The first round of the playoffs are almost over and at this point we have a decent idea (for the most part) of which teams will be advancing into the second round. They say that the post-season is where legends are made, and there are quite a few players that have been making themselves legendary through their play on the court.
Unfortunately, only two teams make it to the NBA Finals, and the playoff MVP always goes to the best player on the Championship team. The Finals MVP award often overlooks the other players who have performed spectacularly, but weren’t able to advance for a variety of reasons. So this piece is to recognize the efforts of those who have been excellent on the court in the first round of the playoffs.
This list was really difficult to make and it required me to leave out a few players in the end. I have one surprise pick as playoff MVP and a player some people would consider in the MVP discussion whom I ultimately decided to leave off.
So before I give you my Top Five Playoff MVPs, I’ll give you the honorable mentions list (in no particular order):
- Al Horford
- Tony Parker
- Serge Ibaka
- Chris Paul (He hasn’t been playing well as he did in the regular season. In his defense, he has been playing against the league’s toughest defense.)
- Brook Lopez
- Ty Lawson
- Carmelo Anthony (The toughest person to leave off the list. Ultimately just a volume scorer in the post-season.)
Okay, I can already feel the thousands of Knicks fans trying to reach for my throat (since I’m from New Jersey, I get to see a lot of them every day.) But before they get to me, I’ll just put this list up.
5) Paul George – I wasn’t a believer of his during the regular season, he was good but extremely inefficient. He’s still not efficient in terms of field goal percentage, but he has stepped his game up in almost every other way. He’s grabbing two more boards a game, has one more assist, increased his blocked shots, all while scoring about five more points per game. His defense has been solid which is definitely a plus.
4) Nate Robinson – My surprise pick. Anyone can point out and argue that Carmelo’s scoring output is almost twice that of Robinson’s, but Robinson has made more of an impact in the Nets-Bulls series. Carmelo also single-handedly cost the Knicks their chance at a sweep, and when you making your team worse isn’t what MVPs do. Nate Robinson has been the best player for the Bulls as they hold a 3-2 lead over Brooklyn. He has increased his scoring from averaging 13 points/game in the regular season to averaging 17 in the first round. And my favorite part about it all is that he’s shooting an absurd 57% from the field. Fifty-seven percent. This is the guy that’s listed as 5’9” but is probably shorter; he is essentially a “midget” in basketball terms. He’s been one of the main reasons Chicago is even up in the series count, especially after making clutch shots in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 4. John Hollinger’s PER statistic has him ranked as the fourth best player out of all candidates that have played at least 20 minutes per game, and it’s hard to argue that. This mighty mite deserves his recognition.
3) LeBron James – His numbers have dipped a bit when compared to his phenomenal regular season, but even then King James has been balling out there on the court. He’s scoring even more efficiently (62.7% FG%) and is still playing great defense while his team handily swept the Milwaukee Bucks. Even though the Bucks aren’t a top-flight team, it is alarming that LeBron averaged almost five turnovers per game against them. That number should ease its way down as LeBron looks to try harder and play better against tougher competition. Regardless, the reigning league MVP is playing great basketball and is making a strong case for Playoffs MVP.
2) Kevin Durant – “KD” is once again showing us that he truly is something special. I’ve always found it astounding that the man has a game that is primarily jump-shot based yet still sports a 50% field goal percentage. That’s absolutely ridiculous. KD has improved his game in almost every aspect compared to the regular season, and is keeping things going strong even after the absence of fellow superstar Russell Westbrook. He’s averaging five more points a game in the post-season and is virtually un-guardable on the floor. He almost led the Thunder to a sweep of the Houston Rockets, if only Serge Ibaka hadn’t rushed the game-tying lay-up. Kevin Durant is playing like he wants to be the number one player in the country, unfortunately for him, there’s still one person outperforming him.
1) Stephen Curry – There’s absolutely no disputing this pick. He has raised his play all across the board while cutting down on his turnovers. He’s averaging a double-double in the playoffs, dropping 27 points per game while dishing out 10 assists as well. What’s even scarier is that the record holder for most threes in a season is shooting a higher percentage from beyond the arc at 47% (50% FG%)! Stephen Curry has been putting up unbelievable numbers and is making voters regret not putting him on the All-Star Team. Hollinger’s PER statistic has him ranked as the best player that’s in the game for 20+ minutes Oh and did I mention that he’s doing all this on a twisted ankle? The only part of Curry’s game that needs refinement at this point is his defense, but his efforts on the offensive end make him my Playoffs MVP.