Early 2017-18 NBA MVP favorites
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) goes up for a shot against Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Whenever the NBA season draws near, we all can’t help but put on our ‘analyst hats’ and make a slew of predictions. Which teams will rise to the top? Which two teams will make it to the Finals? Who will be crowned MVP? These debates build rapport among friends, in person or in Viber groups, and even with people you meet on the street, yung kasabay mong nakapila sa MRT or bus station, for example. We all have different opinions as to who will prevail, but one thing we can all agree on is how pumped NBA fans are for the upcoming season.
So let’s talk MVP. In this article, I’ll be basing my picks mostly on the stats players put up last season. After all, it’s too early to tell who’ll knock down the most game-winners for the season ahead.
Here are my top picks for MVP, in no particular order:
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
No doubt, the best player in the world should always be in the running. Not because of his stature, but he still continues to dominate the game in his own way. He may not be the vintage LeBron we used to see 10 years ago, but he now flies under the radar while still putting up big numbers. Last season, he averaged 26 points, close to nine rebounds and nine assists a game. The point production is expected, but NINE assists… wow! He just continues to make his teammates better and better. And to top that, he averaged 33.6 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists per game in the last NBA Finals. Triple-double lang naman.
Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
When Durant decided to move to the Bay Area last season, many eyebrows were raised, as they doubted how he would fit alongside the Splash Brothers. But for all the haters of the move (which reached, even surpassed LeBron-Decision levels), KD and the Warriors got the job done. Durant still got his usual 25+ points a game, and he proved his clutch credentials in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. That was his defining moment, paving the way for him to win Finals MVP, and possibly challenge for the regular season MVP this time around.
Kahwi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
I personally did not think that Kahwi would get to be part of the elite conversation. When he was starting out with the Spurs, he did not have that star factor. He was quiet, timid, humble, and sure wasn’t flashy. However, he kept getting better and better, becoming the Spurs’ leading man in the post-Big Three era. When they won the Larry in 2014 and Leonard was named Finals MVP, that’s when I knew, and the world knew, that Kawhi was going to be something special. Averaging over 20 points in the past two seasons (after norming 16 points or less in his first four), he has been the main man for his team, even with the acquisitions of LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and now Rudy Gay. Just how valuable is Kahwi? The Spurs were having a solid postseason run, and were giving the Warriors fits in game one of the Western Conference Finals. Who’s to say what would have happened had he not landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot…
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
I see KD as being the main man for the Golden State Warriors, but don’t get me wrong. He couldn’t have done it alone. Since the Heatles teamed up in South Beach, no one superstar can really do it alone. Curry is still the face of the Warriors, and getting that whopping $200+ million contract is enough evidence that Steph is still going to Steph. Averaging 25 points a game and with 324 three’s made last season, Curry is still an integral part of the Dubs’ offense.
Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)
You know how genies grant your wishes, but always with the caveat, “Be careful what you wish for”? Not to ‘scare’ Kyrie, but his wish to get out of Cleveland, which led to him landing with the Celtics, ought to give him plenty of motivation, and at the same time, plenty of pressure, to carry Beantown on his shoulders. He’ll have to form a new trio with Al Hoford and Gordon Hayward, if they’re to go far in the East, but his offensive skills should immediately translate in his new situation. Averaging 22 points his entire career, I believe he’ll be able to improve on his career-highs give his new “freedom.”
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
When The Beard moved to the 1-spot last year, fellow analyst TJ Manotoc said it best… <emoji na gulat>. But he surprised everyone with his playmaking skills, alongside his tenacious scoring ability. Now, moving back to the 2-guard position with Chris Paul as his partner, it’s going to be a challenge for Harden to maintain that level of gameplay. His assists numbers may dip a bit, but the willingness to make his teammates better should always exist at a high level. He’ll still be the Rockets' leading scorer, and fill the highlight reels with more game-winners though, especially with Paul setting him up
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwakee Bucks)
You may disagree with me about having the Greek Freak on this list, but why not? The surging Bucks have him leading the herd, and it’s not far off that Milwaukee will be able to improve in the regular season standings, especially in the weakened East. Last season was an epic campaign for him - making it to the All-Star team, the All-Defensive team, the All-NBA Second Team, and being named Most Improved Player. It’s not far-fetched to believe he could make another leap forward.
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
WHY NOT? There’s nothing stopping the current league MVP from going back-to-back. With his team adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony during the offseason, there’s less of a load on Westbrook’s shoulders, and defenses can’t key in on just him anymore. If the Thunder exceed their spot from last season in the West, perhaps secure one of the top-four seeds in the West, and Westbrook still comes close to averaging a triple-double, alongside his new dynamic duo, well, why not indeed?
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