This subject has always been confusing to me. How do the powers that be choose the the NBA's Most Valuable Player? Is the Maurice Podoloff trophy given to the "most valuable player" or to the "best player on a team most likely to win it all"? The fact that Kevin Durant and Lebron James are the top two candidates on most sports writers' lists leads me to believe that the decision is based on the latter criteria rather than the former.
With 40 wins, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best record in the competitive Western Conference. Durant is averaging 27.5 ppg this season and has dropped 30 or more points on 19 different occasions. The reigning scoring champ seems even more focused this season and his buzzer-beating 3-pointer versus the Dallas Mavericks was certainly MVP-like. With 37 wins, the Miami Heat are 3 games behind the Bulls for the best record in the much improved Eastern Conference. Lebron is averaging 26.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists per game and on four occasions he has been 1 or 2 assists shy of triple-double. His low-post game is much improved as is his shot selection. Despite a pair of mini-slumps, the Heat have been rolling this season. Oklahoma and Miami could very well meet in the Finals and both Kevin Durant and Lebron James are having remarkable seasons.
What if the MVP award was truly about being valuable to your team? Both Durant and Lebron have a lot of help. Durant plays alongside Russell Westbrook, one of the better point guards in the NBA, and there is no shortage of talent on that Thunder squad. James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, and Thabo Sefalosha are all very good players. Lebron James plays alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, who are (arguably) one of the 3 or 4 best players at their respective positions. Russell Westbrook has carried the Thunder to a win numerous times. Wade or Bosh have taken over their share of games as well. In the fourth quarter of a close game, Westbrook and Wade are just as likely to have the ball in their hands as their superstar counterparts. How valuable does that make Durant and James to their teams?
If given a vote, I would have Dwight Howard and Kevin Love as my top two candidates. Both players are the best at their respective positions (in my humble opinion) and both certainly have the numbers to justify MVP consideration. Dwight Howard is averaging nearly 21 points and 15 rebounds a game. He has already had eight games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds this year including that ridiculous 45 point, 23 rebound performance versus the Golden State Warriors. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year single-handedly makes a bunch of mediocre defenders into a good defensive team and a mediocre team into a Playoff contender.
Kevin Love is averaging 26 points and 14 rebounds a game and leads the league with 44 double-doubles this season. Sixteen times he has scored 30 or more points and pulled down 10 or more rebounds in the same game. In the much anticipated showdown with Blake Griffin and the Clippers, Love's 39 point, 17 rebound effort capped off by his buzzer-beating game-winner was certainly MVP-like. His more recent 51 point performance versus Oklahoma City was nothing short of spectacular.
Both Dwight Howard and Kevin Love are thriving without nearly the talent around them that Durant and Lebron have. Who are the 2nd and 3rd best players on the Magic? Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson? Glen Davis and Jason Richardson? What about on this Ricky Rubio-less Timberwolves team? Michael Beasley and Nikola Pecovic? JJ Barea and Luc Ridnour? Do me a favor. Say these two sentences aloud.
"In other news, the Miami Heat have agreed to trade Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to the Orlando Magic for Ryan Anderson and Glen "Big Baby" Davis."
"Today the Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed, in principle, to trade Russell Westbrook to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Luc Ridnour."
Both of those statements sound pretty absurd, right? The tired old adage of "rewarding winning" will probably disqualify Howard and Love from actually winning MVP honors this season, which is a shame. They are having amazing seasons despite having teams game plan to get the ball out of their hands every single night. I cannot think of two players who are more valuable to their teams than they are. Can you?