With all due respect to Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, I don’t think either of them are one of the top six players in the 2016-17 NBA MVP race! Durant was hurt for a large chunk of the year and Curry was not quite as good as a second fiddle for the Warriors. Here is a look at who I would vote for in order for the 2016-17 MVP Award:
James Harden, Houston Rockets – When Mike D’Antoni was named the head coach of the Houston Rockets, the first thing he wanted to do was get the ball in the hands of the best player on his team as much as possible. Harden is listed still as a shooting guard, but he’s playing the point. Harden played in 81 games (all starts) this year for the Rockets and he averaged 36.4 minutes, 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, an NBA-leading 11.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Harden, like Westbrook, didn’t shoot too well from the floor this year as he only hit 44.0% from the floor and 34.7% from the three point line. But, Harden is super aggressive with the ball in his hands and he has no fear of driving to the basket. He averaged an NBA-leading 10.9 free throw attempts per game this year and he made 84.7% of them. Harden had 64 double-doubles and 22 triple-doubles this year. The Rockets are sitting pretty at 55-27 on the season, and they will be the #3 seed in the Western Conference when the playoffs start this weekend.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs – 25-year old small forward Kawhi Leonard brings it at both ends of the basketball court for the San Antonio Spurs. Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich has been gradually giving Leonard a bigger role on offense each year, and he has taken his game to a higher level on that side of the court in 2016-17. Leonard played in 74 games (all starts) for the Spurs this year and he averaged 33.4 minutes, 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Leonard is a very efficient shooter as he hit 48.5% from the floor, 38.1% from the free throw line and 88.0% from the free throw line this year. Leonard had 9 double doubles and no triple doubles this year, but part of the reason for that is because he uses a ton of effort on the defensive side of the court, where he is one of the best in the NBA!
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks – No NBA player in the history of the league as finished in the Top 15 in scoring average, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game and blocked shots per game…..until now! 22-year old Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 6’11” freak of nature, as he can do it all on the basketball court. He could play any of the five positions on the court for Bucks’ head coach Jason Kidd. He played in 80 games (all starts) this year for the Bucks and he averaged 35.6 minutes, 8.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.9 blocked shots per game! Antetokounmpo shot 52.2% from the floor and 77% from the free throw line this year. But, he only shot 27.2% from the three point line this year, which is nitpicking at best. He had 32 double-doubles and 3 triple-doubles this year for the Bucks. The Bucks were 42-40 on the year and they are going to the playoffs, thanks to Antetokounmpo! The scary thing for the rest of the NBA is that he is only 22 years old!
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics – 28-year old Isaiah Thomas has an amazing backstory. He was taken with the last pick (#60 overall, 2nd round) by the Sacramento Kings in the 2011 NBA Draft. He was a solid player for the Kings for three years and a partial season for the Suns, but his true breakout came when he was dealt with the Boston Celtics as part of a three-team deal involving the Suns and Pistons on February 19th, 2015. Since coming to Boston, Thomas has been an All-Star in both seasons with the team. He played in 76 games (all starts) for the Celtics this year and he averaged 33.8 minutes, 28.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He is a very efficient shooter from everywhere on the court, as he hit 46.3% from the floor, 37.9% from the three point line and 90.9% from the free throw line this year. Thomas might only be 5’9″ and weigh 185 pounds, but he is the biggest reason why the Celtics had the best record in the Eastern Conference at 53-29!