As the NBA All-Star Break approaches many players have cemented themselves as legitimate MVP candidates. Other players are new to the conversation. And some players have completely fallen out of the MVP race since the beginning of the season, including Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard. With that said, let’s take a look at five mid-season MVP candidates.
5 – DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
DeRozan was quite possibly the hottest player in the league earlier in the year. He was scoring 30 on a nightly basis. Even though he has slowed down a bit, DeMar is still averaging just under 28 points a game. One reason DeRozan is different from everyone else on this list is that he is the only one who does not shoot many threes. He can make them, but he mostly relies on his deadly mid-range jumper. The entire league seems to be gravitating towards the three point shot and the fact that DeRozan has kept himself in the MVP conversation despite being a completely different kind of player deserves some recognition. The one thing he’s got going against him is that the Raptors have fallen to third place in the conference. If he wants to win the MVP then he needs to find a way to get them back in second place.
4 – Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant made headlines last off-season when he made the controversial decision to sign with the Warriors. Some thought that his scoring numbers would take a massive hit playing on an already stacked team, but Durant has still found a way to average 26 points per game. Even though he has become one of the most disliked players in the league he has almost enjoyed the criticism and used it as fuel to play even better. One of his best arguments for MVP is that he has become more than a scorer for the Warriors. Durant has more than filled the void left by Andrew Bogut averaging 8 rebounds and almost 2 blocks a game. The final nail in the coffin for anyone else trying to enter this race is that Durant has led the Warriors to a 43 and 7 record, best in the entire league. If Durant was the number one option on another team he would most definitely be the MVP. The fact that he’s on the same team as Steph Curry and is still in the conversation is truly incredible.
3 – James Harden, Houston Rockets
Harden has absolutely dominated so far this season averaging 28 points a game making him the league’s third highest scorer. He has had six 40 point outings so far with two 50 point games. On top of this he is only two assists away from averaging a triple-double and he has improved his defense enough to average a steal a game. Perhaps the most impressive yet is that he has taken the Rockets, who were an eighth seed last year, and made them the third best team in the western conference. He also has 14 triple-doubles which shows what an all around player he really is. For Harden to win the MVP he needs to prove that Houston is an elite team that can beat the best in both conferences. It is extremely rare for someone to win the MVP who is not on a one or two seeded team. James needs to improve the Rockets record enough to pass the Spurs and take the second seed. If he can accomplish this then he will receive a lot more MVP votes.
2 – Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
Isaiah is possibly the most surprising player on this list considering his height of 5’9″ doesn’t exactly scream MVP. But don’t be fooled by his size because this very well might be the best player under six foot tall of all time. Mr Fourth Quarter, as he has been nicknamed, is the second highest scorer in the league averaging 29.7 points and 6 assists a game. He is shooting a very good 46% from the field and is also one of the best free throw shooters in the league shooting 91% on the season. All last season, critics continued to rant about how Boston needed a star. It seems like Isaiah heard them and now he’s living up to that title. He has been a huge part in helping the Celtics turn their season around after a rocky start and now they are the second seed in the east. If they keep this up then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make the conference finals. Isaiah’s only downside is his defense. He’s not a bad defender, but his height disadvantage can hurt him on that end of the floor. If he can evolve into a pesky defender that gets steals despite his size then I personally think he will be a shoe-in for the MVP award.
1 – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook may be the obvious choice for the number one spot on this list, but it is surprising considering where the Thunder are at in the standings. As of now, they are the 7th seed in the west. It would take a miracle for a player on a 7th seeded team to win MVP, but Westbrook has performed so unbelievably well it seems almost inevitable. Let’s take a look at the numbers. First, Westbrook is leading the league in scoring averaging over 30 points a game. Not to mention that he might become the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in the 1962 season. Even though they are the 7th seed, that is above and beyond expectations after the departure of Kevin Durant in the off-season. Westbrook has carried the team this far and if they want to continue their success then he will be responsible for getting them there. The numbers he is putting up every night, plus the fact that they are outperforming expectations, makes Russell Westbrook my number one choice for the league’s MVP.
The landscape of the NBA is constantly changing due to injuries, trades, and team chemistry. But if the season ended today, then these five players would definitely be my top picks for the MVP award.