Hoops Rumors Originals

2017 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Oklahoma City Thunder

The 2016/17 campaign was a banner season for Russell Westbrook, who may take home his first MVP award after averaging a triple-double. It was about as successful a year as the Thunder could have expected after losing Kevin Durant, but players like Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo didn’t take big steps forward after signing long-term deals, as the team might’ve hoped. Heading into the summer, the Thunder are over the cap and will have to get creative to further bolster their roster.

Here’s where things currently stand for the Thunder financially, as we continue our Offseason Salary Cap Digest series for 2017:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • Andre Roberson ($4,588,840 qualifying offer / $5,457,681 cap hold)
  • Total: $5,457,681

Cap Holds

Trade Exceptions

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Maximum Cap Room: $12,453,256

  • After Durant departed in free agency last July, the Thunder’s books looked wide open for the foreseeable future, creating a number of different paths the team could go down. However, in the subsequent months, Oklahoma City finalize lucrative extensions for Westbrook, Oladipo, and Adams. Those new deals will count for more than $72MM on the Thunder’s books for 2017/18, limiting the club’s flexibility, barring trades. With nine guaranteed salaries, the cap hold for their first-rounder, and two empty roster charges, the Thunder are carrying $113,453,256 in projected salary for ’17/18, and that’s assuming they renounce all their free agents, including Roberson. They won’t have cap room.

Footnotes:

  1. Christon’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 8.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and The Vertical was used in the creation of this post.

Hoops Links Vol. 2: The Next MJ, McGee’s Reign, More

It’s here. The second installment of our revamped Hoops Links feature. If you missed last week’s debut, you can check it out now. This week, we have an entirely new batch of the best posts and pieces published from all around the blogosphere.

Before you read on, remember that we’re looking for original NBA content from all around the internet. The next time you read an article that you think could make the cut, send it to Austin Kent on Twitter (@AustinKent) or at HoopsRumorsTips@Sports.ws.


Michael Jordan verticalThe NBA has evolved so much over the course of the past 10 years that gone are the days where any 6’6″ swingman capable of flushing a highlight reel dunk was touted as the “Next Michael Jordan.” Howard Beck of Bleacher Report takes a good long look at how Jordan’s legacy has changed over the course of the past two decades.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Harold Miner Posters
Author: Howard Beck – @HowardBeck
Link: The Next Michael Jordan


If the Grizzlies weren’t already the most affable and relatable team capable of contending in the Western Conference, they are after ESPN cameras captured Mike Conley and Marc Gasol hugging following their Game 4 win. This week, Ross Jarrar of Grizzly Bear Blues wrote about how and why the gesture has resonated so much.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Public Bromances
Author: Ross Jarrar – @ASAPRockyTop
Link: Mike Conley and Marc Gasol hug


There’s no denying that the best Shaquille O’Neal rap album analysis is unsolicited Shaquille O’Neal rap album analysis, so when PopGates‘ Charlie Wooley journeyed back to the early nineties and broke down the big man’s musical debut, we took notice.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Triple Threats
Author: Charlie Wooley – @WooleyCharlie
Link: Shaq Diesel review


It wasn’t the only ill-conceived trade in the NBA this season, but Charlotte’s move to take on Miles Plumlee and his bloated contract may have been the worst of the bunch, says Jerry Stephens of Swarm and Sting. Stephens ruminates on the desperate decision the Hornets made to ship Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes to the Bucks mid-season and how it’s already impacting the team’s wallet.
Rating: 6 out of 10 Reddit Memes
Author: Jerry Stephens – @JR_StephNBA
Link: Nebulous Miles Plumlee trade


Former NBA commissioner David Stern gives the Nets the benefit of the doubt that they may not have fully understood the impact their decision to rest players in the final game of regular season would have on the playoff picture. Still, he isn’t afraid to call out the only franchise with absolutely zero incentive to rest players for inexplicably letting the Bulls waltz uncontested into the postseason. Henry Bushnell discusses the details at Ball Don’t Lie.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Disappointed Grandfathers
Author: Henry Bushnell – @HenryBushnell
Link: Stern criticizes Nets for resting players


There was plenty of skepticism over Brad Stevens‘ decision to put Gerald Green in the Celtics‘ starting lineup after two surprising losses to the Bulls in their first round playoff series, but the move has significantly changed the outlook of that series. Tim MacLean breaks down the impact the 31-year-old Green has had on Boston’s matchups and floor-spacing for Celtics Blog.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Birthday Candles
Author: Tim MacLean – @MacLeanNBA
Link: Starting Gerald Green


Norman Powell horizontalFor the second year in a row, Norman Powell has emerged as a driving force behind the Raptors‘ playoff success, so what keeps on happening and why doesn’t Dwane Casey just employ him this way year-round? Shyam Baskaran of Raptors Republic writes about how the space on the wing Toronto freed up for Powell by trading Terrence Ross was quickly swallowed up by the additions of veterans Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Dwane Casey Rotation Changes
Author: Shyam Baskaran – @ShyamBaskaran
Link: Norman Powell in the playoffs


Although he was widely lauded as an elite defensive prospect (among other things), Andrew Wiggins‘ first three seasons of NBA action don’t exactly support the hypothesis that he could be a lockdown perimeter threat. With Wiggins’ value still high, given his raw athleticism and offensive output, could it be the perfect time for the Timberwolves to move him? Erik Voldness of The Blog That Boredom Built suggests as much.
Rating: 6 out of 10 Maple Jordans
Author: Erik Voldness
Link: Trade Andrew Wiggins now?


No matter how you look at it, JaVale McGee‘s game-altering impact has given the Warriors a devastating new weapon. And, believe it or not, this isn’t just some hastily scribbled fan fiction published by a mysterious dude on the internet named Pierre. What McGee’s athleticism and length brings to the Dubs’ second-unit is profound. However, as Scott Rafferty writes for The Step Back, let’s not thrust him into a starting role with 30-plus minutes per game just yet.
Rating: 9 out of 10 Awkward Cross-Generational NBA Feuds
Author: Scott Rafferty – @CrabDribbles
Link: JaVale McGee, Warriors secret weapon


If Paul George to the Lakers is an inevitability, which a cursory look at the rumor mill seems to suggest, somebody ought to take a peek at what a trade might actually look like. Ryan Magdziarz of Sir Charles In Charge recently patched together a possible scenario that could land George in Los Angeles while sending a pair of young Lakers to the Pacers.
Rating: 6 out of 10 Hours Spent On The Trade Machine
Author: Ryan Magdziarz – @RyanMagdziarz
Link: Paul George’s future

Community Shootaround: Blake Griffin

With the Clippers on the verge of elimination, the franchise is moving closer to addressing the tough decisions it will face this summer. J.J. Redick is definitely headed toward free agency, and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are almost certain to opt out and join him, leaving owner Steve Ballmer to decide how much it’s worth to keep the current team together.

A recent report suggests that a five-year extension for Paul is a done deal. Redick is a valuable starter, but not a franchise-altering player. So L.A.’s most important choice will be what to do about Griffin.

At age 28, Griffin remains one of the most talented power forwards in the league. He averaged 21.6 points per game this season, topping the 20-point threshold for the sixth time in his seven NBA seasons. He’s a five-time All-Star who will be among the biggest draws on the open market.

But re-signing Griffin won’t be a slam-dunk decision. Injuries, behavior and finances will all factor in, as will the Clippers’ long string of playoff disappointments.

Griffin managed just three playoff games this year before being sidelined for the rest of the postseason with an injured toe. It’s the second straight season that the Clippers have lost Griffin in the first round, as both he and Paul were unavailable at the end of last year’s ouster against Portland. Griffin appeared in just 61 regular-season games, losing part of the season to arthroscopic knee surgery in December.

A year ago, he managed just 35 games and broke his right hand in a fight with equipment manager Matias Testi. Griffin apologized to teammates and fans, but the incident reportedly soured some members of the front office about his future in the organization.

Giving max deals to keep both Paul and Griffin would push the Clippers’ payroll among the highest in the league. Ballmer would be faced with a sizable luxury tax and a huge repeater tax on top of it. Vertical insider Adrian Wojnarowski wrote this morning that it wouldn’t be “realistic” to expect that kind of commitment after another early playoff exit.

One option if Griffin isn’t retained is to revisit a deal for Carmelo Anthony. The Clippers were one of the teams that the Knicks contacted before the deadline. Anthony could at least replace Griffin’s scoring and give L.A. a new Big Three with Paul and DeAndre Jordan.

That brings us to tonight’s question: Should the Clippers re-sign Griffin this summer, and if they don’t, where will he end up? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

2017 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Portland Trail Blazers

After an unexpected second-round playoff run a year ago, the Trail Blazers underwhelmed in 2016/17, sneaking into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed and failing to win a single postseason game. The Blazers did unearth a gem when they acquired Jusuf Nurkic in a February trade, but the team’s cap situation will make it very difficult for the front office to make major upgrades to the roster this summer.

Here’s where things currently stand for the Trail Blazers financially, as we continue our Offseason Salary Cap Digest series for 2017:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Festus Ezeli ($6,733,000) — Partial guarantee. Guaranteed portion noted above.1
  • Pat Connaughton ($1,471,382)2
  • Tim Quarterman ($1,312,611)
  • Total: $9,516,993

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Cap Holds

  • No. 15 overall pick ($2,365,560)
  • No. 20 overall pick ($1,859,400)
  • No. 26 overall pick ($1,465,920)
  • Total: $5,690,880

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Maximum Cap Room: $38,119,655

  • Portland has an extraordinary amount of money tied up in guaranteed salaries for next season. If the Blazers were to waive all their players on non-guaranteed salaries, the club’s remaining salaries for 2017/18 – along with cap holds for first-round draft picks – would total $139,119,655, a figure that would be well above the tax line. Trades to clear some salary are possible, but the Blazers are a virtual lock to remain over the cap this offseason.

Footnotes:

  1. Ezeli’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after June 30.
  2. Connaughton’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 25.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and The Vertical was used in the creation of this post.

2017 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers made some big splashes on the trade market and in free agency a year ago, but the new-look roster didn’t take the step forward the team was hoping for. Heading into the 2017 offseason, Indiana finds itself in a tough spot, with the future of star forward Paul George – who has just one guaranteed year left on his contract – up in the air.

Here’s where things currently stand for the Pacers financially, as we kick off our Offseason Salary Cap Digest series for 2017:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Kevin Seraphin ($1,974,159)3
  • Glenn Robinson III ($1,471,382)4
  • Joe Young ($1,471,382)5
  • Rakeem Christmas ($1,421,382) — Partial guarantee. Guaranteed portion noted above.2
  • Georges Niang ($1,212,611) — Partial guarantee. Guaranteed portion noted above.1
  • Total: $7,550,916

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Cap Holds

  • Jeff Teague ($13,200,000) — UFA
  • C.J. Miles ($8,708,555) — If player option is declined
  • Lavoy Allen ($7,600,000) — If team option is declined
  • Aaron Brooks ($3,240,000) — UFA
  • No. 18 overall pick ($2,028,360)
  • Total: $34,776,915

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Maximum Cap Room: $32,491,518

  • If the Pacers were to waive all their players on non-guaranteed salaries, decline their team option on Allen, have Miles turn down his player option, and renounce their UFAs, they would have $64,430,407 on their cap for seven roster spots (six guaranteed salaries and a first-round pick). The team would also have to account for five minimum-salary roster charges for empty roster spots. The total on their books in that scenario would be $68,508,482.

Footnotes:

  1. Niang’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after either July 1 or July 15 (conflicting information available).
  2. Christmas’ salary becomes fully guaranteed after either July 1 or August 1 (conflicting information available).
  3. Seraphin’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 1.
  4. Robinson’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 1.
  5. Young’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 1.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and The Vertical was used in the creation of this post.

NBA Salary Guarantee Dates For Summer 2017

Nearly every NBA team has at least one player on their books with a non-guaranteed salary or a partially guaranteed salary for the 2017/18 season. In the majority of those cases, the team has the ability to waive the player and get off the hook for that entire salary before it becomes guaranteed. However, many of those decisions will be due well before next year’s regular season gets underway.

Below, we’ve broken down the upcoming salary guarantee dates for many players currently on non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts for 2017/18. Not every player on a non-guaranteed deal is included here — if a player’s contract doesn’t include any early salary guarantee dates, and won’t become fully guaranteed until January 2018, we’ll look at his deal at a later date.

For now, we want to get a better idea of which teams will have to make decisions on salary guarantees during or before the free agent period. So if a player’s non-guaranteed contract becomes fully or partially guaranteed during the months of June, July, or August, that’s noted below.

With the help of contract information from The Vertical and Basketball Insiders, here are this summer’s upcoming salary guarantee dates by team:

Atlanta Hawks

  • Mike Dunleavy: $5,175,000 salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 1. Currently partially guaranteed ($1,662,500).
  • Ryan Kelly: $1,577,230 salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 7.

Boston Celtics

  • Tyler Zeller: $8,000,000 salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 2.
  • Demetrius Jackson: $1,384,750 salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 15. Currently partially guaranteed ($650,000).
  • Jordan Mickey: $1,471,382 salary becomes fully guaranteed after either July 1 or July 15 (conflicting information available).

Brooklyn Nets

  • Joe Harris: $1,524,305 salary becomes fully guaranteed after June 30.
  • Sean Kilpatrick: $1,524,305 salary becomes fully guaranteed after June 30.
  • Quincy Acy: $1,709,538 salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 16.

Charlotte Hornets

  • Johnny O’Bryant: $1,524,305 salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 1.
  • Briante Weber: $1,471,382 salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 1.

Read more

Weekly Mailbag: 4/17/17 – 4/23/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

Do the Pacers have any interest in adding Carmelo Anthony to help Paul George stay in Indiana? I will trade Thaddeus Young, Monta Ellis and a future first-round pick for Carmelo. — Jason Tom

The Knicks haven’t gotten any better offers that we’ve heard about, so let’s examine your proposal. Ellis’ trade value is down after a subpar year. Plus, he’s signed for $11.23MM for next season and has a player option worth $11.7MM for 2018/19. Young will make nearly $14.8MM next year and has an option worth nearly $13.8MM for the following season. But he’s only 28 and wouldn’t be a bad fit next to Kristaps Porzingis. The future first-rounder could carry some value if George leaves in free agency after next season. Substitute C.J. Miles (if he opts in) or Lavoy Allen for Ellis, and the Knicks might have some interest. Of course, the bigger question is whether Anthony would waive his no-trade clause to go to Indiana, and the answer is probably not, unless he becomes desperate to get out of New York.

If the Sixers get the Lakers’ pick at No. 4, which player would you go for? — Babyboy, via Twitter
This would be the worst-case scenario for the Lakers, and the best for the Sixers, who own L.A.’s pick if it falls out of the top three. It will also be an indication of how much Philadelphia believes in Ben Simmons running the point. Both Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and Chad Ford of ESPN.com have Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson as their top three picks. That leaves De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith, both highly regarded point guards, along with international prospect Frank Ntilikina. The Sixers will also have their own pick later in the lottery, so it’s likely they would take the best player available at No. 4. Jayson Tatum is a possibility, but Malik Monk would fill a long-time need in the backcourt.

Is NBA expansion happening? Are the SuperSonics set to return? — Scott, via Twitter

The latest news on the Sonics is that the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group has a $564MM plan for renovations to KeyArena, the team’s former home. The project could be completed by October of 2020, in time to host an NBA or NHL team for the 2020/21 season. The 55-year-old arena is expected to be named a historic landmark this year, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, which means its unique roof and other elements would have to be retained in any renovation. A committee will make a recommendation in June whether to renovate the arena or throw its support behind a new facility. The city is willing to invest to bring the SuperSoncis back, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver recognizes the value of the Seattle market. The only obstacle is that the league has no immediate or long-term plans for expansion. But when it happens, Seattle is almost guaranteed to get its team back.

Hoops Rumors Originals: 4/15/17 – 4/22/17

The Hoops Rumors team was busy pumping out original content this week and we’ve broken it all down for you here. Take a look at some of our favorite pieces and let us know what you think.

NBA 2016/17 Dead Money By Team

An NBA club’s team salary can generally be divided up into two parts — the salaries and bonuses that teams are paying to the players currently on their roster, and “dead money,” which represents cap hits for players no longer on the team.

Dead money can take a number of forms. It can represent the cap hit or buyout total for a player who was waived earlier in the season; it can be a cap hit for a player who was waived in a previous year, perhaps via the stretch provision; it can even be the cap hit for a 10-day contract that has expired.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid carrying at least a little dead money on your books, but a couple teams nearly did it in 2016/17 — the Jazz and Raptors each finished the regular season with less than $300K in dead money on their respective caps. Conversely, the Sixers led the way with more than $23MM in dead money on their books for this season.

A large or small amount of dead money on a team’s cap doesn’t necessarily signal good or bad cap management, but it can reflect a club’s cap situation. For instance, the Trail Blazers didn’t carry much dead money on their cap this season, but that’s because they couldn’t afford to — Portland finished the year less than $5K away from the tax line, so waiving anyone and adding to that dead money total could have created problems.

The Sixers, on the other hand, finished the season with plenty of cap room despite carrying more than $23MM in dead money. They were so far below the cap to start the year that they could afford to eat some salary and waive veterans like Andrew Bogut ($10.5MM+) and Carl Landry ($6.5MM) in order to add young players, without it hurting their bottom line.

While correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, it’s worth noting that only one of this year’s playoff teams (Indiana) was in the top 12 in the NBA in terms of dead money. Of the 18 teams that carried the least dead money, 15 made the postseason.

Listed below are the dead money figures on NBA teams’ caps in 2016/17. For more details on how these salaries break down, be sure to check out our Salary Cap Snapshots for ’16/17.

Most 2016/17 dead money by NBA team:

  1. Philadelphia 76ers: $23,486,925
  2. Brooklyn Nets: $17,986,178
  3. Phoenix Suns: $12,533,729
  4. Dallas Mavericks: $11,497,934
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves: $10,111,402
  6. Los Angeles Lakers: $8,564,524
  7. Indiana Pacers: $8,387,667
  8. Sacramento Kings: $7,807,829
  9. New Orleans Pelicans: $6,697,399
  10. New York Knicks: $6,017,749
  11. Detroit Pistons: $5,398,678
  12. Miami Heat: $5,296,896
  13. Oklahoma City Thunder: $4,358,585
  14. Denver Nuggets: $4,165,795
  15. San Antonio Spurs: $3,505,381
  16. Houston Rockets: $3,430,160
  17. Milwaukee Bucks: $3,128,117
  18. Atlanta Hawks: $2,634,954
  19. Memphis Grizzlies: $2,614,263
  20. Golden State Warriors: $2,473,745
  21. Portland Trail Blazers: $1,984,005
  22. Charlotte Hornets: $1,837,499
  23. Orlando Magic: $1,701,127
  24. Washington Wizards: $1,551,805
  25. Boston Celtics: $1,550,240
  26. Cleveland Cavaliers: $1,458,181
  27. Los Angeles Clippers: $1,412,964
  28. Chicago Bulls: $494,500
  29. Utah Jazz: $275,000
  30. Toronto Raptors: $206,500

Note: These figures are not official, but are based on reliable salary data from The Vertical and Basketball Insiders, as well as our own data.

2017 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player

With the 2016/17 NBA regular season in the books, we’re making our picks for the year’s major awards. The Hoops Rumors writing team has weighed in with our selections below, but we also want to know which players, coaches, and executives you think are most deserving of the hardware this season, so jump into the comments section below to share your thoughts.

We’re wrapping things up today with the award for Most Valuable Player. Here are our picks:

Arthur Hill: Russell Westbrook (Thunder)Russell Westbrook vertical
This has a chance to be one of the closest MVP votes ever. Westbrook and James Harden both turned in extraordinary seasons, and either could be a runaway winner in a normal year. The case for Harden is that the Rockets won more games than the Thunder (55 to 47) and Harden was more efficient. He led the league with 11.2 assists per game while averaging 29.1 points. His True Shooting numbers were better than Westbrook’s and he put up his numbers in fewer possessions. However, by averaging a triple double, Westbrook did something that hasn’t been accomplished in 55 seasons. He also displayed his value in the offseason, agreeing to an extension when it looked like the Thunder might crumble after losing Kevin Durant. Harden’s season was special, but Westbrook’s was historic. He’s the real MVP.

Austin Kent: Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
I wasn’t entirely convinced that I would tip my hat in Westbrook’s direction until the final weeks of the season. At the end of the day however, there were three things that, together, made giving the award to anybody else troublesome. Had Westbrook only averaged a triple-double, I would have easily been able to justify giving the award to Harden, but he did so while also leading the league in scoring and minimizing the win differential between the two teams to just eight games.

The Rockets were a better team this season and Harden has been a certifiably MVP-worthy candidate, but Westbrook obliterating league history is more deserving of recognition. Even if Westbrook has a tendency to chase stats, is fortunate enough to play with big men who aren’t afraid to defer rebounds, and still barely topped a record set by somebody who didn’t even know he was setting a record in the first place, what he did is among the most impressive things our generation will ever see on a basketball court. Seriously, with the exception of a hypothetically stat-crazed Miami Heat-era LeBron James, I can’t think of a single player in the last 20 years who could pull off Westbrook’s accomplishment even if they were, like Westbrook, hellbent on doing exactly that.

We had a handful of players who made valid cases for the MVP award this year — that part isn’t up for debate. I’ve just decided to give the nod to the one who managed to make his case while simultaneously pulling off a feat that five years ago was virtually unimaginable.

Chris Crouse: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
Picking an MVP this year means splitting hairs. All are deserving, though only one can get the top vote. LeBron is the best player in the world, but his defense slipped this season and his numbers weren’t as impressive as some of the other candidates. Harden nearly averaged a triple-double, but he was overshadowed by Westbrook, who accomplished the feat.

Westbrook put up unbelievable stats, though it begs the question: is one star more valuable than another because of opportunity? His historic usage percentage (41.7%) allowed him to put up historic numbers. Westbrook took nearly 2,000 shots this year. Harden took 1,533, while James and Leonard put up roughly 1,300 apiece. Westbrook basically did what Drew Brees has been doing in the NFL over the last several seasons: achieve major statistical milestones as a result of opportunity without elevating his team to greatness. Brees hasn’t won the MVP award because voters realize it’s a passing league, and with the NBA trending toward high-pace-and-space style offenses, I think we’ll find that tremendous stats will become the new normal in this league.

Leonard didn’t put up gaudy stat lines as frequently as the other candidates, but he didn’t cost his team as many possessions either. Leonard had only 154 turnovers on the season. Westbrook gave the ball to the other team 438 times. Harden did it a league-worst 464 times. LBJ had 303 turnovers himself. And it’s not like Leonard had the ball that much less than some of the other candidates (Leonard had a 31.1 usage percentage, while Harden had 34.2 and James had 30.0). Having also factored in Leonard’s efficiency, Win Shares (he’s second in the league in WS per 48 minutes behind only Kevin Durant) and suffocating defense, I have to go with the San Antonio star in this extremely tight race for MVP.

Dana Gauruder: Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
I can’t fault anyone who favors Harden. He also had a spectacular season after changing his role. What Westbrook did – averaging a triple-double – is mind-boggling in an era where star players routinely take nights off. The Thunder needed him to dominate virtually every night to make the playoffs and he delivered.

Luke Adams: Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
A common argument in the case for Harden over Westbrook is the fact that the Rockets exceeded their expectations in 2016/17 by a greater margin than the Thunder did. That’s true, but that’s only because expectations for Westbrook in Oklahoma City’s post-Durant era were sky high. We expected Westbrook to go on a rampage and put up massive numbers like he did during Durant’s absence in 2014/15 — we weren’t sure what to expect from Harden and the Rockets after a disastrous 2015/16 season.

The fact that Westbrook still managed to exceed our expectations this season is one reason why he deserves the Most Valuable Player award. He also made huge shots in clutch situations time after time, and managed to carry a roster that was dead-last in the NBA in outside shooting (.327 3PT%, including .321 for players besides Westbrook) to a No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. And, yeah, he averaged a triple-double too. Incredible seasons from Harden, Leonard, and LeBron made this decision a brutal one, but Westbrook deserves the MVP nod for a singular performance that we’ll remember for years to come.

Who is your pick for Most Valuable Player? Share your choices and your thoughts in the comments section below!

Previously:
April 13: Executive of the Year
April 14: Coach of the Year
April 17: Most Improved Player
April 18: Sixth Man of the Year
April 19: Defensive Player of the Year
April 20: Rookie of the Year

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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