Burning Questions: Who Has Been the MVP of the NBA So Far This Season?
The topic of the NBA's Most Valuable Player award always manages to spark a heated debate, mostly because there has never really been a conclusive definition of what exactly "most valuable" means.
A list of precise criteria has never been officially established, although just about anyone who follows the game and has an opinion on it -- from the media members and TV analysts who get paid to, all the way down to Joe Casual Fan at the water cooler -- generally has a set they've picked out of who-knows-where that they'll defend to the death.
At the root of the argument is the difference between choosing a player having the best season -- statistically or otherwise -- versus a player who means the most to his team. Sometimes, one player manages to exemplify both schools of thought, but generally this is where the masses begin to divide.
Stemming from these two overarching arguments, many other questions emerge.
For the "best season" argument, for starters, how does one even qualify "best"? Is it statistically driven? If so, which statistics are more important for measuring than others? What is the proper balance between offensive and defensive contributions? Is there a minimum requirement of games played to be considered for the award?
As for the "most important" side, how in the world do you definitively measure importance? How much of a team's success does a player need to be responsible for? How would a given player's team perform if he were replaced with an average player or removed entirely? Can a player be the most valuable if there are other very valuable players on his team? Does his team have to be one of the best in the league or simply a playoff team? Can a player seriously be considered for the award if his team doesn't even make the playoffs?
You won't find recognized answers to these questions in any NBA rule book, but ask anyone with two cents to spend on an opinion about who deserves the award, and you'll find that everyone's got some form of a response to each. Not only that, but they'll defend their opinion -- as heavily biased and picked from thin air as it is -- like it's gospel.
And it's that kind of strong conviction that makes this year's MVP debate the juiciest we've had in recent memory. We're roughly 80% of the way through the regular season and so far there hasn't been any one dominant narrative that's made this year's winner anywhere close to obvious.
Usually, by this time of the year, a consensus starts to form as the opinions of the mass media and general NBA-consuming public converge on some form of common ground. Look no further than last year, when the fiery Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James debate that went back and forth and lasted all season ended up in a decisive 119 to 6 first-place-vote victory for KD.
Now, one month from the end of the 2014-15 season and we still have approximately six -- count 'em, six -- legitimate candidates still standing and they all fit a different MVP niche. Some satisfy the "best season" side, others fit firmly in the "most important" corner, while others typify both to varying degrees.
The hoops writers here at numberFire have been having this debate internally on a daily basis for months, but it's officially time to bring those arguments to light. Click onward to read each side of the story to date.