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Chase for MVP: Is Anyone a Clear Lock?

By Ray Ross

If the 2017 MVP campaign has shown us anything this season, it’s that the MVP race is rapidly growing and it is as close in competition as it’s ever been before. The fans seems to have their own idea of what an MVP means to a franchise, and often times that admission is missed by the voters. Let’s break down the candidates so far: Kawhi Leonard (SAS), Russell Westbrook (OKC), Lebron James (CLE), and James Harden (HOU). What’s crazy about this year’s race is that you can literally make the argument for each player and we’d all understand. And until Adam Silver introduces a “Co-MVP” exception, the fact remains that there will only be one.

Lebron James: PPG: 25.9 APG:8.9 RPG:8.4

Looking at the stats alone, Lebron definitely meets MVP criteria. Since coming into the league in 03’ as a child prodigy, he has been in the conversation of “Greatest Of All Time” for over a decade. By definition the term, “MVP” means “most valuable player”, and it is undeniable that Lebron James is Cleveland’s most valuable player even with a loaded roster. So why does Lebron not get the nod for one the association’s most illustrious accolades? The answer is simply because Lebron isn’t worried about the MVP, as a 4-time MVP winner, it has been clear since his controversial “decision” in 2010 that all this man cares about at this point is grabbing that ring. With a surprising increase in minutes this season, there have also been many instances where Coach Tyrone Lue has rested the star to save him for bigger games.

As Lebron told ESPN, "Coach is going to do a good job of looking at my numbers and trying to get me rest throughout the game, but I don't see me having slowed down," James said. "My numbers are up, but we've been in a good groove, and if I get rest here, couple minutes here throughout the game, couple minutes there, off days, things of that nature, [I will be OK]." In case you missed it, James will be playing on Wednesday, but is expected to rest on Thursday.”

It’s not an injustice to the world if the current best player in the game doesn’t win MVP this season guys, plus, aren’t we all a little tired of the same guys winning?

Kawhi Leonard: PPG: 26.4 APG: 3.5 RPG: 6.0

The NBA’s darkhorse player for the past two seasons has been none other than San Antonio’s, Kawhi Leonard. The young 25 year-old has been given the keys to Coach Pop’s finely-tuned machine, which always sees success in the regular season and playoff birth each year for the past twenty seasons. Even now, where the Spurs are currently 1 game back from a Super-Saiyan Warriors team with the addition of Kevin Durant, and first place in the West. This guy is the face of the franchise now. Others have slept on the success of the Spurs and the true talent of Kawhi in the past, so it’s good to see that he is making a legitimate case for MVP this season.

James Harden: PPG: 28.9 APG: 11.3 RPG: 8.0

Here’s where things start to get a little interesting. With a new found role this season, starting at point-guard for the first time in his seven NBA seasons, Coach Mike D’Antoni has found the perfect player to run his prolific “run-n-gun” style of offense. With perhaps the most explosive and dangerous offense the in league, James Harden is on full display and we are all sitting back watching in awe.Who knew that players like James Harden had no ceiling? Most impressively, the increase in distributions this season has only cemented him into one of the few cold-blooded assassins left in the game.With a loaded roster, this season the Rockets are not playing around this year and are serious contenders to come out of the West. With a career-high 19 triple doubles (and counting), it’s to be expected that their might be a bit of an uproar in the basketball universe if Harden isn’t holding that trophy.

Russell Westbrook: PPG: 31.8 APG:10.3 RPG:10.6

Russell Westbrook's 2017 road to MVP has been a marvel to watch. Here’s the thing, the man is averaging a TRIPLE DOUBLE! Not only is that the hardest single game statistic to obtain every night in an 82 game season, but he’s doing it with the least amount of help of our candidates. After the controversial split between Kevin Durant and Westbrook last summer, the world had much anticipation for both parties, but in particular, Russell Westbrook. His grit and grind on a night-to-night has carried a young, and let’s face it, mediocre Oklahoma squad into playoff contention. There’s never been a player like Russ before. No one has ever attacked the rim with such grace and aggression. That’s what puts Russ in a league of his own. By the way, he’s the first player to average a triple double since Hall of Famer, Oscar Robertson (1961-1962). It’s refreshing to see and it has been nothing short of exciting for the game. With currently 33 triple doubles and counting, it would be a travesty if Westbrook was not awarded for his unmatched efforts this season. It would make fans question the whole legitimacy of the award; like what else do players have to do to become “Most Valuable Player”?

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