The 2016-17 season has already thrown up plenty of shock results, new records and some incredible individual and team performances. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have dominated their divisions again but still have plenty of teams chasing their tails, with the conference titles and playoff spots still wide open. As the season begins to pick up pace, eyes are not only on the overall winner but the MVP title too and this year there are plenty of choices after some unbelievable basketball in the first half of the season.
After some scheduling and travel changes designed to reduce stress and strains on players, there seems to be a new energy around the star performers, who are possibly more willing to put in 110% knowing they have plenty of recovery time. Players who have been solid over recent seasons are now really coming into their own and there is a lot of competition for the MVP spot at the end of the year. We’ll be taking a look at the players hotly tipped to take home the title.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ season win last year was down to a great team performance, helped greatly by modern NBA legend LeBron James. James looked calm all the way up to the playoffs and seemed to influence how the team performed. If he turned up, so did everyone else. This year has been a different story however and despite some good shifts, he hasn’t looked as sharp as he did last season.
All eyes are on the current MVP favourites, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, of Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets respectively. Westbrook has been cementing his status as an all-star, averaging 30.8 points per game and demolishing some of the best defenses in the conference. Harden is also turning heads, setting an NBA record with a 50 point triple-double in a 129-122 win over the New York Knicks. Harden looks like he could really do it and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down so far.
The dark horses this year are the charismatic Kawhi Leonard, who has also been setting records for the Spurs, and Kevin Durant, who has helped the Golden State Warriors to the top of the Western Conference. Both could easily grab the award if they maintain the pace and have looked excellent since game one. Stephen Curry is still in the mix, but a fairly reserved season so far has seen others like teammate Durant stealing the limelight compared to last year.
It will be interesting to see how the second half of the season develops and if it will be the same names in the playoffs again. Based on the individual performances in the race for MVP, it looks like there won’t be too many changes at the top but the Raptors, Spurs, Celtics and Rockets could easily make a dash for both the conference title and a playoff spot if they can maintain form.