Tag Archives: LeBron James

NBA Playoff Predictions

Round 1

Cleveland over Detroit (5 games)

Toronto over Indiana (7)

Charlotte over Miami (6)

Boston over Atlanta (6)

Golden State over Houston (4)

San Antonio over Memphis (4)

Oklahoma City over Dallas (4)

Los Angeles over Portland (5)

Round 2

Cleveland over Boston (7)

Charlotte over Toronto (6)

Golden State over Los Angeles (4)

San Antonio over Oklahoma City (7)

Conference Finals

Cleveland over Charlotte (5)

Golden State over San Antonio (7)

NBA Finals

Golden State over Cleveland (5)

The Blockbuster Trade That Needs to Happen

As fans, blockbusters are fun to think about. It’s great to imagine stars flying around willy-nilly, the landscape of the league changing every other minute.

The problem with blockbusters is that they almost never occur. The reason why blockbusters so rarely happen can be easily explained by Newton’s first law: An object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (thanks 8th grade science!). GMs are unwilling to gamble their jobs on one big move, so rather than taking a chance, they’re content to just sit back and do nothing.

There are a couple of stars rumored to be available: Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard. However, it’s unlikely that a team overcomes its inertia to pull off a blockbuster trade for either of them, because Doc Rivers’ asking price for Griffin is sky-high and teams have little interest in trading for Howard, who’s on an expiring contract, is declining, has dealt with nagging injuries, and will expect a max contract in free agency, one that starts at $30 million per season. In addition, the team that has the most assets available in a trade and is looking for a star, the Celtics, “have recoiled at paying a price Houston would find acceptable,” according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Speaking of those Celtics, although they won’t be going after Howard, there are still plenty of other options. And that’s the impetus for the blockbuster trade that absolutely needs to happen:

New York trades Carmelo Anthony to Cleveland 

Cleveland trades Kevin Love to Boston

Boston trades David Lee, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, James Young, unprotected Brooklyn 2016 1st round pick, top-7 protected Dallas 2016 first round pick to New York

I absolutely love this trade. It works for every single team involved.

As we were just saying, the Celtics are in the hunt for a star, and Danny Ainge has long been an admirer of Love’s game. The two make a perfect fit.

Personally, I’m not so high on Love, as to me, he’s just a more famous version of Olynyk, but if Ainge wants him, this is a reasonable price to pay. Even better, unlike Howard, Love is signed long-term; he won’t reach free agency until 2020.

Losing five good young players will hurt, but as we discussed a few days ago, the Celtics might have too many good players (if that’s possible) and are therefore unable to play them all. The same logic in trading three good players for a very good player like Al Horford applies here as well.

This trade would make Anthony happy. Melo said last Friday: “I think everybody always kind of dreams and hopes that they can play with another great player, another star player,” adding “It’s a star players’ league. I think that’s what we all talk about every time we get together.”

We can infer from that quote that Anthony is hoping to play with a star and doesn’t want to wait for Kristaps Porzingis to blossom into one. And what better a way to do it than to join his friend LeBron in Cleveland for a title run?

Every couple of years, we see Melo on Team USA, enjoying himself, just swishing three-pointers whenever someone passes to him. On the Knicks, he can’t be a complimentary player; on the Cavaliers, he can. Even better, if Tyronn Lue decided to stagger his three stars’ minutes, two of LeBron James, Melo, and Kyrie Irving would be out on the floor at the same time. All three of those guys can create shots for themselves and others, meaning that Cleveland’s offense wouldn’t miss a beat when LeBron takes a breather.

Speaking of LeBron, this trade would make him happy too. James has historically wanted to play with his friends, and Melo would make basketball sense for the Cavs as well.

Love is shooting 36.8% from three-point range, while Anthony is shooting 32.7%. However, Anthony is attempting far more challenging shots than Love; 61% of his three point attempts have come on catch-and-shoots, compared to 91% of Love’s. As you can see, unlike Love, Anthony is capable of creating his own shot. And, as more of a complimentary player, Anthony will be playing off the ball more, leading to more catch-and-shoot attempts. That’ll raise his 3FG% much closer to Love’s.

Defensively, Anthony is far superior to Love. A good way to measure defensive prowess is by defensive field goal percentage. Comparing the player’s defensive FG% to the usual FG% of the player being defended allows us to find out how the defender is playing when compared to an average defender. To illustrate this point, holding Stephen Curry to 45% shooting is considered a success, while allowing Lance Stephenson to shoot 45%, well, isn’t.

Anyways, in this regard, Anthony is a big winner. He ranks sixth in the NBA among the players who have played in at least forty games, holding his opponents to a FG% 6.3 percentage points lower than their norm, while Love ranks 229th out of the 250 players, with a mark of +4.3.

As we can see, Anthony is a clear upgrade over Love. Naturally, that leads to the question: Why wouldn’t the Celtics just trade for Melo instead? Well, Anthony has a no-trade clause, and although he’ll likely waive it if he’s sent to Cleveland to play with LeBron, he’s unlikely to allow the Knicks to trade him to Boston. On top of that, Love is 27, four years younger than the 31-year old Melo, which makes him a better fit for the up-and-coming Celtics team.

Now that we’ve established why both the Cavaliers and the Celtics would make this trade, it’s time to figure out why the Knicks would too.

Well, it’s really not that hard to figure out. Anthony is nearly twelve years older than Porzingis, and by the time the latter enters his prime, the former will be way past his. Accordingly, the Knicks would be wise to build around Porzingis and this trade would allow them to do so.

Porzingis is 20, Rozier is 21, Olynyk is 24, and Young is 20. The two 2016 first rounders will be similarly aged. Add in the 23-year old Jerian Grant and the 24-year old Langston Galloway, and that’s the start of a damn good roster.

The Knicks will also have control of all of those players for years to come, allowing them to develop chemistry through continuity.

The last guy New York would acquire is Lee. He’s an unimportant part of this deal, as he’s on an expiring contract and would be included just to make the salaries work.

Again, I’m doubtful that this blockbuster will ever occur, but if ever there were a time for NBA teams to overcome their inertia to actually make a trade, this is definitely the trade with which to do it.

Notes From Knicks-Jazz

Last night was chock full of basketball, with local channels carrying both the Knicks-Jazz and Nets-Cavs games.

Luckily, I was able to avoid most of the ugly Nets game in favor of the Knicks, but the one significant play I saw was a classic LeBron transition dunk met with cheers from the Barclays Center crowd. The TV only showed the seats close to the court, but those seats were filled with Cavs fans. I guess Nets fans have officially given up on the most boring team in the league. Good for them.

Anyways, let’s talk about the Knicks-Jazz game.  I was very impressed with how Young Kristaps was able to hang with Trey Lyles, a speedy power forward, on defense. That skill a big part of his appeal: He’s big enough to play center but fast enough to cover stretch-4s. That flexibility gives the Knicks multitudinous lineup options.

Rudy Gobert, the French Rejection, the Stifle Tower, is a gangly 7’2″ center for Utah. He’s not much of a driver—Gobert drives only once every two games—but early in the first quarter, he put the ball on the floor and drove for a layup. If Gobert can combine some offensive skill with his fearsome rim protection he could become even more valuable than he already is.

And, for the record, he is already extremely valuable as a rim protector on defense: Opponents have hit only 40.7% of their shots at the rim against him, one of the best marks in the league. Gobert displayed his rim-protecting prowess last night when he absolutely destroyed a Melo dunk attempt

As always, Walt Frazier’s rhyming commentary was entertaining and enjoyable. After Robin Lopez hit his unblockable hook shot, Frazier noted that he was “looking and hooking”. Following YKP’s lovely turnaround shot from the baseline with the shot clock running out, Frazier exclaimed that the Latvian was “shaking and baking”.

The best one of the night, though, was a triple-rhyme: “bounding and astounding and confounding”.

After yesterday’s game, Carmelo Anthony has now played a combined ninety-one minutes over the past two games. For someone who underwent a season-ending knee surgery last season, it seems a tad reckless to be playing so much. The Knicks certainly don’t need another Amar’e Stoudemire clogging up their cap for years. New York would do well to sit Melo for a game of rest sooner or later.

We need to talk about Gordon Hayward, the Jazz’s starting small forward. He’s a very good player, but his lips are bright red. It’s scary. It looks like he rehydrates on the sideline either with Kool-Aid or blood, I’m not sure which. Someone needs to investigate this.

Anyways, the Knicks ended up winning 118-111 in overtime. Including free throws, New York shot a blistering 11/16 in OT, scoring nineteen points over the five minute period.

The Knicks are back to .500 at 22-22 as they head into a challenging stretch of their schedule. They currently stand a half-game out of a playoff spot in the East, and if they can survive the next few games, they’ll be in prime position to make a run at the playoffs after the All-Star Break.

Which Games Should You Watch on Christmas?

On Christmas Day, us fans of the NBA have a serious conundrum. There’s basketball for thirteen hours straight, which is great, but we also have familial obligations and the like. For those of you who can only escape your family for a game or two, here’s a guide to determining which games you should watch and which ones you shouldn’t.

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Watch if you like: Freakishly long arms, all-lefty lineups, aging stars,  unibrows, imagining what Young Kristaps will be like in three years, having a quick snooze before the good games start.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Chicago Bulls

Watch if you like: Teams still finding their identities, power struggles, Enes Kanter’s bushy eyebrows, discontented players, Steven Adam’s fake-looking mustache, ex-college coaches in their first season in the NBA, Bobby Portis sitting on the bench, Dion Waiters hoisting up awful shots that miss by a mile.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Watch if you like: Games with history behind them, unstoppable pick-and-rolls, superduperstars, injured players returning, going small, raucous home crowds, great basketball, ridiculous displays of shooting from Steph Curry, ridiculous displays of athleticism from LeBron James, Iman Shumpert’s hair, JR Smith hoisting up awful shots that somehow go in.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Watch if you like: Spectacular wing defense, Hack-a-Howard, intra-state rivalries, Spursgasms, foreign players, beards, dazzling sequences of passing, free throws, lefty shooting guards with Eurosteps.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Watch if you like: Kobe Bryant missing shots, thunderous dunks, Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oops, young studs against in-their-prime superstars, brutal blowouts, watching the last quarter and a half played by scrubs.

Notes From Knicks-Cavs

Last night, the Knicks lost in Cleveland, 91-84. After watching the game, I have a few thoughts to share.

First off, at the end of the first quarter, there were .8 seconds remaining on the clock, enough time for a quick shot attempt. The ball is inbounded to Langston Galloway, but, instead of taking a shot immediately, he takes a couple of dribbles and takes the shot right after the buzzer sounds.

That type of behavior is something I’ve noticed a lot lately. Rather than taking generally futile last-second heaves, players have been messing around just enough that the shot is taken just after the end of the quarter. Instead of mumbling empty platitudes about doing everything possible to win and whatnot, why don’t players actually do that, instead of just pretending to try their hardest for the sake of a field goal percentage point or two?

In addition to Young Kristaps and YK, I may have another nickname for the Knicks’ Latvian star: KPP. I heard it from a friend; it stands for Kristaps Perfect Porzingis. I’ll try it out, and see if it feels comfortable.

Speaking of Latvia, the last time I wrote about KPP (I like it!), about 40% of the hits on the article came from Latvia, so for all my dear Latvian, KPP-loving readers, veiki, paldies par lasījumā, un iesim Knicks!

Young Kristaps had a pair of spectacular plays near the end of the first half. The first was a block of a layup attempt by LeBron James.

There were two impressive aspects to this play. First, the block came after YK read the play perfectly, noticing that Jose Calderon was guarding LeBron, who has fifty pounds and five inches on him, and walled off both the basket and the passing lane to his own man. To find the second thing, rewatch the video and pause it at eighteen seconds: KPP’s head is on one side of the rim and his arm is long enough that he’s able to reach across it to block the shot. That’s ridiculous.

The second play was a confident, swished, buzzer-beating three.

There was no hesitation whatsoever. Even from a few feet behind the three point line, his shot was smooth and unflustered. This play was in line with the rest of the game, as he hit four threes on five attempts.

There was one poor play at the start of the third quarter. On an Irving-Love pick-and-roll, Calderon and YPP both jumped out on Irving, leaving Love with an opportunity to nail a wide open three. I can’t say for certain if it’s the scheme’s fault or the players’, but either way, you can’t trap a ball handler, even if it’s Irving, if it means leaving a good three-point shooter like Love wide open.

The most mystifying part of this game came in the fourth quarter, when Young Kristaps didn’t play at all. Wait a second… He did? Sorry, I must not have realized since he didn’t take a single shot until a last second heave when the game was out of reach.

With Melo out, KPP is the Knicks’ best player—why is he not being given the ball? I understand that it’s never good to force up shots when they’re not there, but he was wide open from three point range multiple times and was ignored in favor of awkward, off-balance, mid-range attempts.

The team ended up scoring twelve points in the fourth quarter. Maybe, just maybe, ignoring Young Kristaps had something to do with it.

It’s especially annoying as the Knicks entered the final quarter tied, on the road, without their best player, against the best team in the Eastern Conference, but gave the game away. The points they left on the table could have given them the game.

Running Diary: Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals

This Game 6 has the chance to be legendary. The self-proclaimed (albeit universally acknowledged) best player in the world, carrying his broken-down team on his back, against the whirring machine of basketball perfection that is the Golden State Warriors? That’s compelling enough, appointment viewing, but adding in the tortured histories of the two franchises and the amazing basketball that’s been played so far this series makes this game warrant an official running diary.

I’ve done this a couple of times before, so you know the drill: I write down my reactions live, along with when they happen, as a way of recording what people were seeing, thinking, and feeling, at any given moment.

For the record, I have no real rooting interest in this game. I’m in a pool that I can win if the Cavs win tonight and lose Game 7. To hedge my bet, though, I bet with a friend on the Warriors in this game, so I don’t have any monetary interest in this game, leaving me free to root for a night of amazing basketball.

Anyways, the game is about to start, so let’s get to it!

9:11: And we’re off!

9:12: Interestingly enough, David Blatt is starting off with his twin towers, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, against Golden State’s small ball lineup. In it, Blatt is hoping that all the benefits of the super-size lineup, particularly the offensive rebounds, outweigh the huge negative of having Mozgov, a center, match up against Andre Iguodala, a wing player, on defense.

9:15: Well Thompson just got a lefty hook for two points by posting up the much smaller Harrison Barnes. Cleveland’s size advantage is paying off early.

9:19: And just now, a couple of possessions later, Iman Shumpert got an open corner three off a Mozgov post-up. He missed, but that’s the type of shot that the Cavs need to create from their physical advantage.

9:21: One of the best things about the NBA is the chess match that occurs when teams try to shift matchups in their favor. A couple of examples of this to watch out for are with LeBron and Steph Curry. Iguodala is the only Golden State player who can stick with LeBron, so the Cavs will likely run their star through a series of picks to force a smaller player to switch onto him for a LeBron post-up. Likewise, the Warriors will likely plan a bunch of Curry-Draymond Green and Curry-Iguodala pick-and-rolls to get a slow-footed big man, either Thompson or Mozgov, to switch onto Curry. Then, as he’s been doing all season, Curry can dazzle them with a bunch of awesome dribbles, then swish a step-back three.

9:24: Iguodala missed his first couple of shots and just played hot-potato with the ball, afraid to shoot an open three-pointer. Luckily Curry bailed him out by nailing a corner three, but if Iguodala can’t hit shots from outside, Mozgov, who’s ostensibly guarding him, can just stick around in the paint, mucking up the spacing integral to Golden State’s offense.

9:27: The Warriors just breathed a sigh of relief as Iggy just hit a couple of midrange jumpers.

9:28: Again, with the size advantage, Golden State doubled a Mozgov post-up, leading to a nifty pass in the post to Thompson for a dunk.

9:29: IGGY WITH THE HEAT CHECK!!! CORNER THREE!!!

9:37: End of first quarter check-in: Iggy has seven points and a drawn offensive foul against LeBron, the Cavs star has only four points on a mere six shots, and Golden State had a fifteen point lead at one point. Their record when they lead a game by fifteen points or more at any point? 57-0. Ethan Strauss astutely points out that, in addition to this impressive record in these games, even more impressively, the Warriors are undefeated, an astounding 82-0, when they score more points than their opponent.

9:41: We head into the second quarter with Golden State up 28-15.

9:42: James with a crazy fade-away three as the shot clock expires.

9:47: One thing to keep an eye out for: the Cavs have shot eleven free throws already, with about nine minutes left in the second quarter. Klay Thompson has three fouls as well, which could prove troublesome later on, and even now, as Steve Kerr sits him so he doesn’t pick up another foul.

9:52: Mozgov with the emphatic rejection of Iguodala.

9:53: The comparatively small Leandro Barbosa was just forced to switch onto LeBron, and James took it to the hole for two points. It’s this type of switch I was talking about earlier, with the Cavs attempting to get LeBron a physical advantage over his defender for easy points.

9:54: Shumpert slams his body into a Green screen, knocking him over, mirroring the same play with JR Smith from last game.

9:55: ABC just showed that play from Game Four. Wow, Green’s really been setting some great screens.

9:56: No flagrant for Shump, Golden State to inbound the ball.

9:59: Cleveland’s made a little bit of a run, coming back to within five points, 34-29, after a Shumpert jumper.

10:00: Some nifty passing from Golden State on a transition play, leading to an open three for Harrison Barnes. Golden State with the 37-29 advantage with 5:07 left in the first half.

10:07: The free throw disparity is impressive, 17-2 in favor of the Cavs, but they’re still down by eight points. Eight of those free throws are from Cleveland’s twin towers, including six from Mozgov. It’s clear that Golden State’s smaller players are struggling with the bigger Cavaliers, although they’re okay with it as they’re making up for those fouls on the offensive end.

10:08: Shumpert and Iguodala each just picked up their third fouls. This isn’t good for either team, straining Cleveland’s depth, and depriving the Warriors of the one player who can effectively defend LeBron one-on-one.

10:11: Speaking of James, compared to the lofty standards he’s set for himself, he’s been struggling so far this game, with only nine points and two assists.

10:13: LeBron with a beautiful drive past David Lee.

10:14: Curry with a nice left-handed finish in transition against JR Smith.

10:15: James nails a three. 43-38 in Golden State’s favor.

10:16: Curry makes a quick pass to escape a double team leading to a basket from Green.

10:17: With Iguodala on the bench, LeBron has been having his way with Shaun Livingston. After those last two shots and a couple of free throws, James just slipped a nifty low-post pass for a Thompson dunk.

10:19: With the last possession of the first half, James drives, throws up an off-balance shot and misses, but Tristan Thompson follows up with a thunderous slam with less than a second left. The half ends with Golden State clinging to a tenuous lead of two points over the resurgent Cavs, 45-43.

10:36: The game resumes, and Cleveland begins the second half with the ball.

10:37: Mozgov makes a layup to tie the game at 45, then Thompson hits a shot to take the lead for the Cavs. They’ve combined for 22 of Cleveland’s 47 points.

10:39: Barnes hits a three to put the Warriors back on top by one.

10:40: Barnes steals the ball from Shumpert. Iguodala gets the ball on the other end, fakes a pass, and slams it in for a dunk.

10:41: Green nails a three off of a pocket pass from Klay Thompson. Warriors by six. Blatt calls a timeout to regroup.

10:48: LeBron takes on Thompson for an easy basket, then heads back down the floor to grab his tenth rebound. He’s got a double-double with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

10:48: Thompson picks up his fourth foul and Kerr takes him out.

10:51: Curry gets a rebound, dribbles down the court, and throws a bounce pass to Iguodala for a dunk to make it 61-51. Blatt calls another timeout to try and stop the bleeding. The Warriors are on a 16-4 run right now.

10:59: A nice play from the Warriors. The Cavs double Curry off a pick-and-roll between him and Green, Curry slips a pass between them to Green, and Green lofts it up for an alley-oop to Festus Ezeli.

10:59: Curry misses a three but Ezeli crashes in for a booming dunk, even drawing an and-1 foul on Mozgov. Ezeli hits the free throw and the Warriors lead by fourteen, 69-55.

11:05: The game seems close to getting out of hand. Green just bullied James Jones in the post for a couple of points, and Golden State takes a fifteen point lead.

11:09: The third quarter ends, 73-61, Warriors.

11:10: LeBron looks exhausted. He’s still been great, but not his usual otherworldly self, with a couple of lackadaisical plays where he’s been caught just standing around.

11:12: The Cavs have a 43-27 edge in rebounding, a 29-13 edge in free throw attempts, and three of its players have double-doubles. Its main problem is that they’ve turned the ball over fourteen times, to Golden State’s six. When you factor in that Golden State thrives in the chaos in transition that ensues after turnovers, it’s no wonder that the Cavs are playing from behind.

11:15: Down thirteen, LeBron just says screw it, drives down the floor on Barnes, and hits a layup.

11:18: James steals a pass from Green, gallops down the floor, and rises up for the dunk! A 7-0 run from Cleveland brings them to within seven. 75-68, Warriors.

11:21: Curry swishes a three and the lead is back to double digits.

11:23: LeBron passes to Mozgov for a dunk, 78-70.

11:23: Livingston with a put-back dunk off an Iguodala miss, making it 80-70.

11:23: Smith with a three on one end but Iguodala comes back down the floor to nail a three to keep the lead at ten.

11:24: Mozgov physically overpowers Iguodala on his way to the rim for a basket, Warriors 83-75.

11:24: Curry with another three!!!

11:26: Klay Thompson finally hits a three off a nice feed from Curry and it’s 89-75.

11:28: The officials miss a backcourt violation on Curry and instead call a kick-ball on Shumpert, giving the Warriors the ball. Kerr calls a timeout with 6:09 remaining in the game. It’s 89-77 and the Cavaliers are running out of time.

11:32: Off the inbound, Draymond Green passes to Iguodala in the corner and Iggy hits the three. That’s Green’s tenth assist, giving him a triple-double.

11:35: Klay Thompson was just called for an offensive foul and fouls out. He’s got more fouls (6) than points (5). Assuming the Warriors don’t relinquish their thirteen point lead with 4:16 left in the game, Thompson’s performance will be forgotten by history. He’s lucky he’s not on the losing team.

11:43: A right hook for Tristan Thompson and the lead is down to eleven with 2:39 remaning.

11:44: Curry slips past Shumpert and drives to the hoop for an uncontested layup. It’s 98-85, and the Cavs call a timeout with 1:50 remaining.

11:49: JR Smith just nailed the second of two threes, bringing the Cavs to within eight. They’re down 100-92 with 55.2 seconds left.

11:54: LeBron drove for a layup, then the Cavs fouled Curry, but he only made one of his free throws. Then JR Smith came down the floor and hit another off-balance three. It’s 101-97!!!

11:56: Curry hits two free throws and Smith finally misses. Iggy is fouled, hits one of his free throws, and LeBron comes galloping down the floor, jukes his defender, and sets his feet for a wide-open three pointer which he then misses. After a couple of fouls and missed shots…

11:58: THE WARRIORS WIN 105-97

Three Important Notes:

  1. LeBron could not look more exhausted. He gave it his all and it just wasn’t enough. He could not have done anything more than he did.
  2. The Warriors just finished up one of the best seasons in the history of the NBA. They went 67-15 in the regular season, and 16-5 in the playoffs, for a combined record of 83-20, the third highest win total in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan’s two best teams in Chicago.
  3. Steve Kerr deserves plaudits for his risky gamble in starting Iguodala over Andrew Bogut for the last three games of the series.. It worked out wonderfully, and with it, he dictated the pace of the game, the matchups therein, and won all three of those games, to win the series, and the championship.

The NBA never stops moving, though, and while the Warriors bask in the glow of their championship, the draft hype is about to go into overdrive. The draft is eight days from now, on June 25th, and we’ll be back in this format for the draft.

Until then, all we can do is applaud the Golden State Warriors and toast the marvelous 2014-2015 NBA season.

Onto the draft!

A Quick Word on the MVP Race

For the last few years, the MVP races have been somewhat dull. Since 2008 it’s been LeBron’s trophy to lose, and lose he rarely did. He captured four out of the six MVPs over the past six years. It’s taken either the whole basketball world collectively losing its mind over Derrick Rose, or Kevin Durant averaging a 32-7-5 on a 59-win team to wrest the award away from James. However, this year, with James missing a few games from nagging injuries and giving up shots and minutes to rest a little more, the race has suddenly been thrown wide open, and it’s anyone’s to win.

Before we can choose a winner, we have to decide what “most valuable” means, and that’s where the proposition gets murky. Everyone has their own opinion on what “most valuable” actually means. Here’s the brief rundown of each interpretation and the player it fits best.

The Best Player: The guy you would choose first in a draft to win a life-or-death pickup game.

Who? Who else but LeBron? When he goes all out, he’s unstoppable.

The Best Stats: Think Wilt. He averaged crazy stats back in the 60s but never led an elite team while he did so.

Who? Anthony Davis. A 24-10-2, with a steal and a half and three blocks a game on 53.7 percent shooting from the field and 80.2 percent from the line.

The Best Lines Night to Night: Huge triple-doubles, lots of blocks, etc.

Who? Russell Westbrook, obviously. That run of triple-doubles when Westbrook turned into Oscar Robertson for a few weeks (complete with the grumpy personality!) was jaw-dropping. He even turned in a few near quadruple-doubles when he turned the ball over seven or eight times.

The Best Player on the Best Team: This is usually the player who wins the award, as conventional logic concludes that the best team must have naturally had the best player.

Who? The Warriors are the best team and Steph Curry is their best player, so Curry would win.

The Most Valuable: This player carries his team nightly and succeeds despite little help.

Who? From night to night, James Harden has been the MVP. Curry can have a bad game and the Warriors can still win because he plays alongside an all-star (Klay Thompson), a rim-protecting big man (Andrew Bogut), and a DPOY candidate (Draymond Green). When Harden doesn’t show up to play, who’s going to pick up the slack? Trevor Ariza? Corey Brewer?

Of those different interpretations of MVP, who is most likely to win the award? James won’t win because he’s missed twelve games this year, and possibly because he stacks up poorly against past versions of himself. Davis won’t win because he’s also missed time, fourteen games, and his team wasn’t elite. Westbrook won’t win for the same reason, missing fifteen games, although he gets the edge over Davis in my opinion because of the insane lines he’s put up.

Harden and Curry, to me, are the clear frontrunners for the award. I think Harden deserves it because of his consistency, the extra load he’s shouldered (about 350 more minutes than Curry), and his irreplaceability to the Rockets.

However, Curry’s Warriors are going to win 67 games (assuming they beat the Nuggets at home tomorrow night), tied for the sixth-highest win total in NBA history, and a record on par with legendary teams such as the ’86 Celtics, the ’92 Bulls, and the ’00 Lakers (and the immortal ’07 Mavs who lost in the first round). With the historical clout that record provides, it’s Curry’s trophy to lose. Interestingly enough, the best player on each of those four 67-win teams (Bird, Jordan, Shaq, and Dirk) all won the MVP that year, providing precedent for a Curry victory.

Whatever happens, it should be an exciting cap to an exciting race. Onto the playoffs!