The most compelling award in the
It really is a two-man race between
That's not to say that Cleveland's
It's just that Curry and Harden separated themselves with their superior play while carrying their teams all season.
Trying to define the ideal MVP isn't easy.
Is he simply the best player in the league?
Is he the best player on the best team who has lifted his team to greater heights?
Or is he the player having the most dominating season regardless of his team's success level?
There really is no clear-cut answer. But consider this: since the 1982-83 season, the MVP award has gone to a player whose team has won at least 50 regular-season games.
Curry, Harden, James and Paul are on firm ground there, as their teams have won 50-plus games. That leaves out Westbrook, whose
Other awards also will pose challenges for voters trying to choose a winner.
Rookie of the year candidates include Minnesota's Andrew Wiggins, Chicago's Nikola Mirotic, Philadelphia's
Defensive player of the year could be between the Clippers'
The field for sixth man of the year appears pretty much limited to three candidates: the Clippers'
The coach of the year probably will be either Golden State's Steve Kerr and Atlanta's Mike Budenholzer.
But here's the thing:
There are so many lenses to look through these days when trying to make a quantitative decision about who deserves an award.
There is the old-school way with mainstream stats — points per game, assists, rebounds, shooting percentage and the like.
And there is the new-wave approach of advanced metrics — player efficiency rating, plus-minus, offensive-defensive efficiency, win shares, usage percentage and other statistical analysis, enough to make a person's head explode.
Not to be overlooked are other factors that could influence the voting process: how teams promote their players, coaches and executives; the likability of a player, coach or team; and personal relationships with media members who vote on the awards.
We don't have a vote, but here are our choices. The envelopes please!
The Warriors have the best record in the NBA and will have the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs largely because of Curry.
One thing that stands out: Curry hasn't played in the fourth quarter of 17 games because he and the Warriors have been so dominant this season.
He's a lights-out shooter from anywhere on the court — his 44.2% shooting from three-point range is proof of that.
He averages 23.9 points per game, sixth in the league. His player efficiency rating of 27.6 is third), according to basketball-reference.com, and his plus-minus is 23.6 (sixth), according to ESPN.
That's not to say Harden isn't deserving. He has averaged an NBA-best 27.5 points (tied with Westbrook). That step-back three-pointer is a killer, and his Euro-step into the lane has left defenders stupefied. He's attempted and made far more free throws than anyone else in the league.
Harden has carried a heavy load all season because
For what it's worth,
Rookie of the year
The 20-year-old forward has shown that he may end up being the better bargain in the trade that sent him from Cleveland to Minnesota for Kevin Love.
Wiggins is averaging 16.9 points per game, and that figure has improved every month, going from averaging 12.3 per game in November to 25.5 in four games this month.
Defensive player of the year
The Clippers center may not be able to make free throws, but he can rebound like one else in the league, and block shots and intimidate.
"When you drive to the hole, he scares the hell out of a lot of people," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. "It doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but he changes shots and he changes guys' minds by going in there."
Jordan leads the NBA in total rebounds (14.9 a game) and defensive rebounds (10.1), is fifth in blocked shots (2.22) and first in defensive win shares (5.1), according to basketball-reference.com.
Sixth man of the year
Coach of the year
The first-year coach took over a talented team and made it even better.
He smoothly guided the Warriors to the best record in franchise history, the best record in the NBA and helped make them the most fun and entertaining team in the league, one with a legitimate chance of winning the championship.