NBA MVP race heating up as season ends

The 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player race is one of the fiercest that we’ve seen in years: there are four viable candidates, but only one will win.

Russell Westbrook is going to be the first player in more than 50 years to average a triple-double. Kawhi Leonard is one of the best two-way players in the league and plays on one of the best teams in the league. James Harden has taken his game and his team to an all new level this year, and LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time and is once again having a great season.

All four players are great candidates for MVP, but only one can win. MVPs are normally chosen based upon the quality of their stats, the quality of their team and the impact they have upon their teams.

All of the MVP candidates have had good seasons statistically, but Russell Westbrook has been the best. His stat line has exploded this season as he became the focal point of Oklahoma City’s offense after the departure of Kevin Durant. He is the first player in more than 50 years to average a triple-double and has picked up 40 triple-doubles this season. He is the league leader in points with 31.9 per game and leads the league in player efficiency rating. Westbrook also averages 10.4 assists per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. He has a 42.6 usage rate, which is the highest in the league by seven points but still is the league’s most efficient player. This is quite an impressive feat for Westbrook. The only problem for Westbrook is that he is not on as good of a team as the other players. His team currently sits in sixth place in the Western Conference, but the team has been carried almost single-handedly by Westbrook. He has an estimated 26 wins added to his team and has done well to get them into a playoff position after the departure of their star player. Westbrook has had an amazing season thus far.

The candidate who has been arguably the most well-balanced is Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has been the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons and was the runner-up for the MVP last season. He is averaging 25.6 points per game, with 3.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. He is one of the most efficient players in the league with a 27.66 player efficiency rating. Leonard has emerged as a star for the Spurs and has made the transition from the old players, with Duncan, Parker and Ginobli, to the new almost seamlessly. The Spurs are in second place in West, and Leonard is their star player. He has been great all season on both sides of the ball and makes a strong case to be the MVP.

James Harden has also had a great season this year, both statistically and in leading his team. Harden is second in the NBA in scoring with 29.2 points per game, while also leading the league in assists with 11.2 per game and leading his team in rebounds with 8.1 rebounds per game. He has been efficient all season with a 27.39 player efficiency rating and has been a large part in his team’s success, adding an estimated 23 wins to his team this year. He has transformed himself from a selfish, offensive-minded player into a two-way superstar. He has taken on the role of team leader in full force and has transformed his team into a Western Conference power. Harden looks like an MVP with both his offensive production and his role on a strong team.

The last player in serious MVP conversation is LeBron James. “The King” has been in serious MVP conversation for the last 10 years, in all honesty. He is highly regarded as one of the best players of all time and has performed well for the entirety of his career, and this year is no different. After leading the Cavaliers to the championship last season, he has led the team back to first place in the East this season. He is averaging 26.7 points per game with career highs in assists and rebounds, with 8.7 and 8.5 per game, respectively. While his stats are not quite as good as the rest of the players, he has produced them while playing on one of the best overall teams in the league. For his statline, team production and overall reputation, he deserves to be in the MVP conversation.While all of the players are great candidates for MVP, one rises above the rest.

Russell Westbrook has elevated his game to an all-new level this season. He has led the Thunder into a respectable position in the standings almost single-handedly and is going to be the first person since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double. Russell Westbrook deserves to be the 2017 NBA MVP.

by Caleb Byrd, Staff writer

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