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LAWS ON THE COURT: NBA EDITION: NBA MVP Race; Griffin, Durant or James?


An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and apparently none of us have been abiding by that rule because Doc Rivers has made, I’ll stop short of saying waves, ripples when he weighed in on the MVP race. Throwing Blake Griffin’s name onto the top of the MVP pile.

“I think second because I’m coaching him,” Rivers said of the big man’s MVP status, per ESPN’s Arash Markazi. “I think Durant has had the best year. I still think LeBron [James] is still the best player in the NBA but I think Durant has had an MVP year. I don’t know who has had a better year. And I honestly think Blake would be right behind him.”

I know as a society you’re supposed to listen to the purveyors of health, but it’s tough when the guy works for the pharm company that’s trying to sell you the new and tempting, but not fully FDA approved drugs. Doc nailed one thing though, his prediction for Kevin Durant’s 1st MVP title.

Durant breaking Michael Jordan’s record of 40, 25+ point games in a row, was the cherry on the milkshake that brought at the voters to his yard and said damn right, he’s set a new bar (now Durant trails only Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlin in that category). Everyone is aware of Durant’s phobia to the number 2, placing second or being named runner-up and this year it’s most likely going to be Lebron James that sees what second feels like.

But since Doc brought it up, let’s play Gary Washburn and make a case for Blake Griffin to send Lebron two rungs down the ladder.

Griffin is athletic, lays down disgusting jams, and irritates the heck out of his opponents in the paint. Becoming a general nuisance this season has over shadowed the fact that under Doc Rivers his game has been able to expand.

Griffin’s had career high points per game average (24.1) and adds 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists (career high), a block and a steal each night on the floor. More notable is his improvement in range and confidence in stepping outside the paint.
Last season, Griffin had 661 interior looks and 245 attempts 23-15 feet from the basket. Of the mid-range shots he hit just 84 (34.3%).

This year, it’s 801 looks for the big man under the bucket, who’s been executing using more advanced post moves. Shooting went up in attempts and in percentage, 133/362 (36.7%). On top of that, from the left base line quadrant Griffin shot above the league average, making him an actual outside threat, pulling a defender out to guard him. Isn’t that what a team needs from its most valuable player; diversity in their game, picking up the slack when another leader is sidelined, and being clutch down the stretch?

With Chris Paul out, Griffin and the Clippers went 12-6 and during that span his raw numbers improved dramatically. From the foul line he’s bumped his efficiency up to 71% and sees 3 more opportunities per game from the stripe. Impressively Griffin is 33/41 FT this month.

You can suggest that Griffin means more to his team because the supporting cast isn’t as strong as the Heat. Even Chris Bosh agrees with me:
“A lot of guys coming off the bench here could start in a bunch of other different places,” Bosh said. “We have a team where it’s like, hey, we’d be better than half the league if they made up a team of just bench guys. You know, we’re pretty good, still.”

Miami won 5 of 6 without LeBron in the line-up last season and are 2-1 this year without its superstar.
Advanced stats tell a very interesting story. Real Plus Minus (RPM) has LBJ first in the universe. 8.11 compared to Griffins 3.97. But the mayor of lob city could be deemed more well rounded based on that number alone. He boasts positive figures in both ORPM (offensive) and DRPM (defensive). James is one of only 7 players in the top 50 RPM with a negative defensive impact (-0.21).

James has been accused of “coasting” this season or the more diplomatic “conserving”, but that’s not why he won’t win his 5th MVP title in a six year span. People aren’t tired of him. He’s been effective and more efficient. Durant has just been phenomenal and seized a rare opportunity to turn the narrative in his favour.

No James Harden and no Kevin Martin by his side. Russell Westbrook went down and still OKC still didn’t become a bubble team in the West. That’s all Durant, and that’s why James is 2nd, it’s nothing he didn’t do, it’s just what Slim did. And all that adds up too is Griffin being left out in the cold, still on the podium but relegated to the 3rd ranking.
There are over 100 votes that will be cast for the title, one based on the fan contentious.

It’s subjective like most things in life. Like Doc Rivers, thinking Griffin should be second in the MVP race.