The last 11 NBA MVP’s have been perimeter oriented scorers. The league now revolves around versatile and lengthy two-way guards or wing players who can both score at a high-level every night, as well as providing a defensive toughness that is sometimes lost in the current game play of the NBA.
Paul George is hoping to become that 12th perimeter player to win MVP.
After re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason for upwards of $130 million, a lot was expected of the 28-year-old California native. Most people around the league assumed it would take a combination of both Russell Westbrook, who won the MVP award just two seasons ago, and George leading the team in order to finally top the Golden State Warriors on the way to an NBA Finals appearance.
Westbrook, however, is averaging just over 21 points per game while having his worst field goal percentage and worst three-point percentage since his sophomore year in the league. PG has undoubtedly picked up the slack for Westbrook. He’s averaging 27 points with a shooting clip of 44.4 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three-point range.
The Thunder (29-18) are the third seed in the Western Conference due to George’s effort on both ends of the court. He has led OKC in scoring in 27 games this season while averaging just over two steals per game. George is undoubtedly one of the best two-way wing players in the NBA.
However, for the MVP, PG13 has some stiff competition in the way of what would be the first of his career. It seems as if there’s just too much superstar talent in the way of his MVP attempt.
The Young Buck
One of those elite two-way players is “The Greek Freak.” The 24-year-old is having his best season so far averaging 26.5 points with over 12 rebounds per game, all while shooting over 57 percent from the field.
While his perimeter game clearly has to improve, “The Greek Freak” is also averaging over a steal and block per game. Giannis is leading the Bucks in points, rebounds, and dimes. Not to mention his Bucks are pushing for the top seed out East.
There have been just 12 players to win back-to-back MVPs, the latest being Steph Curry in 2015 and 2016. Harden may be lucky number 13 with the tremendous year he’s having.
Harden’s MVP campaign last season was backed by 30.4 points per game while also leading the team in assists. He is possibly having an even better season this year. “The Beard” currently leads the league in scoring with 36.3 points. He is still good for eight assists too.
Midway through December, the Rockets were barely holding on to the 8th seed in the West. They even lost Chris Paul. Many fans and pundits thought the Rockets season was lost.
Since then, Harden has led Houston to an 11-5 record and just a few games back of a top three seed. To get an even clearer picture of how astonishing Harden’s offensive talent has been this year, here’s a look at his scoring totals in the last five games: 57, 58, 48, 37, and 61. His 61 points versus the Knicks tied Kobe Bryant’s record for most points scored by an opponent in the historic Madison Square Garden.
Harden is undoubtedly showing a strong case for back-to-back MVP awards.
Not 1, Not 2, But 3
Lastly stands Steph Curry. Putting aside his always impressive and now almost mundane stat line, is the fact that the Golden State Warriors, without Curry on the court, are not as menacing.
During the Warrior’s 11-game stretch without Curry, Golden State had an abysmal 6-5 record with grumblings of team dissent between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Since Curry’s return, the Warriors are back to their winning ways boasting an 24-12 record, 34-14 overall.
Not to mention, Steph is averaging 29 points per game this season, currently leading Golden State to the best record in the Western Conference. It’s clear that no matter how much star power the Warriors have with KD, Dray, and now Demarcus Cousins the Warriors are captained by Curry. This is truly a terrifying Golden State Warriors team.
In the End…
While Paul George is no doubt having the best season in his young career, the current MVP race seems just too top heavy with superstars. With players like Harden and Antetokounmpo leading teams without true depth and talent, a player like George has much more to overcome in order to stand out. After all, he is playing with a guy who won MVP in Westbrook.