Wardell Stephen Curry II had always dreamed of playing basketball at Virginia Tech, as his father, Dell, had suited up for the Hokies. However, Virginia Tech would not offer a scholarship to the younger Curry, nor did any other major program. After receiving just three offers from a trio of mid-majors, he opted for Davidson, where he shot almost 90% from the charity stripe. Now, at age 26, “Steph” Curry is still almost automatic from the free-throw line and seemingly just about everywhere else on the court. And now every time his feet approach the line, one by one, and he begins to raise his right arm, the fans of Oracle Arena chant, one by one, three resounding letters, “M-V-P.”
Granted, Oakland, CA is not the best place to find an unbiased opinion on a Golden State Warriors player. However, the praise by those in Oracle is echoed nationwide. Once shunned by colleges, Curry has led his Warriors to the top stop in the tough Western Conference and has been the undisputed leader of the team with the top winning percentage in the NBA. At first glance, it may seem as though Curry’s numbers are heading slightly downward. Last year, he averaged 24 points and 8.5 assists. This year, Curry is averaging 23.8 points and 7.7 assists. However, both his field goal and free throw percentages have increased. He is also leading the league in steals per game, with 2.2, up from 1.6 last year. Those steals are the catalyst for a much-underrated Golden State defense, which holds opponents to just a .425 shooting percentage from the field, the stingiest in the NBA.
Meanwhile, deep in the heart of Texas, James Harden is also making his case for MVP. Just three years ago, James Harden was coming off the Thunder’s bench. Now, he is averaging over 27 points per game for the 43-20 Rockets, who are also battling for a top seed in the West. While Dwight Howard has been battling injuries, Coach McHale has relied on Harden for most of Houston’s offensive production. However, the real change has been his defense. Harden has always been known to play one side of the floor, but, this season, he is averaging career highs in blocks, rebounds and steals. In fact, he is grabbing almost six boards per game and already has 50 blocks on the season, compared to 29 total blocks last year.
Of course, there’s also LeBron James. His return to Cleveland has propelled the Cavs to the top spot in the Central Division and they are also currently second in the East. I, like many, believe that he is the best player in the world and have no doubt that he is, by far, the best player on this Cleveland roster. However, even with the addition of James and Kevin Love, the Cavaliers struggled early on. It wasn’t until several midseason acquisitions were made that the Cavs really started rolling.
Some will try to make the case for Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, as well. Indeed, Westbrook has put up historic numbers lately. This past Sunday, he was named Western Conference Player of the Week, while averaging 40.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 11.3 assists in the qualifying span. He is also averaging a triple double since the All-Star break and has recently gained the lead as the NBA’s top scorer this season. Those stats should not be easily dismissed.
This, however, is not college ball. This is not the Final Four. There is no award in the NBA that is designated for the Most Outstanding Player. Thus, the trophy should not necessarily be given to the player that leads the league in points, nor should it be given to an individual who has been “most outstanding” through a stretch of games, or even throughout the season. The Most Valuable Player ( MVP) award should be given to, just that, the most valuable player.
Westbrook has, no doubt, been of value to the Thunder, and he has especially stepped up in reigning MVP Kevin Durant’s absence. However, Russ too has dealt with injuries of his own this season and has played in just 48 of the Thunder’s first 63 games. Westbrook’s recent stretch is definitely remarkable, but at this time of year, many are quick to try to award a year-long accolade to the flavor of the month (or week). True value, in my opinion, also involves durability and consistency. His team is also fighting for a playoff spot. I understand that the MVP is a regular season award, but I have always been a part of the camp that believes it should go to someone on a winning team.
With that said, who do I believe should be the MVP? Honestly, I am not ready to name a winner yet. Yes, there is only a month left in the season. However, there is still a month left in the season; plenty of action has yet to be played. The way I see it, though, this is a two man race. How Curry and Harden, as well as their respective teams, perform in the coming weeks should be the deciding factor in who takes home the hardware.