By this point in the NBA season, the easiest way to tell who’s vying for the 2015 NBA MVP trophy is to watch for the “M-V-P” cheers from the crowd whenever a given player heads to the free throw line. By definition, the most valuable player will rise to the occasion to score, rebound, pass, and defend, leading his team to victory, and the best candidates have clearly separated themselves from the pack. The top 5 candidates for 2015 NBA MVP have each blended spectacular individual talents alongside natural born leadership and the will to win.
5. LeBron James
Long a member of the Michael Jordan zone, LeBron has reached that echelon where a strong case may be made for him to claim the MVP award every single year. At this point, it’s almost reductive: King James has packaged the court vision and agility of Magic Johnson with the body of Karl Malone. His four MVP trophies seem almost mundane, as do his career averages of 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game.
With a rested LeBron James back at the helm, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now playing their best ball heading into the postseason, and have emerged as the leading championship contenders out of the East. For his part, James is putting up 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists per game this season. Earlier this year, LeBron notched his 6,136th assist, rising above Scottie Pippen in his argument for being a great passing forward.
4. Anthony Davis
Last summer, Anthony Davis put the world on notice. For many, Davis’s dominance as the starting center for team USA vaulted him to the third best player in the NBA, behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. To take things further, University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari has already declared that Davis will emerge as the best player in the NBA within 5 short years.
At 21, The Brow has arguably grabbed the torch from both Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan to emerge as the most skilled big man in the game of basketball. Davis has dramatically improved his statistics in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, with every passing season. This year, Davis is filling up the stat sheet for 25 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal per game.
Davis is a complete player, who can turn and face, knock down mid-range jump shots, or even drive the lane to throw down tomahawk jams. The New Orleans Pelicans, however, are three games out of the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference. Davis will likely miss out on the MVP award if he fails to vault his Pelicans above both the Phoenix Suns and the Oklahoma City Thunder for that final eighth seed.
3. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook has been unleashed this season, with teammates Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka remaining largely sidelined and shut down by a series of nagging injuries. Westbrook did put the League on notice during All-Star weekend, when he blitzed the Eastern Conference for 41 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals, and claimed MVP honors during this showcase game.
On the season, Westbrook is averaging 28 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals per game. At point guard, Westbrook is leading the league in scoring, and closing in on one of the best individual seasons in the history of the game. A workhorse, Westbrook is likely to finish out this year with more than 10 triple doubles, despite missing 15 games of action with a facial fracture and broken hand.
At 40-30, Russell Westbrook has OKC all but locked into the eighth and final spot within the Western Conference Playoffs. Despite this low seeding, the Thunder must still be taken seriously as a dangerous match-up and possibly, a championship contender.
2. Stephen Curry
Curry will earn MVP votes for starring as the best player on the best team in the NBA. At 57-13, the Golden State Warriors are 4 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks for the best record in the NBA. With 12 games to go in the regular season, the Warriors are also 7.5 games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies for the top seed in the West and home court advantage through the playoffs.
The face of a Bay Area hoops resurgence and offensive juggernaut that leads the NBA at 110 points per game, Curry is deceptively fast and will often showcase an array of moves upon moves in isolation. Using a lethal step-back jumper as a go-to move, where he will jab step and feint a hard drive into the lane, before crossing back over and draining a jumper from the outside. The reigning three-point champion is knocking down 42% of his three-point attempts this season, as well as hitting his free throws at a league leading 91% clip.
1. James Harden
James Harden has quietly emerged as the most prolific two guard in the West, with an aging and oft-injured Kobe Bryant on his last legs in L.A. This season, The Beard has lit up the league for 27 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game. As a scoring machine and crafty player, Harden often makes it look easy, with his smooth ball handling and mid-range game. In isolation, Harden often relies upon an in-and-out dribble, to keep defenders off balance, drive into the paint for easy lay-ins, and draw fouls. If defenders sag off and pack into the paint, he will casually step back behind the arc and nail a dagger three.
The Houston Rockets are within striking distance of the second seed within the top-heavy West. Harden has had to put the Rockets on his back, with big man Dwight Howard wearing a suit and posted up at the end of the bench through the majority of this season.
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