By: Austin Gill ~Copy Editor~
The NBA’s MVP race has been neck-and-neck all season and, with only weeks to go until playoffs, it’s as close as ever.
With decorated resumes, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Stephen Curry remain the top candidates vying for 2015’s distinction.
Westbrook has shouldered the load over Oklahoma City’s injury-plagued season with eye-popping single-game averages of 27.6 points (shooting 42.5 percent, 8.6 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals). He also leads the league with nine triple-doubles.
The tired knock on Westbrook is that he’s a ball-hogger. His sky-high usage percentage of 38.1 would seem to reflect that, but with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out, the call for leadership is plain.
Westbrook’s ball-dominant ways have proved effective as he sports a 29.57 player efficiency rating (second only to Anthony Davis). Without Westbrook, Oklahoma City’s injury-riddled roster would probably find itself on the wrong end of the playoff hunt come April.
Houston’s Harden offers per game averages of 27.2 points, 7.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals. Like Westbrook, he handles the ball quite a bit.
Though Harden’s truly a shooting guard, he effectively runs the point for the Rockets. With Harden on the floor, Houston scores a remarkable 14.5 more points per 100 possessions.
Harden’s defense draws criticism against his MVP campaign, but that’s not why the Rockets have him there.
Patrick Beverley, Trever Ariza, and Dwight Howard among several others fortify the back end while Harden does his damage running the offense.
Harden’s ability to score is simply uncanny, as he draws an amazing 10.1 free throw attempts per game.
Curry’s incredible play has led the Golden State Warriors to the league’s best record at 60-13. Curry averages 23.7 points, 7.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.
These figures may seem the least impressive among the group, but Curry’s efficiency is stunning. The electric point guard averages 48.2 percent shooting from the floor, 43.1 percent from long range and a league-leading 91.6 percent at the charity stripe.
Curry’s numbers go from excellent to crazy when you consider that the he’s sat in 16 entire fourth quarters — a product of an excellent 2014-15 Warriors team.
Traditionally, the top MVP vote-getter is the best player on the team with the best (or among the best) record.
Recent MVP’s that fit that definition include Kevin Durant (2014), LeBron James (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) and Derrick Rose (2011). As the best player on the best team, Stephen Curry is that guy this year.
The MVP favorite changes on a near gamely basis as Curry, Harden and Westbrook continue to jockey for the prestigious accolade. Fans can get excited with only weeks to go until playoffs, as some extraordinary efforts from these special players remain inevitable