Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What will be your deciding factor in picking between Kevin Durant and LeBron James for MVP? Are there any other contenders?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: It’s a two-man race. And ultimately, it’s going to come down to their team’s regular-season records and playoff seeding. The rest of the criteria might cancel itself out: James has his reputation as the NBA’s best player working for him, while Durant gets handicapping points for Russell Westbrook‘s long absence. Durant might win another scoring title, while James draws raves for his shooting percentage. One of them might slip below 30.0 on the PER scale, which could swing votes of the numbers crunchers. One still might (knock on wood) get laid up by an injury. But when the smoke clears, the Thunder or the Heat will have the better record and berth, and that team’s guy will be the MVP.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: In a beauty contest that might be like choosing between Charlize Theron and Halle Berry — there are definitely no losers — overall team performance will likely tip the scales. The fact that Russell Westbrook has missed exactly half of the schedule and yet Kevin Durant has the Thunder positioned to win the No. 1 seed in the West, and maybe overall in the NBA, means K.D. has done more heavy lifting. Those two are separate from the pack of contenders.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The deciding factor will be which player, KD or LeBron, shines the brightest down the stretch. What we see last sticks, and that’s the way it will be with the voters. Blake Griffin should be in the running. The Clippers were without Chris Paul for six weeks, J.J. Redick‘s been hurt for two extended stretches and they have some real deficiencies on the wing. But right now it’s KD’s and LeBron’s universe.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: This will probably be business as usual — player performance (meaning both avoiding a collapse) plus team success (ditto) plus big individual moments (see: LeBron James, Monday, Miami). Injuries to teammates are the potential X-Factor. Durant obviously got a bump when he carried the Thunder in Russell Westbrook’s absence. Those stretches, taking on adversity, can matter. People notice MVP play more in the challenging situations. And, no, no one else is in the running.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Once you figure out who the top candidates are via the standings and overall production, then the impact each guy has on his team numbers should be considered. Durant currently has the edge there, mostly because the Heat defense has been much better with James off the floor. And no, there is no other candidate. Kevin Love’s team (and defense) isn’t good enough, Chris Paul’s team played well with him out, and Paul George has Roy Hibbert anchoring that No. 1 defense.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The efficiency of both players this season makes it extremely difficult to separate them. In fact, I don’t know that there is way to separate them statistically. They’ll both have individual numbers that are unparalleled by anyone else in the league. Their teams will finish at or near the top of the standings in their respective conferences. And their impact on games on a nightly basis is undeniable. Like any good race, this one comes down to who finishes stronger. There is enough time left in the regular season for one of these guys to create enough space to win the MVP on finish alone. And there will still be a vigorous debate about whether the right man walked away with the hardware. And if they both shut it down today, I’m not sure anyone else could lay legitimate claim to the MVP.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: In my mind it’s down to to two, LBJ and KD. What makes the MVP voting so interesting is that the criteria is so undefined. For me, I try to look at the totality of the player’s value to his team. So that means offense, defense, leadership — the total package. At this point I have no idea who I’ll be voting for, just that it’ll be either a guy known for two initials or one initial.
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: It will be in the crunch of the numbers. Whoever gets a small but decisive edge on any of the major stats, maybe on the modern “analytical” categories, will take it. Right now, I’m leaning on consistency, record, PIE and PER — and all of those still favor, by a slim margin, KD.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: It’s “unfortunate” for the rest of the league that these two players are so extraordinarily good. Guys like Paul George, Steph Curry or Blake Griffin probably won’t get a single vote when it’s time to determine the MVP. Between the two megastars, I think it will ultimately come down to their respective team’s playoff positioning. OKC is primed for the top spot in the West, while Miami is in a battle with Indy. That’s why KD is my favorite right now.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Every race must have its underdog. Sure thing: LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the favorites to win it, and to be honest nobody thinks that there is another player that can steal their thunder. But – here comes the but – it is not fair to Paul George and the Pacers to take him out of the picture. His team is leading the NBA standings! So, despite how slim his chances are, you cannot leave him out.