Unfortunately, the National Basketball Association regular season has almost come and gone. Thankfully, it has been one hell of a ride and because of a lengthy playoff schedule, we still get over two more months of NBA action! Before we get to the post season though, the only thing left to decide, except for a playoff spot or two, is your 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player.
This decision should not be taken lightly and by classifying each of the four contenders for this year’s award with a poker playing style, we hopefully made picking an MVP easier than ever.
This type of player is usually labelled as a rock and is very straight-forward with their playing styles. Kawhi Leonard fits that mold, as he’s the steady leader of the 61-win San Antonio Spurs with numbers that impress, 25 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds per game, but don’t astonish. Leonard is arguably the best two-way player in the league and has the second highest PER in the league, behind Russell Westbrook. Leonard has won Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back years and will be an All-NBA 1st Team member again in 2017 but that is about it.
This type of player generally likes to play a lot of pots, do so without much aggression and usually find themselves on the defensive. Ironically, James Harden, who hasn’t played a lick of defense this year, fits that mold. Harden has had a bit of a career revival this year in Houston, leading the Rockets to the 3rd seed in the Western Conference, after putting together a disappointing .500 campaign in 2016. The bearded guard leads the league in assists per game, with over 11, and likely would be the MVP, if there wasn’t a better, more impressive, more aggressive version of him making headlines in Oklahoma.
This type of player doesn’t play many hands but when they do, they play them strongly and effectively. LeBron James is tight-aggressive to a T. As evident by the Cavaliers losing the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, LeBron isn’t that concerned with most the regular season but when he needs to show up, he does. He’ll have to in the playoffs if he wants to play in a seventh straight NBA Finals and if he can get there, the victor from the Western Conference won’t be happy to see him, just like you aren’t happy to have an experienced, tight-aggressive player across from you on the felt.
This type of player tends to be involved in a lot of pots, with a wide variety of holdings and can be extremely difficult to read. On one end, players can employ this strategy to great effect, on the other, players who try and fail could be labeled as maniacs. Those that blend those two extremes will be successful and Russell Westbrook does just that. He plays every possession with the fire of a thousand suns, concedes to no one and is the first player to average a triple-double since 1962. Russell Westbrook is my 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player.