The NBA season is about 25 games in through this point in December. The top projected contenders have held the reigns near the top of their conferences, while teams like the Utah Jazz, the New York Knicks and the Charlotte Hornets have surprised fans and analysts alike. Player performance has also stood out in a large fashion to round out the one-third of the season mark. Candidates for the MVP award are beginning to stake their claims or are solidifying their position among the league’s best. Below is a small list of players and their chances to win the MVP award come season’s end in 2016-17.
Two players have placed themselves at the top of the MVP discussion: Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Westbrook is averaging gaudy numbers that have translated into relatively sound team play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Averaging just north of 31 points a game, 11 assists and nearly 11 rebounds, it is safe to say the MVP award is Westbrook’s to lose up to this point. His team has attained a winning record and remains relevant in the Western conference standings.
Former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden is also giving Russell all he can handle at the top. Harden features numbers just under Russell’s pace (28.1 PPG, 11.6 APG and 7.7 RPG) and has his Rockets playing slightly better ball through 25 contents this season. Harden was moved to the point guard position this off-season and the switch has allowed Harden to focus on key components of his game. While his scoring numbers are right around his career averages, his assist totals are climbing at an alarming amount. Continued sound play and a winning team to back his numbers will put Harden in fine contention for the award.
It is hard to mention perspective MVP candidates without featuring the name LeBron James. James has his team playing competitive ball and winning important early-season matchups each night. He is slightly under his career averages in points, but is +2 up in the assists category. James thrives off the ability of his team to function as one unit, meaning he doesn’t have to ‘do it all’ each time the team takes the court. As the season progresses, look for more teams to be a competitive test for the Cavaliers, which will in turn open the door for LeBron to shine.
A fourth player that is doing what he can with the team he’s on is Anthony Davis. His season averages (30.6 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 2.7 BLKPG) are all improvements upon his career averages. His points per contest averages are up by 9 points, which says a lot for a guy who has a team that lacks the performance and record for these statistics to remain relevant. One of the major indicators of an MVP candidate or winner is their team’s ability to win. Davis doesn’t have a strong enough case for the award due to team performance. If the Pelicans can pick up the pieces and string together some wins, Davis will be in contention for the award come the season’s end.
The season remains young, but these early projections will likely carry throughout the season barring the health of these individuals. We also could have a scenario which offers a duo receiving the award due to overall performance. Other contenders could sneak up, but the likelihood of anyone out-performing these four is not that great in theory or reality. The odds-on favorite to win it all at this point remains Russell Westbrook. Averaging a triple-double each time the team plays is not something you see everyday and Russell’s performance remains on a historic path.