We won’t waste a lot of digital ink charting out the Byzantine complexity involved in trying to quantify a given player’s value to his team, or revisiting the old familiar arguments about which major factors should weigh more heavily than others when it comes to awarding the league’s most prestigious individual accolade, i.e. the NBA MVP trophy. It’s well-trodden territory. Suffice it to say that a number of criteria come into play, such as available statistical data (both basic and advanced), team success, recent play, strength of schedule, that rather nebulous quality we like to call “leadership,” clutch play, defense, hustle, overall basketball IQ, championship contender status, toughness, entertainment factor/GIFability, a healthy amount of subjectivity and/or confirmation bias on our part, “what have you done for me lately,” and much, much more.
So, here are our top five MVP candidates through March 20. We’ve kept the list to the top five so that we’re only discussing the very cream of the crop and because this is a bi-monthly column, so that we can focus more narrowly on what’s happened in just the past two weeks. We’ll still briefly discuss a handful of other players who just missed the cut, but deserve a shout-out nonetheless.
1. Steph Curry
The NBA world was finally treated to the proverbial Titan-clashing we were deprived of the first time these two teams met, and what emerged from the wreckage was perhaps something of a blueprint for success against the defending champs: play them ugly. The Spurs held the Warriors to their lowest point total of the season and badgered Curry into a frigid 1-of-12 shooting from downtown. Still, it wasn’t enough to knock the reigning MVP off his pedestal. For that to even be a remote possibility, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs – who are just three games behind the Warriors and on a historic run of their own – would have to steal the No. 1 seed in the West out from under them in the final stretch. And even then, it would be extraordinarily difficult to ignore Curry’s season-long brilliance and the way he’s captivated the sports world over the past five months.