The addage in the NBA is that a team can't win a title without a superstar, making the best players in the league that much more important to their respective teams. Stephen Curry came out of nowhere to win the MVP last year, with James Harden nipping at his heels. Will we see more turnover at the top of the NBA thanks to Anthony Davis, or will Kevin Durant or LeBron James steal the trophy back?
Here's where the MVP race stands at the start of the season:
8) Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have been as ho-hum as a legitimate contender winning over 2/3 of their games can be, with critics quick to point out just what this team lacks rather than what has kept them afloat. However, Chris Paul remains the league’s most adept facilitator when it comes to a point guard getting the most out of the other players on the floor.
His scoring (19.1 ppg), passing (10.2 apg), and ability to seamlessly switch hats from shooter to traditional point guard (not to mention his all-world ability to lock down opposing guards on defense keeps him as one of the NBA’s elite.
7) Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Griffin continues to be one of the most underrated and under appreciated players in the league, and in my opinion, is more indispensible to the Clippers than teammate Chris Paul. He averaged 21.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field, and he carried Los Angeles for over a month when Paul was injured.
He serves as Los Angeles' secondary ball-handler and playmaker (as a 6'10", 251 lbs. big man), has range that extends all the way to the three-point line (40 percent from deep), is still the most dominant dunker in the league, and is the NBA's best post scorer with a wide array of moves. He lands on this list because of how many things he does well for the Clippers.
6) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook (28.1 ppg, 8.6 apg, 7.3 rpg) missed a chunk of time at the beginning of last season, but he’s the biggest reason why Oklahoma City nearly made the playoffs. He went on an absolute rampage during the last few months of the season, recorded 11 triple-doubles, and won the league scoring title. He's the most athletic player in NBA history (yes, I said it), and plays with unmatched ferocity and intensity. Critics point to the multitude of shots he takes as a point guard, but with unmatched speed and quickness, a good three-point shot, deadly pull-up jumper, and insane finishing ability, it's easy to see why Westbrook has become one of the best players in the NBA.
5) James Harden, Houston Rockets
Harden narrowly lost the NBA scoring title with 27.4 points per game, but also showed his all-around game last year with 7.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. He single-handedly carried the Rockets to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference as they played without star center Dwight Howard for most of the season.
4) Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
After an injury-riddled season, it's easy to forget just how dominant Durant can be. He shot 51 percent from the field in 27 games last season, and averaged 32 points per game in 2013-14 - his last full season in the league, in which he won MVP. Durant can score effortlessly from anywhere on the court, and may be the best pure scorer in league history. However, his all-around play (6.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists per game last year) makes him that much more valuable.
3) LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James is still the best player in the world, but he didn't have a great season by his standards. He still produced another masterful year (25.3 ppg, 7.4 apg, 6.0 rpg) and the Cavaliers didn't even look like a playoff team when LeBron wasn't on the floor. For as good as he is, LeBron isn't in the top two spots because of his age and diminishing athleticism. Still, his impact is as great as it's ever been.
2) Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry has officially taken the leap over the past year-plus, graduating from top-tier NBA marksman to the most deadly pure shooter in all of the NBA. Give Curry an inch, and he’ll confidently launch for 5, 10, 20, or 30 feet. Add to the mix his deadly first step and NBA2K15 set of handles, and Curry’s offensive game has opened up the floor for the rest of the NBA-best Warriors to get theirs.
Averaging 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game last year, Curry narrowly missed out on becoming just the 7th all-time member of the 50-40-90 club – shooting 48.7% from the field, 44.3% for three, and 91.4% from the free-throw line last season. Throw in one of the best regular seasons in NBA history (Curry led the Warriors to a 67-15 record), an MVP, and a Larry O'Brien trophy, and Curry is indispensible.
1) Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The MVP hype at this point all centers around Davis despite Curry being the reigning winner. Davis had a historic season in 2014-15 (his third in the league), posting 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game with a league-leading 31.0 PER and 8.43 wins probability added. Those last two numbers can only be compared to some of the greatest players of all time, and Davis is just scratching the surface of how good he can be.
Already a dominant shot blocker with an unlimited amount of athleticism and an array of post moves, head coach Alvin Genty has been working with Davis on expanding his range out to the three-point line. Simply put: Anthony Davis can already do everything on the court at an elite level, and he's only getting better. His play will be the biggest reason why New Orleans will be extremely successful - expect him to win the MVP award next season.Back to the NBA Newsfeed