The Most Valuable Player award is the most prestigious award the NBA has to offer. The award is given to a player who is most valuable to his team or puts up statistics that can’t be ignored and must be rewarded. Without these MVP-contenders, their team may turn into some of the worst in the entire league. There are a few familiar faces in the race for MVP this season, but also some new players who are thriving this season and are being recognized. It’s only three months into the season, so take this list with a grain of salt. Some of these players may continue to be candidates for the remainder of the season, or some may fall off completely, and people will forget they were an MVP candidate to even begin with. Before that happens, let me tell you who I think are the top-5 candidates for the MVP award right now.
1. James Harden
Let’s all be real here; James Harden is due for an MVP award. For years now he’s been snubbed as league MVP. Not to say the other players who won the award over him weren’t deserving, but Harden has had strong cases to win the award on multiple occasions. This season should be different. This season should be James Harden’s season. So far this season, he’s posting ridiculous numbers of nearly 32 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds a game. Harden is also having a career year with his shooting percentages. Shooting 44% from the field is the third highest percentage in his career. He’s also shooting 39% from three, which is the second-highest percentage in his career.
With Chris Paul by his side, the Rockets are showing the league that they’re legit threats to the reigning NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors. If the Rockets keep up their success, there should be no reason why James Harden gets snubbed from winning his first MVP award again.
2. Kyrie Irving
Here’s where people may start to disagree. Kyrie Irving has never been a real MVP candidate before in his young career. Playing alongside LeBron James before coming to Boston limited him from being a contender for awards like this. Kyrie Iring isn’t putting up career numbers. In fact, he’s actually averaging a whole point and nearly a full assist less compared to his last season in Cleveland. But the MVP award isn’t just for players who put up ridiculous stats. In reality, the MVP award should be given to a player who helps makes his team successful and truly is “valuable” to his team. Without Kyrie Irving this season, the Celtics wouldn’t be the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. I’d actually find it hard seeing this team being in the playoffs without Kyrie. I understand the Celtics have Gordon Hayward on the sidelines, but I’m talking about this season and this season only. This season Kyrie has been the reason why the Celtics have been so successful despite their second best player being injured and two of their starters being 21 or younger. Al Horford deserves an unbelievable amount of credit too, but without Kyrie, Horford can’t lead the Celtics to be as successful as they are now.
If the Celtics continue to be the top dogs in the Eastern Conference, it’ll be hard to ignore Kyrie Irving and his case to win his first MVP award. The way he’s thrived in a new environment and without the best player in the world by his side, he’s done well for himself. Consider this season the first of many where Kyrie Irving’s name will be brought up in MVP conversations.
3. LeBron James
It’s a given that every year LeBron James is a candidate for MVP. LeBron is a four-time MVP winner and has arguably been the best player in the NBA over the past decade. Realistically, LeBron should be a five or six time MVP award winner, but like Harden, players get snubbed. Even in his 15th season, he continues to evolve his game. His shooting stats are near career-highs. LeBron is shooting 55% from the field, which would be the third-highest percentage in his career, as well as shooting 37% from three, which is also the third-highest percentage in his career. Not only is he shooting well for himself, but he’s also continuing to show off his impressive playmaking abilities. He’s tied for his career-high in assists (8.7) while still averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds a game.
There’s no denying that the Cavaliers wouldn’t be relevant without LeBron. Yes, it’s the truth, and maybe it’s the hard truth for some people reading this. Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas may be able to help grind the Cavaliers into the playoffs, but wouldn’t do much when there. LeBron James is the Cleveland Cavaliers and everything runs through him. He makes everyone around him better and is the definition of an MVP. He’s the most valuable player on his team and quite possibly the league.
4. Stephen Curry
Steph Curry makes this list for me not because he’s putting up crazy stats. Steph Curry isn’t on this list because he’s the reason his team has the best record in the NBA and are defending champions. Steph Curry is on this list simply because he’s a top-5 player in the NBA and deserves to be recognized for that. I’d make the case that he’s the best point guard in the NBA. There are some things that he does on the court that shouldn’t be done. He does things that make fans’ jaws drop and leave people in awe over what they had just seen. The scoring performances he puts up and the swagger he brings to the court is unmatched. He puts on a show and everybody wants to watch what Steph Curry will do when he’s playing.
Realistically, the Warriors would still be dominant without Curry. Same could be said about Kevin Durant. I mean, they did win 73 games before KD game to Golden State. Steph Curry may not be as valuable to his team as these other candidates are, but he’s still one of the best players in the league and a former two-time MVP winner. You have to give credit where credit is due. Plus, he’s still putting up close to 28 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds a game while almost averaging 50/40/90. Those are insane numbers, and Steph Curry should be credited for what he’s been doing this season.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
I’ll just state the obvious and get it out of the way; Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freak of nature. He just turned 23 years old and is averaging a little over 28 points and 10 rebounds per game, while also dishing out nearly five assists a game. He’s a freak athlete and is unstoppable. There really isn’t much more I can say about that. Without Giannis, the Bucks would be as good as trash. The Bucks are an average team with Giannis, but without him, they’d be at the bottom of the barrel. Granted Jabari Parker is still out, but they still wouldn’t be special if he was healthy and Giannis wasn’t there.
Giannis is destined to be the best player in the league by the time LeBron walks away from the NBA. He’s the third-best small forward in the NBA behind LeBron and Kevin Durant. Giannis should scare a lot of teams not only now, but for many years to come. He’s only getting better and he’s only 23. He’s putting up numbers like that, and he’s ONLY 23?! He has a bright future ahead of him, and we are just seeing the beginning of Giannis’ reign of terror in the NBA.
Some players that were left off this list that deserve to be credited are Demar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jimmy Butler. Remember, this is my top-5 rankings of MVP candidates. Everybody will have their own thoughts and opinions. These are mine. Let’s see if this list of players continue to have the dominant seasons they’re currently having.