You know how you can tell Anthony Davis is a good egg? Given the chance to name himself as the person he’d vote for as the NBA’s 2015 Most Valuable Player — a case that’s certainly got its merits, what with the league-leading Player Efficiency Rating that’s tied for the ninth-best ever, the insane “clutch” numbers, the elite shot-blocking and top-notch rim protection, the fact that the only two bigs in NBA history this productive this young were Shaq and Bob McAdoo, and so on — he didn’t do it. (What a nice young man.)
Instead, during a Monday visit to “The Dan Patrick Show,” the New Orleans Pelicans big man cast his hypothetical MVP ballot for Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden.
“You know, it’s tough,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of guys playing out of their minds. James Harden, Russ[ell Westbrook], Steph[en Curry], you know, LeBron [James]. But … [long pause] I mean, James Harden. It’d probably have to be James. He’s out of his mind. He’s definitely playing out of his mind. We talk about this with my team every day. Like, every day.”
Davis gave Harden his nod due in large part to the burden the bearded playmaker has had to carry in propelling the Rockets to a 50-24 record despite the laundry list of injuries that Houston has suffered this season, headlined by the right knee injury that has limited star center Dwight Howard to just 35 games this season.
“I think, with him not having Dwight for as long as he did, he’s still competing, still winning games for them,” Davis said. “It’s unreal. We kind of say, you take one player out of each team and see who would have the most effect [to figure out] who would be MVP. I think just the way James is playing, I think he’d definitely get his way.”
Not that it’s an easy decision, of course.
Stephen Curry continues to stand out as the best player on not only the best team in basketball, but a historically good Golden State Warriors squad that ranks first in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and is outscoring its opposition by nearly twice as much as the next-closest contender. (Plus, he’s killing teams early enough to make fourth-quarter numbers sort of meaningless.)
Russell Westbrook puts up regular triple-doubles and has averaged just under 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds per game over the past two months for an Oklahoma City Thunder team that’s been even more beset by injuries than Harden’s Rockets and still has to fight tooth and nail just to scrape its way into a playoff spot.
There are a bunch of worthy candidates, all of whom merit serious consideration, as Davis understands.
“It’s tough,” Davis repeated. “It’s going to be great to see who gets it. All three guys — James, Steph and Russ — are playing out of their minds right now. Especially Russ.”
And that doesn’t even factor in two veteran regulars in the MVP chase who’ve got great arguments, too. LeBron James ranks third in the league in scoring, seventh in assists and fifth in PER; the Cleveland Cavaliers are 46-18 with him in the lineup and 2-9 without him. Chris Paul leads one of the NBA’s two-best offenses, might be the league’s best perimeter defender, carried the Los Angeles Clippers through five weeks without Blake Griffin, and has scarcely gotten any recognition for it. And Davis himself, as noted above, is having one of the most remarkable individual campaigns for a man of his size and age ever, even as his likewise-injury-plagued Pelicans seem likely to find themselves outside the West’s top eight.
[Follow Dunks Don’t Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
There seem, then, to be quite a few defensible positions when it comes to making your MVP pick. Whether enough voters share Davis’ view to make Harden the first Rocket to hoist the Podoloff since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994, though, remains to be seen.
Hat-tip to James Herbert at Eye on Basketball.
– – – – – – –