Sports Gazette NBA Writers Poll 17/18 Part 6: Most Valuable Player
With the start of the NBA regular season on the horizon, the writers of the Sports Gazette have come together to provide their thoughts on the season to come. In part 6, we decide who we believe will win the Most Valuable Player award in 2017/18.
1. Russell Westbrook (3pts)
2. Lebron James (2pts)
3. Kawhi Leonard (1pt)
Most of my predictions fall down if the Thunder’s new big three don't gel as well as they should, and especially this one. People are expecting Westbrook to be less relevant in the MVP conversation because his numbers will go down with the addition of George and Anthony. I’m backing the opposite to happen.
Okay, so he won't post a season long triple double again - that was just insane - but the Thunder should close out more tight games, and with less of an onus to take the final shot every night Westbrook should thrive.
1. Russell Westbrook (3pts)
2. Kawhi Leonard (2pts)
3. LeBron James (1pt)
The argument against Westbrook winning the MVP for the second successive season is that he has more players around him that will take away the opportunities for him to push the ball alone. However, only he and Oscar Robertson have averaged a triple-double over a whole season. Those are some crazy stats!
He’s playing his best ball of his career and even though Paul George and Melo will take some of the shots away from him, their mere presence on the court will give defences more problems, which will free up Russ.
Leonard has shouldered the load of the San Antonio Spurs organisation since age and retirement brought an end the “Big Three” of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. He is in a similar situation to Westbrook last year - the offence will run through him alone giving him a good shot at this award. LeBron is the best player in the league but the MVP in the NBA is awarded to the player who had the best single season (as it should be) which is why he doesn’t have eight MVP titles.
1. Kawhi Leonard (3pts)
2. LeBron James (2pts)
3. Russell Westbrook (1pt)
If the MVP award was given to the world’s best player, then LeBron James would have over seven trophies in his home - in the NBA that is not the case however. Last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook will struggle to retain his title since his team will now boast superstars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony so his stats will go down a bit. Team additions will also hurt the chances of James Harden and LeBron James.
The Spurs were relatively quiet this offseason, which means Kawhi will carry the burden the whole year. If Leonard can have the type of season he had last year again, then he will be a favourite for this award. Quite simply, it is also his turn.
1. LeBron James (3pts)
2. Kevin Durant (2pts)
3. Kyrie Irving (1pt)
Credit to Russell Westbrook for exploiting the system and being really, really good last year. His MVP award was deserved. But now that we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming, this award should be LeBron James’ to lose.
This might be the Cavaliers’ last season in their championship window, and that is entirely down to the fact that LeBron James has a player option in his contract for the 2018-19 season. If he stays, the Cavaliers and Celtics battle it out for another year.. If he goes, Cleveland will be done competing for the foreseeable future. LeBron’s new team would then become a favourite to either win the East, or challenge the Warriors in the West. It all hinges on “The Decision 3.0”, just as much of the NBA narrative has been reliant on his decisions over much of his career.
In the context of the 2017-18 season, knowing that this could be the end of his time in Cleveland, LeBron will continue in his role as the most consummate professional in the league, and put up another season’s worth of spectacular numbers. If he leaves, he will have given everything to his city and team, and should make a strong case for the MVP award in the process.
1. James Harden (3pts)
2. Kyrie Irving (2pts)
3. Kawhi Leonard (1pt)
Chris Pauls move to the Rockets could do wonders for James Harden this season. Having narrowly missed out on the previous two MVP awards, he finally has a 1a to his 1, and with his on the ball usage obviously due to take a dip, he can play more efficiently off the ball. Indeed, he is safe in the knowledge that he is playing alongside the best distributor in the league over the last decade.
Thereafter, I think Kyrie Irving will benefit not only from finally leading his own team, but also from playing in the awful Eastern Conference. Playing against weaker opponents on a nightly basis and with the ball firmly in his court, I expect an explosion.
Finally, I feel that Kawhi Leonard will be forced to shoulder a lot of the load for his Spurs squad, if they are to maintain a seeding of four or above. Injury permitting, he could be on for a sensational season.
1st - Lebron James (8pts)
2nd - Russell Westbrook & Kawhi Leonard (7pts)