durant’s impact since moving from Oklahoma City Thunder has helped the Warriors to build a more complete unit. With that in mind, the regular season Most Valuable Player is up for grabs – here are five of the leading contenders for the accolade.
Since Durant’s departure, Westbrook has stepped up to the plate; breaking a number of Thunder records whilst averaging a triple-double every time he steps onto the court. In terms of scoring, Westbrook has eclipsed all of his rivals this year and it would be hard to argue against the Oklahoma man winning the award.
However, Oklahoma City’s mediocre record could hinder his chances of claiming a first MVP accolade. Thunder have struggled to inspire confidence this year and 25 defeats in 56 games will severely diminish his standing in the voting. Westbrook is certainly there or thereabouts but his team-mates could let him down in the grand scheme of things.
James is, and has been, Cleveland’s main man and the Cavaliers star will be looking to lead his side to a second successive NBA title. Averaging 25.8 points and 8.8 assists per game, the four-time regular season MVP has been a class above his peers; especially on the defensive side of the ball this season.
The 32-year-old is destined for the Hall of Fame and a fifth MVP accolade would certainly help his chances of rivalling Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all-time. Cleveland are on the verge of something special again and James can take the Cavaliers to the next level if he maintains his current form.
San Antonio Spurs fans were left shell-shocked when Tim Duncan announced his retirement at the end of last season but Kawhi Leonard has taken over the mantle in 2017. With Gregg Popovich placing more emphasis on overall talent, Leonard has prospered and matured into one of the best small forwards in the NBA.
The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year has won a number of individual awards but the MVP accolade has eluded his grasp in previous years. With San Antonio looking strong and Leonard performing better than ever, the Spurs could be in for an exciting few months as the race for NBA glory heats up.
Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas has been one of the best players in the league since the turn of the year and he could work his way into the MVP conversation come the end of the campaign. Thomas has averaged an incredible 32.7 points per game in the last 10 fixtures and Boston will be relying on their main man to maintain his form in the coming months.
To put Thomas’ rise to prominence into perspective, he has averaged over 10 points per game HIGHER than his career average – a sensational individual achievement. If he can lead the Celtics to the division title after an era of Toronto Raptors dominance, current underdog Thomas will put himself right in the mix.
The current leading candidate for MVP glory is Houston Rockets star James Harden. Prior to this season, Harden had always been regarded as a player with plenty of upside but he had never managed to fulfil that potential. Now, we are seeing his best form and Houston are benefiting directly from his much improved effort on the court.
Since he was traded to Houston, he has averaged over 29 points per game and he has since become THE face of the Rockets. An MVP award would enhance his standing as one of the best players in the NBA right now and Houston could go far in the postseason if Harden is on top form.