The NBA postseason gives the league’s very best players the platform to take both themselves and their teams to the next level and this year we’ve been blessed with a variety of standout performers.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James has been in staggering form as has kept his team undefeated through eight playoff games while Kawhi Leonard has been a phenom to lead the San Antonio Spurs to the Western Conference Finals.
Of course, there’s also the Golden State duo of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green who have helped guide the Warriors to an undefeated postseason so far with the Boston Celtics reaching their peak thanks to their star point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Here we take a look at the candidates for the postseason MVP award:
1) LEBRON JAMES – CAVALIERS
PLAYOFF STATS: 34.4 PPG / 9.0 RPG / 7.1 APG
The king of Akron has been the king of the playoffs so far having produced a ridiculous stat line as he led his Cavaliers to an undefeated record after two series in these playoffs. The 32-year-old has been on fire from beyond the arc shooting 46.8 percent on 5.9 attempts per game and James is also shooting 55.7 percent from the floor while getting the rest of the Cavaliers good shots on offense.
Cleveland have struggled on defense as a team, but James has offset some of those deficiencies by averaging 2.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. The defending champions will face the Celtics in a series they are heavily favoured to win despite not having home court advantage.
The series could be tougher than the tests Cleveland experienced in the first two rounds but right now, James is performing on a different level and has positioned his team to make a run to the Finals once again.
2) KAWHI LEONARD – SPURS
PLAYOFF STATS: 27.7 PPG / 7.8 RPG / 4.6 APG
Due to the stiffer competition out West, the towering forward has played four more games than James in these playoffs. However, that has not kept Leonard from playing at an MVP level throughout this playoff stretch although the Spur’s star was injured in game one of the Western Conference Finals after an ankle injury and is questionable for game two.
Prior to this setback, Leonard was having a 50/40/90 postseason (52.5 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three and 93.1 percent from the free-throw line) and is the Spurs best defender on the court. If he manages to get healthy by game three, San Antonio might have a chance to contend with the Warriors at home.
3) STEPHEN CURRY – WARRIORS
PLAYOFF STATS: 28.6 PPG / 5.7 APG / 41.5 3P%
The Warriors are a super team so any one of their starting five could make this list but Curry remains the driving force and igniter of the offense.
Golden State are still undefeated through nine games, the Spurs offered a challenge in game one of the Western Conference Finals only to have Curry answer the bell, his performance was key to the comeback win as he sealed the game with a mid-range jumper to put the Spurs away.
Curry leads all players with 39 three-pointers made and is shooting 47.9 percent from inside the arc as well, his numbers might drop slightly due to the intense defense that the Spurs play on the perimeter. But the Warriors are expected to win this series especially with the lingering injury issues that have plagued Leonard so far. The Golden State squad will need Curry to continue his tremendous form if they want to accomplish their ultimate goal of winning another championship.
4) DRAYMOND GREEN – WARRIORS
PLAYOFF STATS: 14.9 PPG / 8.9 RPG / 7.2 APG
As important as Curry is to the offense of the Warriors, Green is just as vital for the defense. Green is a menace on the boards, a disruptive player who can block shots and get rebounds during crunch time. The animated power forward can also score when the team needs it as he’s been shooting 50 percent from the field and from three-point territory.
His contributions will be crucial in the Spurs series as the Warriors need the scrappy forward to establish himself in the post and keep plays alive with his offensive rebounding. His seven or more assists per game have helped the Warriors get open shots for Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
5) ISAIAH THOMAS – CELTICS
PLAYOFF STATS: 25.4 PPG / 6.5 APG / 44.1 FG%
Isaiah Thomas has the “IT” factor in the playoffs, the undersized point guard has been able to lead his Celtics to an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Thomas runs the offense for Boston and facilitates shots for his teammates, he also can run in transition and make shots under pressure.
The Celtics will have their hands full against the Cavaliers but Thomas must be clicking on all cylinders if they want to compete. He’s only shooting 34.3 percent from three-point range but that could improve against Kyrie Erving who is not a great defender for Cleveland, which will allow him to establish more separation and get his shot off with ease. The Celtics might be too dependent on Thomas to create at times but he is their best player and chief facilitator when the team performs at a high level.
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