NBA MVP Watch: April 18th
As the NBA regular season comes to an end, it’s time to look at who has been the league’s Most Valuable Player. While even the casual fan knows that this has been LeBron James’ award to lose since February, there have been a number of performances that cannot be overlooked.
Kobe Bryant willed his Los Angeles Lakers into the postseason until his unfortunate injury. James Harden turned the Houston Rockets from a potential lottery team to a playoff contender in the West. Tim Duncan, at 36 years old, kept the San Antonio Spurs near the top of the Western Conference standings despite a slew of injuries. Carmelo Anthony and his league-leading 28.7 points per game helped the New York Knicks finish with their best record since 1996-97. Chris Paul’s continued dominance at the point guard position helped the Los Angeles Clippers take back L.A. Kevin Durant, who became the sixth member of the 50-40-90 club, was outstanding all year.
However, this may have been James’ best season ever. His play helped the Miami HEAT win 27 straight games and finish with the best record in the NBA. All seven of these guys had terrific seasons, but the award can only be given to one of them.
Here are the finalists for this year’s NBA MVP watch:
#5 – Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs
17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 blocks
For most of the season, I found myself giving credit for the Spurs’ success to Tony Parker. However, the Spurs were 11-5 when Parker wasn’t in the lineup. It’s clear that in all actuality, the heart and soul of this team is Duncan. His perfection on the court puts him in an elite category. He managed to help the Spurs win 58 games and finish with the third-best record in the NBA.
This season, Duncan finished in the top 30 in scoring and field goal percentage. He also ended up 12th in double-doubles and sixth in player efficiency rating (24.49). Defensively, Duncan is also having another stellar year. He finished third in blocks per game and his 8.1 defensive rebounds ranks fifth in the NBA. Duncan’s free-throw percentage jumped from 69 percent last season to 81 percent this season. He also improved his field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and blocks from last season.
What hurts Duncan’s MVP chances is that he only averaged 30.2 minutes per game and he missed 13 games for the Spurs. He may not be made of steel, but at 36, it’s clear that Duncan really is the ageless one.
#4 – Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
28.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals
It’s been quite a season for the Knicks and Anthony. Despite Anthony missing 14 games, the Knicks finished 54-28, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Anthony increased his points per game by 6.1 points and managed to win the first scoring title of his career. After becoming the Knicks’ power forward, Anthony also managed to score at least 30 points and grab at least 10 rebounds in seven games for the Knicks.
Still, Anthony is still a one-sided player. He averaged his lowest assist numbers since the 2004-05 season. Anthony also led the league in field goal attempts and finished 70th in field goal percentage.
His shoot-first mentality may have proven to be successful this season, but his all-around game doesn’t compare to that of Chris Paul, Kevin Durant or LeBron James. It’s clear that this is who Anthony is. He will continue to be one of the league’s best scoring threats. Beyond that, there’s not that much to expect from him.
#3 – Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
16.8 points, 9.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 steals
It’s clear that despite all of the ferocious dunks and circus shots, the success of the Los Angeles Clippers this season is predominately because of Paul. Sure, the Clippers have one of the deepest benches in the league, but without Paul running the show for this team, it would be complete chaos.
Paul’s 9.7 assists per game ranked second in the NBA and his 4.19 assist-to-turnover ratio led the league. He also ranked 18th in double-doubles and finished first in steals per game for the third consecutive year. But Paul also did his fair share of scoring as well. He finished second among the Clippers in points per game and shot 48 percent from the field, his highest percentage since 2009-10.
He continues to be one of the league’s premier point guards, capable of not only dishing off to open teammates, but also capable of knocking down important shots when the Clippers need him to. It was another impressive year for Paul, but one that was overshadowed by the success of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
#2 – Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks
Although it’s inevitable that Durant will finish behind LeBron James this season, it’s safe to say that Durant’s play was MVP worthy. Durant managed to have one of the better offensive seasons we’ve seen in recent years. He became the sixth player to finish a season shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point line and 90 percent from the free throw line. Durant didn’t the scoring title, but his 28.1 points per game were just .6 behind Carmelo Anthony. Besides the impressive shooting percentages, Durant was also able to average career-highs in assists and blocks.
The double-edged sword for Durant is that he plays with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is sixth in the NBA in scoring and his 18.9 shots per game trump Durant’s attempts by 1.2 shots this season. Yes, Durant has one of the best point guards in the league on his side, but that’s not to say that Durant’s play hasn’t spoken for itself.
Durant and the Thunder finished with the second-best record in the NBA with 60 wins and they look to be one of the few teams capable of keeping up with the Miami HEAT. At 24 years old, it’s scary to think how much Durant has improved in just six seasons. It still wasn’t enough to match the prowess of James.
#1 – LeBron James – Miami HEAT
26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks
One of the key improvements that James made this season was his field goal percentage. His 56 percent from the field was the best of his career and the fifth-best in the NBA. He set an NBA record by scoring at least 30 points and shooting at least 60 percent in six consecutive games in February. Although James missed six of the HEAT’s last 10 games, he still managed to score at least 20 points and shoot at least 50 percent from the field in those four games. He also averaged a career-high 40 percent from the three-point line.
James, who has won the MVP award three times in the last four years, has once again been able to improve his game this season. When James was on the court for the HEAT this season, they only lost 15 games. James has once again proved that he’s the best basketball player on the planet.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: 27.3 points, 6.0 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals
James Harden, Houston Rockets: 25.9 points, 5.9 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals
Is LeBron James the unanimous MVP this season? Does James Harden deserve to be in the top five? Will Kobe Bryant’s injury impact his chances for MVP? Who’s your pick for the 2012-13 NBA MVP? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and commenting these past 24 weeks! Also, don’t forget to cast your vote for the MVP using #KiaMVP. The fans votes will be tallied and count as one vote out of 123 total votes.