And the MVP goes to…

As presidential hopefuls begin to announce their candidacy, I am reminded of another American voting process, one with a history of equal inadequacy and crooked campaigning: the National Basketball Association’s most valuable player award.

All who play the fine sport of basketball covet the MVP award… unless they do not win it. Then, oddly enough, they have no interest in winning, and they think the voters know nothing about basketball. Even stranger though, is how emotional and full of joy they get, if they do win it later, as if they wanted it all along, really super bad, and were acting like they did not care as a defense mechanism.

NBA players dislike the fact that journalists have the power to determine whether or not they are the most valuable athlete in the NBA. I guess they would prefer to vote on it themselves. Seeing that they would all vote for themselves, that is probably not working out. So here we are, and here they are, the candidates for the 2014-15 NBA MVP.

The Front Runner

Stephen Curry is hard to describe. Here is the only way to get an idea of what it’s like to shoot the ball like Curry: stand on a boat or a bridge or a dock with a handful of rocks and throw them in the water.

In what seems like a routine fashion at this point, Curry has established himself as the best and purest shooter in the entire world and is quickly forcing, or shooting, his way into the discussion for best of all time. He won the all-star game three-point contest against a field of the best shooters in the league and proceeded to break the single season three-point mark—a record he set last season.

What makes Curry this years MVP front-runner is not his shooting though, we have been seeing that for years. It’s the improvements to his defense that has him leading the pack.

The Warriors used to find ways to hide Curry on defense, making him less of a liability. His perimeter defensive was bad; Curry understood this, and with the help of the Warriors’ newly acquired coach Steve Kerr, he decided to make defense a priority.

While his teammates Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut are both front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year, and get recognized as the defensive force for the Warriors, and rightfully so, Curry’s improved defense is the final piece to what could be a championship team.

Furthermore, Curry has one thing none of the other candidates have. His team is the best in the league. In the past, being the best player, on the best team, has proven valuable when a vote is this close.

The Front-ish Runner

Talking about bad defense leads me to James Harden. Since coming into the league, Harden’s lack of awareness, coupled with his complete lack of effort at times, made him the single most one-dimensional element of the NBA since his teammate Dwight Howard’s offensive repertoire.

Like Curry though, James improved his defensive in the off-season. He is now a below-average NBA defender.

What makes Harden’s case for MVP, is just that; his value. Harden has the Rockets in second place in the Western Conference. A conference so much better than the Eastern Conference is like comparing the greatness of Saved by the Bell or Boy Meets World with anything on TV today. It is just not fair.

Harden’s value to his team is on full display every night as he plays almost the entire game and he has the ball in his hands more than anyone. His opposition knows, without a doubt, that the offense runs through him. No one can stop him.

The Sleeper

“The Sleeper” is actually a better description for anyone who tries to guard Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook had a historical year as he tried to fill the void that last year’s MVP, Kevin Durant, left when he got injured earlier this year. Westbrook has been criticized throughout his career for shooting too much and not fulfilling the classical point guard style. But with last year’s MVP out, he has had no pressure to share the ball. This led to Westbrook leading the league in scoring, second in steals, third in assists and led all guards in rebounding. Many of these statistics came in the form of triple doubles: 11 to be exact.

Westbrook was arguably the best, and definitely the most fun, player in the league this year, but he will not win the MVP.

In one of the tightest playoff chases the league has seen in awhile, the Pelicans took the eighth and final spot in the western conference from the Thunder, by just a one game margin. MVP winners are in the playoffs.

The Actual Most Valuable Player

Remember that Michael Jordan guy? Well… surprisingly enough, he didn’t win the MVP award every year he was dominating in the late 80s and 90s. He won the elusive award five times, but there were two years when his Chicago Bulls won the NBA championship, but he lost the award to Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. Yes, they both may have had better years statistically, but were they actually the most valuable player in the NBA? No.

I have given this brief history lesson to exemplify the fact that the most valuable player doesn’t always win the award. In this same manner, LeBron James is currently the most valuable basketball player in the world, and he has been for the last seven years, but has lost the MVP award twice during that time, and will not win this year either.

But who wants to call it the “ The-Exciting-New-Player-Who-Hasn’t-Won-an-MVP-Yet” award?

What Harden has done is truly MVP worthy, keeping the Rockets near the top of the Western Conference despite all their injuries. But his numbers are not so good that they blow Curry, who has led his team to not only the best record in the NBA, but one of the best seasons in NBA history, out of MVP contention. Curry might have more talent around him than Harden does, but his supporting cast would not have looked as good, without Curry drawing the defensive attention he does by being able to hit a shot anytime he’s within sight of the arena.

The voting will be very close; beware of hanging chads.

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