Before I dive right into this countdown, there is something that absolutely needs to be noted: For the most part, the MVP has been a two-man race between Kevin Durant and LeBron James for the majority of the regular season. Figuring out that those two would be atop this list was no issue. As for the last eight spots in the top ten… it’s anyone’s guess. I initially didn’t want to include an honorable mention list, but in my mind there were fifteen guys fighting for those last eight spots on the list.
All statistics are updated as of Saturday, April 12th, via stats.nba.com
Anthony Davis- 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 2.8 blocks, 52% FG, 79% FT
After Zach Lowe’s glowing piece at Grantland about Anthony Davis was published two weeks ago, the Brow Bandwagon has officially filled up to the point that the only tickets still available are standing room only. The leap Davis has made in just two short seasons is incredible and as Lowe pointed out, there is still a lot of room for improvement, which is a pretty frightening thought. Just look at those numbers! The dude is younger than me! Even though the Pelicans are slated to finish 12th in the Western Conference, we can’t begin to discuss the “value” of a player without recognizing how much Anthony Davis means to the New Orleans Pelicans franchise. Taking a page out of Bill Simmons’ Trade Value Column, I can say pretty confidently that the only two players in the entire league that would absolutely not be traded if New Orleans was offering Davis would be Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Everyone else is fair game.
Kevin Love- 25.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 46% FG, 38% 3PT, 82% FT
Carmelo Anthony- 27.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 45% FG, 41% 3PT, 85% FT
We know that Love and Melo are similarly great in that they are both elite scorers and rebounders—for those who are saying, “wait, Melo isn’t an elite rebounder,” I suggest you check the numbers; based on the percentage of rebounds he grabs in comparison to the number of rebounding opportunities he has, he’s among the best in the league—but there are also two giant question marks following each of them around. First, will either of these two be playing on their current team for that much longer? And second, is he really good enough to be the best player on a contender? Those are two questions that I, nor anyone else can answer definitively at the moment, but I can say Melo and Love just put together their best statistical seasons to date, and neither is in the top ten.
Paul George- 21.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.9 steals, 43% FG, 36% 3PT, 86% FT
George pre-January 1st: 23.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 47% FG, 40% 3PT
George January 1st on: 20.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.9 steals, 40% FG, 34% 3PT
If only the regular season was two months long then Paul George probably would’ve finished 3rd in the MVP voting.
Marc Gasol- 14.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, 47% FG, 78% FT
Big Spain’s individual numbers might not be indicative of a typical MVP candidate, but if we’re talking value, and we are, Gasol’s can’t be neglected. You need not look any further then the Grizzlies win/loss record and their team defensive numbers when Gasol was both in and out of the starting line-up to comprehend Gasol’s value. Memphis is 37-19 with Gasol in the starting line-up and just 10-13 without him. Additionally, Gasol’s presence transforms Memphis into a completely different team defensively. With him in the line-up they surrender roughly 93 points per game, five points fewer than in the 23 games without him on the floor.
LaMarcus Aldridge- 23.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 46% FG, 83% FT
Aldridge lands just outside of the Top Ten in the final MVP rankings of the year. Aldridge and the Blazers alike both tailed off after a super-fast and super-surprising 26-7 start to the regular season that turned a bunch of heads and made me actually consider moving to Portland someday. Well heads are turned back to their normal positions and I’m more into the Seattle scene than Portland—pending a SuperSonics return in the foreseeable future—but that shouldn’t be enough to keep Aldridge out of the discussion. As late as mid-February I would’ve thrown Aldridge in the top five based on the best player on the best team clause (at the time Portland was arguably a top five team in the league, a belief that has obviously changed since), his MVP caliber numbers (24/11/47% FG at the All-Star Break) and a decent sampling of noteworthy games against noteworthy opponents (he absolutely took it to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Indiana in the 1st half of the season). Even after the Blazers leveled off, Aldridge was still putting up numbers during the second half of the season that were better than his career average, so that drop shouldn’t be made out to be so drastic.
Kawhi Leonard- 12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 52% FG, 38% 3PT, 80% FT
A twenty game win streak can’t go unnoticed, and the best team in the regular season can’t fail to produce someone for the MVP discussion. The only problem is who to choose. The Spurs are so balanced in every way possible, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly who should be getting the credit and how much they should be getting. I asked my cousin and resident San Antonio Spurs expert Gianni Zambito his thoughts on who the Spurs MVP representative should be:
“I would have to say Kawhi is the Spurs MVP. He is by far their most irreplaceable player. Their record with him this year is 52-11 and they are only 8-7 without him. I’d probably have him ranked anywhere from 15-25 or so. No Spurs player should be in the top ten in my opinion.”
That’s all I needed to hear.
Make sure to check back tomorrow for Sonny’s top ten MVP countdown.