Did I get you with that headline? This final regular-season edition of my MVP rankings is actually being published April 2 as we head into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Procrastination being one of my fortes, it allows me 14 consecutive nights of sofa time to flip around on League Pass and determine, among other things, whether Cablevision is directing enough bandwidth to my neighborhood to have the League Pass games actually come on the screen. When you pay $199 for something, you get a little sick of seeing the screen read “This channel is currently unavailable.”
Yeah, it’s unavailable because Jim Dolan’s employees don’t care about their customers. They know folks will pony up their money month after month whether the service is spotty or splendid, which is akin to how Dolan runs the New York Knicks. The building is going to be full no matter how awful the team is playing, and if anyone has something negative to say about it, they can take their business elsewhere (need I remind you of the e-mail Dolan sent to an elderly season-ticket holder who was brash enough to e-mail a complaint to New York’s least favorite guitarist?)
And what really burns me up about that whole episode was how Adam Silver backed up Dolan by calling him a consummate New Yorker. I have always gotten along well with Adam, but there are more than a few folks who have told me that he is the anti-Stern in more ways than one. When Stern ruled the NBA, he surrounded himself with the best people possible whether they always agreed with his views or not. Silver surrounds himself with “yes men” who to this day will tell you with a straight face that Silver has not made one single mistake since taking over the helm more than a year ago.
And speaking of “yes men,” the NBA landscape is littered with them — but not in such a negative way.
Which brings to the MVP debate, one of the best in years.
Is Stephen Curry worthy? Yes. Is he surrounded by so many good players that it weakens his candidacy? Yes.
If Chris Paul worthy? Yes. If he more capable of making a bonehead play at the end of a close game than a clutch play? Yes.
If Anthony Davis going to win this award one day? Yes. If his team somehow leapfrogs the Oklahoma City Thunder and makes it into the playoffs, will that earn him a bunch of first-place votes? Yes.
Does Russell Westbrook’s run of triple-doubles since the All-Star break make him a viable MVP candidate? Yes. Did he make a brutal mistake late Wednesday night against Dallas trying to draw a three-shot foul rather than concentrate on making what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer? Yes.
Will LeBron James garner any first-place votes in MVP balloting? Yes. Is that because some voters should be nicknamed “Homer?” Yes.
And finally, am I switching from Cablevision to Verizon once the regular season ends and my League Pass either does or does not work on the final night of the regular season? That would be a “yes,” too.
On to the rankings.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets. Got a little secret for you, folks. Harden is going to win this award. For all the talk about the credentials of the other leading contenders, there is no arguing against a guy who just went for a career-high 51, has accumulated 33 games of 30 points or more, and nine of 40 points or more. You know what the Rockets’ record is with their projected preseason starting lineup? 2-0. Yes, two and oh. There are 126 MVP ballots, and he will be first or second on about 114 of them. The others will be the dirty dozen, but no one will vote him lower than third. Anyone who has him third or lower is a true April Fool.
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. Is there anyone you would rather watch for the pure pleasure of seeing what trick move he might pull next? Granted, it is a treat to watch Westbrook do his thing with the rest of OKC’s remaining Big Three, Enes Kanter and Anthony Morrow. But the moves Steph put on Chris Paul the other night in the Warriors-Clippers game will go down among the top ankle-breaking moments in NBA history. Little-known fact: Right now he is a better golfer than Tiger Woods. And no, that is not a joke (I will stand corrected if Woods plays Augusta and breaks 80 in either of the first two rounds without a WD.) The bookmakers consider him the favorite right now.
3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. If he misses the playoffs, he will not get a top three spot on my ballot. If he makes the playoffs, he probably will. Since the All-Star break, he has been a magnet for my sometimes-it-works, sometimes-it-doesn’t League Pass remote control, and there has not been a single night when he was a visual replacement for caffeine. Personally, I want to see him and the Thunder in the playoffs, and I want them to give the Warriors a battle. Do I think that will happen? No. Do I think he will make it to 12 triple-doubles (he had his 10th Wednesday night against Dallas)? Yes.
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans. Has led Team Lazarus to three consecutive wins, leaving them just one game behind the Thunder in the loss column (and they own the tiebreaker edge over Oklahoma City). Make or break time is right now, as their next three are against the Trail Blazers, Warriors and Grizzlies. If the Pels can somehow sweep those three games, make the playoffs and finish with 46 or 47 wins, I will probably put him second on my official ballot. And again, before his career is all said and done, he will have won this award multiple times. Oh, and he’ll have earned about a quarter-billion dollars. Nobody will benefit from the boatload of new TV money over the long haul than this guy. He will become the first player to make a Brink’s truck his preferred ride.
5. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers. Leads in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.21 (Off last year’s 4.57, but still mighty impressive. He is no Hassan Whiteside), with a massive lead over second place Ty Lawson. Leads the league in assists, too, with 10.2 per game, and I don’t think John Wall (9.9) is catching him. He also is the president of the NBA Players Association, and if he thinks the players are going to get a bigger share of the percentage pie if they opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in Dec. 2016, thereby forcing a lockout, he is delusional. Over at the union, Michele Roberts is following Paul’s orders and cleaning house, letting go or marginalizing nearly everyone who actually has some experience in bargaining talks. If the players re-open, the best they’ll do is get a cut from 50-51 percent to 48-49 percent. Mark my words.
DROPPED OUT: LeBron James, Cleveland (5)
NEXT FIVE: LeBron James, Cleveland; LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Dwyane Wade, Miami; Pau Gasol, Chicago; John Wall, Washington.
EDITION XII: WHAT IS AND ISN’T “A PROCEDURE”
EDITION XI: THE END OF THE HEADBAND?
EDITION X: WESTBROOK IS RISING LIKE A VIKING BEAST
EDITION IX: CONSUMMATE NEW YORKER EDITION
EDITION VIII: BLATT IS RIGHT ON LBJ, SORT OF
EDITION VII: MUTTERINGS ON THIBODEAU
EDITION VI: MOZGOV THE MVP, IN A WAY
EDITION V: LeBRON JAMES APPROACHES THE BIG THREE-OH
EDITION IV: FROM NEW YORK TO SLOVENIA TO CUBA
EDITION III: PRINCE WILLIAM MEETS LeBRON JAMES
EDITION II: HEADLINE PORN FOR MARK CUBAN
EDITION I: ODE TO VANCOUVER
Chris Sheridan, publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com, is an official MVP voter. Follow him on Twitter.