NBA

Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.

Five alternative selections for the 2015-16 MVP

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The reigning Most Valuable Player in the NBA, Stephen Curry, looks like a certainty to retain the award and, once again, be recognised as the league's best player. It is also being predicted that the Golden State Warriors point guard will win the award unanimously and there can't possibly be any reasons why the vote makers would choose another player in their ballots.

One of the main talking points and interesting debates of every NBA season is centred around who will scoop the award, but with Curry seemingly putting that talk to bed with his remarkable performances, the interest has now switched to which players deserve to be selected as runners-up.

Despite the man in Oakland drawing all the attention, there have been numerous players in the league who are enjoying MVP-calibre seasons and have been overshadowed. Here is a look at the alternative MVPs in the NBA this year:

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Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Since entering the NBA in 2011 Leonard has shown vast improvement year-on-year and has taken his game to yet another level this season. With Spurs' big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all coming towards the end of their illustrious careers, the franchise needed somebody to pick up the baton and he has fulfilled that.

During his relatively short career in the league thus far, Leonard has already achieved some of the biggest accolades in the game; becoming an NBA champion, a Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and finally being named an All-Star in Toronto.

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So far in the 2015/16 season, Leonard is posting career-best numbers by averaging 21 points, 2.5 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game. He has firmly established himself as one of the best two-way players in the league and has been a huge factor in the Spurs' fantastic 57-10 record, and their perfect 33-0 at home.

In another season, the 24-year-old small forward could've been adding an MVP award to his growing list of personal honours but it wouldn't surprise anybody if he was to be standing on the podium accepting the award in the near future.

San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Due to his very high standards, there are some who would disagree with LeBron James being considered in the MVP race, but the truth of the matter is, his numbers don't lie and his importance to his team is unquestionable.

LeBron will always be judged on his prior performances and though he may not be having his best season statistically, he is still Cleveland's leading scorer and best creator. James is averaging 25 points, 6.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds and is shooting 50.5%.

To put this into context, only seven players in NBA history have averaged this stat line over a season. The Cavaliers have also held the number one spot in the Eastern Conference for almost the entire season and are the favourites to reach a second consecutive NBA Finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers

The one negative in LeBron's season, however, has been his three-point shooting, which ranks among the worst in the league at below 30%. He will not win his fifth MVP award for this season, but he shouldn't be overlooked for the great season he is having.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook is having the best season of his career, there's no doubt about it. For a number of years, Westbrook has drawn criticism for being quite selfish and not sharing the basketball and getting his team-mates involved. 

He hasn't always been the conventional point guard who looks to create. His athleticism and ability to score in a manner of ways led him to become a score-first point guard.

This season, however, has seen Westbrook combine the two by averaging an impressive 24 points and 10.4 assists per game, to go along with 7.6 rebounds. He is the league leader in triple doubles - with 12 - and very recently posted an incredible 25 points, 19 assists and 11 rebounds in a home win against the L.A. Clippers.

Golden State Warriors v Oklahoma City Thunder

He has emphatically quelled the notion that he is not a 'real' point-guard by having some superb assist numbers while continuing to score prolifically. Even though Westbrook records two steals a game, though, his defense, in general, this season hasn't been the best, just. His defensive intensity from previous years has certainly dipped this season but his importance on offense for OKC, along with Kevin Durant, is clear.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

With Blake Griffin out injured since 25 December, Paul has stepped up even more as a leader of the Clippers and has led them to a 26-11 record in the power forward’s absence.

Despite missing 37 games, Griffin remains the Clippers’ leading scorer, but Paul wasn’t willing to let his absence affect the team and has embraced the added responsibility.

The point guard remains one of the NBA’s most elite playmakers and is a lynchpin of the team on both ends of the floor. As long as he’s on the court, the Clippers will always remain competitive.

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Following a season marred by injury in 2014/15, many were intrigued to see how Durant would feel after his first major absence. The answer is he’s just as good, if not better.

KD is an offensive machine, averaging an incredible 28 points, 4.9 assists and 8.2 rebounds with a 50% shooting percentage. Numbers-wise, this is Durant’s best season in a Thunder uniform and after the team missed out on the playoffs last year due to his absence, he is determined to make up for lost time.

There is a case to argue that the 27-year-old is playing better than in his MVP-winning year in 2013/14 and in most cases he would be a front-runner for the award, which just puts Curry’s remarkable individual year into context.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard's individual year and the circumstances surrounding it should definitely put him in the MVP bracket. After losing four of their starting five players, with LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum leaving in the summer, the Trail Blazers were not expected to be in the playoff picture but Lillard has had other ideas.

The point guard took on the responsibility and has emerged as a real leader for the team. Averaging 25.7 points, 6.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds a game, Lillard is having his best season and is on the verge of leading Portland to an unexpected playoff berth.

He was very unfortunate to miss out on an All-Star selection but he has been on a tear since and has placed himself among the elite point guards in the NBA.

Portland Trail Blazers v Indiana Pacers

Special mentions: Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)

Topics:
Eastern Conference
NBA
LA Clippers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Chris Paul
Portland Trail Blazers
Northwest Division
Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Kawhi Leonard
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
Damian Lillard
LeBron James

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