By Dennis Berry
As we reach the final week of the NBA regular season there is still playoff seeding to be determined. There is one question that seems to be overshadowing the playoff race though and that seems to be who is the MVP.
There appears to be five leading candidates to win the award this year. Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant have risen this year to the top of the MVP talk. Each player can make their own case as to why they should be the MVP. They all have put up great numbers this year in leading their teams into the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at each players' case for the MVP.
We start with Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant is leading the NBA in scoring average at 27.8 points a game. He is also averaging 6.9 rebounds a game and 2.8 assists. The Thunder won the Northwest division title this season and are two games out of the second overall seed in the Western Conference. He has lead the Thunder to more wins this season than last year when they won 50 games. This year they have won 53, with their remaining games against the L.A. Lakers, Sacramento Kings, and Milwaukee at the time of this writing.
Durant is not getting as much attention as the others in the NBA talk. Although his scoring average has dipped from last season, the fact is the Thunder have improved as a team. Durant is the scoring leader on a division winning team and that should get him talked about. What probably hurts Durant the most is that while the Thunder are a good team, they are not seen as a threat to come out of the West. If they had more wins, Durant would probably be talked about more.
Next we move to a former MVP of the league, the L.A. Lakers' Kobe Bryant. The oldest player on the list has lead the Lakers to back to back titles and have them in another hunt for another title this year. Bryant is averaging 25.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists a game this year.
The Lakers are the Pacific Division champs again, but it was Lakers play following the All-Star game that propelled them towards the top of the western conference. After entering the break of a three game losing streak, the Lakers went 17-1 to climb back towards the top of the Western Conference. What hurts Bryant’s case the most is that the Lakers are struggling towards the end of the season. They are on a four game losing streak entering their game against Oklahoma City Sunday night. They finish up with the Thunders, San Antonia Spurs, and Sacramento Kings.
The Orlando Magic have seen their team being transformed during the season to try and make them better for the playoffs. The one thing that did not change is their force in the middle, Dwight Howard. His scoring average has dipped from last year, but that can be because of the change of the roster and the struggles the team faced during that transition. Howard has still averaged 18.2 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks a game. He is shooting almost 60% from the floor.
What hurts Howard the most is his recent trouble of getting technical fouls. He has 18 technical fouls and was suspended for a game against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. It was the second time he was suspended for technical fouls this season. Howard’s reaction to opposing teams physical play has frustrated him and he lets officials know about it. He needs to learn how to control his emotions before he can be seen as a legitimate MVP candidate.
Next is the reigning back to back MVP of the NBA, the Miami Heat’s LeBron James. His scoring average has dipped from previous years, but that was to be expected when he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. James is still having a great season statistically. He is averaging 26.6 points a game, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists a game this year. He is also shooting 51% from the floor. He helped lead Miami to the Southeast Division title. The Heat are also in position to wrap up the two seed in the Eastern Conference.
What hurt James is the fact that he plays with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. When James was in Cleveland, there was no doubt he was the man leading them to the East’s best record two years in a row. Although James is having another outstanding season stats wise, he is doing it with two other All-Stars. To go along with that is the fact that Miami did not dominate the NBA like many predicted they would. If the Heat had the best record, James would probably be a in line for his third MVP award in a row.
We finish up with the best player on the best team in the East, the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose. The Bulls have won 60 games and have a chance to finish with the best overall record in the NBA. They are one game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the overall one seed in the playoffs. The Spurs finish with the Lakers and Phoenix Suns, while the Bulls finish up with New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. He was able to keep the Bulls winning even though they went through stretches without leading rebounder Joakim Noah and free agent pick up Carlos Boozer, who both missed over 20 games.
Rose is averaging 20.8 points, 637 assists, and 3.9 rebounds a game this year. He has been the best player on the East’s best team. He has bought into new coach Tom Thibodeau's system and that helped the rest of the team do the same. As a point guard, the ball is always in Rose’s hands, that is a good thing for the Bulls. He understands when his team needs him to score and he can also give up the ball to teammates when they are open. Rose has been the ultimate team player this year and it has lead to the success of the Bulls.
Although all the players can make a case, the best player from start to finish this season was Derrick Rose.
Who should win the 2011 NBA Awards? Check out our 2011 NBA Awards.