The NBA MVP winner is often a foregone conclusion with a few weeks left in the regular season, but that certainly isn’t the case this year. In one of the most exciting MVP races in league history, several players are in contention to win the award.
A strong case can be made for five candidates that stand out among the rest. The best player on the league’s top team, the NBA’s leading scorer and the best big man in basketball are all possibilities.
Who is the favorite with the playoffs just a month away? All betting odds are courtesy of paddypower.com.
Stephen Curry (8/15)
Curry has the best chance of winning the award for the first time. Not only is Curry expected to win the award, but he’s the odds-on favorite to finish in first place in MVP voting. The point guard is the best player on the best team, giving him a strong edge over all the other candidates. With 15 games remaining, the Warriors are on pace to win 66 games. Of the 16 NBA teams that have ever won 65 games in a season, 12 have had that season’s MVP winner.
Curry is averaging 23.4 points and 7.9 assists per game, ranking him in the top seven in both categories. While the team have several good players, Golden State would not be nearly as good without Curry. Overall, the team has an offensive rating of 109.2 and a defensive rating of 97.6. With Curry on the court, the team’s net rating increases from 11.6 to a 17.2. He also leads the league with a real plus-minus of 8.9. The Warriors have been so far and away the best team in a strong Western Conference, ranking first in offensive and defensive efficiency, that it will be difficult for many not to give Curry the award.
James Harden (11/5)
Harden isn’t the likely candidate to win, but he continues to gain steam in the final weeks of the regular season. The Houston Rockets have missed Dwight Howard for more than half of the season, and because Harden has been so good, the Rockets have managed to grab the No.3 seed in the West. With 14 games remaining, Houston has a chance to finish with the conference’s second-best record, in large part because of the shooting guard. In the one game that Harden didn’t play, the Rockets lost by eight points.
His most recent performance was one of the most impressive this season, as Harden scored 50 points on 27 shot attempts, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Each night, he puts up points in an incredibly efficient manner, having made 150 more free throws than the No.2 player in the NBA. Harden does it all, filling up the stat sheet with 27.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. If the Rockets continue to win, he’ll have a chance to steal the MVP.
Russell Westbrook (23/10)
Battling injuries for much of the year, Westbrook has taken the NBA by storm in 2015. He’s put up historical numbers, nearly averaging a triple-double in February and averaging 33.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game in March. Kevin Durant has only played 27 games this year, and Westbrook still has the Thunder in the playoffs.
Westbrook has been asked to do more than any player this season. On a team that is lacking in offensive playmakers, the point guard has willed Oklahoma City to the No.8 seed in the West. He’s responsible for nearly 27 percent of the team’s points and 41 percent of their assists. But there’s still a chance the Thunder won’t be playing in the postseason, and if that happens, he has almost no chance to be named the MVP.
LeBron James (7/2)
James hasn’t finished worse than third in the MVP voting since 2008, but that could be where he is headed in 2015. The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been as good as Golden State or Houston, and James got off to a slower start than usual. James has also won the award four times, and in such a close race, voters aren’t likely to give him the edge.
With a month left in the season, however, there is still time for James to make up some ground. Since his return from injury a little more than two months ago, James has helped the Cavs play better than any team in the NBA. He continues to put up MVP-caliber numbers (25.8, 5.7, 7.4), and he’s shooting 49 percent from the field. James has led Cleveland to recent wins over Golden State and San Antonio, and a few more performances like that will help his case.
Anthony Davis (60/1)
For much of the season, the MVP race was considered a four-man race. A player that doesn’t lead his team to the postseason has little to no chance of winning the award, and it had been assumed that the New Orleans Pelicans would be watching the playoffs from home. But the stellar play of Davis, along with Durant’s injury, has given New Orleans a real chance to take hold of the No.8 seed by the end of the regular season.
Davis might be putting up the most impressive statistics of any player this season. He leads the league in PER (31.4), posting 24.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per contest. Davis is one of the best defensive players in basketball, and he doesn’t have the luxury of playing alongside other above-average defenders. He remains a longshot to win the award, but the Pelicans are just one game behind the Thunder, and a postseason berth would strengthen the big man’s case.