During the All-Star break is the perfect time to begin to speculate about which player will take home the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, with almost 70 percent of the regular season has been played.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
There are two frontrunners for the award, favored in NBA odds, and this is one of them. You could put James Harden in the top spot just as easily as Curry, but Curry gets the nod because Golden State is a first-place team in its conference. That is going to count for something if it holds up over the remainder of the regular season. Curry is not a top-five scorer in the league, but this is partly by choice and partly the result of Klay Thompson being such a devastating shooter in his own right, someone who is going to get plenty of looks with Curry drawing attention from opposing defenders at the point. Curry is still the league leader in steals per game with 2.16. He is fifth in the league in assists with 7.9 per game, a testament to his unselfish play and a willingness to get everyone involved on the Warriors. People around the league, especially those who vote on the award, can see that Curry makes Golden State what it is. Without him, the Warriors wouldn’t have their central nervous system on the court to make everything else hum along.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets
It is true that Curry is a great team player who is helping others, but Harden is the most brilliant individual performer on any team in the league. He is carrying the Houston Rockets, and what has to be pointed out is that Houston is doing fairly well in the West despite not having Chandler Parsons on the roster anymore, not having Chris Bosh (the piece that was seen as necessary for Houston to become a contender), and not having a healthy Dwight Howard for much of the season. Howard has missed several weeks with injuries and is going to be out a few more after the All-Star break. Harden is averaging 27.4 points per game. He’s averaging two steals per game and playing much better defense than he did a year ago. He is making huge contributions to the Rockets, who might not be a playoff team without him. That’s a lot to acknowledge.
3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The point to emphasize here is that when Davis gets hurt (and he’s missed a few games here or there), the Pelicans have gotten drilled. A recent blowout loss at home to the Chicago Bulls was one such instance. The team collapsed after he left the game with a shoulder injury. He’s averaging 24.5 points and a league-leading 2.74 blocks. He could gain consideration if the Pelicans make the playoffs in the West.
4. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
This is a candidacy which demands that Cleveland rises to at least second place in the East. If the Cavs can do that, LeBron – averaging 25.9 points, second in the league behind Harden – could pick up momentum based on name recognition. Otherwise, it’s a Curry-Harden race with Davis as a wild card.
5. Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
It is hard to ignore how reborn a player Gasol has been in Chicago. He’s fourth in the league in rebounds with 12.1 per game. He’s fifth in blocked shots at 2.1 per game. He’s been exceptionally good in Chicago. If the Bulls finish second in the East, he could sneak in at the end.