NBA MVP Watch: Make Room for Kyle Lowry
There's no question that Kyle Lowry is the best basketball player in the entire nation. Er, that is... when we are talking about the beautiful nation of Canada, of course.
But even when considering the entirety of the NBA, Lowry isn't far off from that upper echelon of elite NBA players. In fact, he deservedly cracks the list in my MVP Watch after leading the Toronto Raptors to the third-best record in the ever-improving East.
Lowry began the season in tip-top shape and is currently playing at the top of his game. He has powered his way into the MVP discussion thanks to his elevated offense and is currently ranked fifth in nERD.
For those unfamiliar, nERD is our in-house metric that measures a player's contributions throughout the course of a season based on their efficiency. Comparable to Win Shares, this ranking gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win with that player as one of their starters. The rating will represent a player's total contribution over an 82-game season, not just the games played so far this year.
Let's take a look at who joins Lowry and rounds out the top five.
5. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
nERD Score: 15.2
Playing in his 10th season, the valiant Lowry is the league leader in total steals (61) and second in three-pointers made (76) and is showing no signs of slowing down by ranking third in minutes per game (35.7) amongst point guards. He has posted career numbers in points (21.3), rebounds (4.9), steals (2.3), and three-pointers made (2.9). Although his assists numbers are slightly down, he is making up for it at the charity stripe by shooting a career-high in free throw attempts (5.9) and makes (5.2).
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Score: 17.5
Team Record: 16-8
The Thunder are riding a five-game win streak during which Russell Westbrook has shown some signs of improvement, including 41% from three-point range and a 4:1 assist to turnover ratio. Though he hasn't exploded in the scoring column in weeks, Westbrook remains a consistent triple-double threat as he's averaged 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 9 assists during the month of December.
3. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Score: 17.8
Team Record: 16-8
There isn't much that is new with Kevin Durant -- he's still a defender's nightmare as he continues to pour buckets from every which way possible. But to add to that, Durant is shooting a personal-best 53% from the field, which ranks him third among non-centers. What makes that stat even more impressive is the fact that Durant is still hoisting three-pointers at his usual rate of 5.9 attempts per game while converting 2.6 of them, which gives him a career-high 44% mark from the arc.
2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
nERD Score: 24.3
Team Record: 21-5
After missing a game supposedly due to a bad cheesesteak, Kawhi Leonard came back to action but finished with his poorest output of the season with only 7 points in a close loss for the Spurs. In three games since, Leonard has bounced back by averaging 20 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.3 steals while shooting 57% from the field. Leonard is quickly back into form, as are the Spurs, who have won their past three games by an average margin of a whopping 28 points.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
nERD Score: 30.1
Team Record: 24-1
There's a "1" in the loss column, which means the Warriors are human after all. Nevertheless, Stephen Curry still remains a superhero. During the month of December, Curry is averaging 34.5 points, including his first instance of back-to-back 40-point games. In the Warriors' lone loss, Curry tied a season-low of just two three-pointers made on eight attempts, a rare sight this season for the reigning MVP. It'll be interesting to see how Curry and Warriors bounce back as they continue their quest for the best regular season record.