We publish these rankings roughly twice a month, an exercise in futility tantamount to being a 50-year old on a beach in Panama City looking to re-live his conquests of the mid-1980s back when Fort Lauderdale and The Button were the hot spots.
So now that I have revealed my Easter weekend plans (not really, but it is not 100 percent out of the question), I will reveal my mid-April plans: I am going to fill out my MVP ballot, and I am going to list Stephen Curry No. 1. Every other official MVP voter will be doing the same thing, unless Skip Bayless is given a vote. He likes Chris Paul, and he will
tell you all about it yell at you about it in providing whatever ludicrous explanation he can cull from the rear lobes of his brain, if he has one. (JK, Skip. Love your show. Gives me an excuse to find the mute button on the remote).
Unanimous or not, Curry is going to win. Sort of like Karl-Anthony Towns as Rookie of the Year. He was in a tight race with Kristaps Porzingis for a while there, but the Porzingis train has left the station. That leaves Knicks fans with three hopes for next season: Tony Wroten is the real thing, Kurt Rambis will hopefully re-open a Twitter account, and Cleanthony Early will make a full recovery from his gunshot wounds.
The real debate with Curry is whether he can beat out C.J. McCollum and Kemba Walker for Most Improved Player. Our man Kels Dayton, a.k.a. the Next Bill Simmons, likes Steph … and I tend to agree with him. Maybe I’ll make 400 3-pointers the deciding factor.
So the MIP will be the most interesting postseason award of them all, with one major exception: Coach of the Year.
Think about it: Luke Walton has effectively disqualified Steve Kerr. Dwane Casey’s candidacy is corrupted by the fact that he has roots in Canada, and we all know how that type of thing is working out for Ted Cruz.
Gregg Popovich is DQ’d because he lost by 30 to the Dubs. Erik Spoelstra is hamstrung by what he accomplished a half-decade ago. He’s like the NBA’s Mitt Romney.
So, you know, that’s going to be a tough one on the ballot.
But in an effort to gather as many opinions as possible, we surveyed all 30 NBA coaches and asked them to say something on behalf of themselves and their candidacies. Here we go …
Atlanta Hawks, Mike Budenholzer: “I turned Kent Bazemore into a max player. I held onto the belief, still do actually, that Kyle Korver will rediscover his stroke.”
Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens: “I played Marcus Smart at power forward. And I never knocked Danny Ainge publicly for signing Amir Johnson, who makes more in annual salary than Stephen Curry.”
Brooklyn Nets, Tony Brown: “I have been keeping the seat warm for John Calipari while simultaneously letting Thaddeus Young do whatever he wants on offense so that Sean Marks can turn him into something.”
Charlotte Hornets, Steve Clifford: “Somebody was eventually going to turn Marvin Williams into a player, and I was that guy.”
Chicago Bulls, Fred Hoiberg: “I provided Vivek Ranadive with irrefutable evidence that Tom Thibodeau should be the next coach of the Sacramento Kings.”
Cleveland Cavaliers, Tyronn Lue: “I am 8,000,000 times less weird than David Blatt.”
Dallas Mavericks, Rick Carlisle: “My IQ is higher than yours … and everyone else’s.”
Denver Nuggets, Michael Malone: “I am the only coach that DeMarcus Cousins ever liked. So maybe we can trade for him.”
Detroit Pistons, Stan Van Gundy: “I will end up ahead of Hoiberg in the standings if my team plays some defense. Just once.”
Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr: “Can you believe I almost took the Knicks job? Like, for real, I was really ready to do that. But that was during my little-known crystal meth phase.”
Houston Rockets, J.B. Bickerstaff: “I kept Dwight Hoard in town by having a secret talk with him about the wind chill in Milwaukee in March and April.”
Indiana Pacers, Frank Vogel: “I gave the Miami Heat a heck of a run for their money not all that long ago. That has to count for something, right?”
Los Angeles Clippers, Doc Rivers: “I personally mediated Donald and Shelly’s reconciliation. And I have not ridiculed Steve Ballmer’s juvenile tendencies one single time.”
Los Angeles Lakers, Byron Scott: “I am going to tank the remainder of March and all of April so that we don’t lose our top-three-protected first-round pick to the Sixers.”
Memphis Grizzlies, Dave Joerger: “I made Lance Stephenson relevant again, and a have guys named Xavier Munford, Briante Weber and Jordan Adams on my team. And Weber starts. And we’re a solid fifth in the West.”
Miami Heat, Erik Spoelstra: “You never heard the words “blood” and “clot” come out of my mouth even once, did you?”
Milwaukee Bucks, Jason Kidd: “I have created the ultimate point guard, Giannis Antetokoumpo, out of a 6-11 stringbean. And I almost talked Dwight Howard into coming here.”
Minnesota Timberwolves, Sam Mitchell: “I cut Anthony Bennett, starting a trend.”
New Orleans Pelicans, Alvin Gentry: “I made Ish Smith look good way back when, doing a secret personal favor for Jerry Colangelo and the Sixers. That means I eventually get to replace Brett Brown, right?
New York Knicks, Kurt Rambis: “I am an expert in the triangle offense, which is more important to NBA success than the 3-point shot. Right, Phil?”
Oklahoma City Thunder, Billy Donovan: “Why do we lead the league in blown fourth-quarter leads? Hey, I’m a 40-minute coach, and Sam Presti knew that when he hired me!”
Orlando Magic, Scott Skiles: “I did not have a single fistfight with any of my players.”
Philadelphia 76ers, Brett Brown: “I won a game with T.J. McConnell as my starting point guard. OK, so it was one out of 31, but can we just forget about that, please?
Phoenix Suns, Earl Watson: “I played a big part behind the scenes in convincing Ernie Grunfeld to give up a first-round pick for Markieff Morris. BTW, what is it about guys named Grunfeld and Grunwald that makes them give away first-round picks for basket cases?”
Portland Trail Blazers, Terry Stotts: “That award is mine, baby. Pay no attention to the fast-closing Utah Jazz.”
Sacramento Kings, George Karl: “I presided over the worst defense in the NBA. How many guys can say that?”
San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich: “Two words, Chris: Boban Marjanovic.”
Toronto Raptors, Dwane Casey: “‘We The North’ is such a better mantra than ‘We Got Swept By Wittman,’ isn’t it?”
Utah Jazz, Quin Snyder: “I had nothing to do with the drafting of Trey Burke. And how many people in this organization can say that?”
Washington Wizards, Randy Wittman: “No matter what, I was the last sane person in Washington during 2016, the year of the Second American Revolution.”
OK, enough of the satire. We are here for the MVP rankings, and there are some changes … below No. 1, of course.
1. Stephen Curry, Warriors. The record for most 40-point games in a season is 63, by Wilt Chamberlain in 1961-62. Michael Jordan did it 37 times in 1986-87, mostly because he got sent to the foul line each night more than Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan combined. Curry has a dozen 40-point games this season, yet is still averaging over 30 ppg. Why? Because of his 12 40-point games, three of them were 50-point games. Also, check this out. Curry is second behind J.J. Redick in 3-point percentage. Curry has made 330. Redick has attempted 359. LAST EDITION: No. 1.
2. Russell Westbrook, Thunder. OK, his team has sucked since the All-Star break, which we covered in yesterday’s column. But they are going to be a top-four seed in the West, and this is the one guy who can outperform Stephen Curry or Chris Paul in a playoff series. That matters for something in terms of value, which is always the operative word when I cast my Most Valuable Player vote. ‘Twas a shame that his 20-assist stat line was a sham, but at least it has been exposed. LAST EDITION: No. 3.
3. Kevin Durant, Thunder. Has now scored at least 20 points in 54 consecutive games in which he was not a DNP. Will make a terrific addition to the Lakers or Wizards next season, when Sam Presti is selling pencils on Fifth Avenue. Needs to do some work on his 3-point shooting and free throws, but 50-40-90 is still a strong possibility. Celtics fans just gave him a “Come to Boston” chant. And you know what, if Durant threatens an opt out, he can force a trade to the Celtics, because Danny Ainge has the goods to get him. LAST EDITION: No. 4.
4. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers. Averaging 28.0 ppg in March, but he ain’t making my final, official ballot if his team keeps fading. I would have no problem putting Kawhi Leonard or Paul George or Kyle Lowry or Draymond Green in this spot if circumstances warrant it. But we are only in mid-March, the Blazers are still a feel-good story, Lillard has been added to the Team USA player pool, and LeBron James is in a temporary state of irrelevance. LAST EDITION: No. 2.
5. Chris Paul, Clippers. Why not LeBron James? Well, I gave LeBron his No. 5 spot in the last edition, and you kinda gotta mix things up from time to time in order to acknowledge guys that are doing something super special. That is why Leonard, Green, George and Ish Smith have held down this spot at various junctures during the season, and now it is CP3’s turn. Name another guy in the Association who has been carrying his team the way Paul has without his second-best player. There isn’t one. They are two back of the Thunder in the loss column. If they pass OKC, they probably avoid the Dubs til the conference finals. And that is nothing to sneeze at. LAST EDITION: UNRANKED.
NEXT FIVE: LeBron James, Cavs; Kawhi Leonard, Spurs; Draymond Green, Warriors; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; John Wall, Wizards.
PREVIOUS MVP RANKINGS:
EDITION VII: SUPER TUESDAY EDITION WITH CURRY, HILLARY AND TRUMP
EDITION VI: AH, THE ALL-STAR BREAK
EDITION V: THE POST-BLATT EFFECT
EDITION IV: POWERBALL MANIA
EDITION III: ON KOBE BRYANT, STEVE HARVEY and ISH SMITH
EDITION II: WHO’S VYING FOR RUNNER-UP?
EDITION I: HYPOCRISY, AND THE END OF DAILY FANTASY SPORTS?
Chris Sheridan, publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com, is an official MVP voter. Follow him on Twitter.