Moving even closer to the present on NBA Tuesday, we have reached the start point of the most recent dynasty in professional basketball history: the unlikely rise and dominance of the Golden State Warriors. One could argue we are still in the LeBron James era, too, which makes this weekly exercise even more fun.
Now, on with the show …
2015 NBA MVP: Stephen Curry (original), Chris Paul (revised)
Four players dominated the season itself: Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (16.44 Win Shares, 26.70 Player Efficiency Rating); Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (16.08 WS, 25.98 PER); Warriors shooting guard Stephen Curry (15.68 WS, 27.98 PER); and New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (14.03 WS, 30.81 PER). Paul and Davis have won hardware from us before, while Harden and Curry have not.
Harden was No. 1 in WS, while Davis was No. 1 in PER. Curry was third in both, and he won the vote at the time as his Warriors won an NBA-high 67 times. Meanwhile, Houston won 56 games to win the Midwest Division, and the Pelicans posted 45 victories to claim the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Clippers also won 56 times.
With Curry, we see the key guy on a great team who was not the best player in the league; in fact, Golden State could have made the postseason without Curry’s contributions. The same cannot be said for Harden, Paul, or Davis. All three of those teams miss the playoffs without their stars in the middle of things.
Davis was the best player in the league with that PER. He and Harden also posted the best Defensive WS mark (4.2) of our three finalists, as Paul came in a little behind (3.2) at age 29. But CP3 was the best on offense (12.9). Harden didn’t lead the league in any single category, while Paul topped the NBA in assists (10.2) and Davis did so in blocks (2.9).
In the end, Paul played all 82 games, while Davis only found the floor in 68 games. That’s a huge gap—and Harden missed one game, too. We see Paul’s contribution across all 82 games being the most valuable here for a few circumstantial reasons, and we wouldn’t complain if someone disagreed with us. But this is our space, so we call it the way we see it.
Here are CP3’s traditional stats, as he wins his third MVP nod from us: 19.1 ppg, 10.2 apg, 4.6 rpg, 1.9 spg, .545 eFG, and .900 FT%. Paul may be one of the most underrated players in NBA history, in truth.
2015 NBA ROTY: Andrew Wiggins (original), Marcus Smart (revised)
Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrew Wiggins (2.1 WS) won the ROTY vote, but he is not going to keep it with us calling the shots, right? Rather, the award will go to either Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel (4.0) or Chicago Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotić (5.7).
Philly won only 18 games after earning 19 wins the season before, which doesn’t say a lot for Noel, while the Bulls improved two games (from 48 wins to 50). The issue here is that Mirotić played for years in Europe professionally, making his NBA debut at age 23 after a handful of seasons with Real Madrid. He was even the European League MVP in 2013, so he was not a traditional NBA rookie. Remember, we decided this once before, too.
This means we must give the ROTY to Noel, pretty much by default? Not so fast. One of the issues, however, remains the fact he missed his true “rookie” season with an injury, so after a year of rehab with the 76ers organization, this was his debut season on the NBA floor—even though he’d been a professional player for a year already.
So, in addition to Wiggins, the following legit first-year guys could be in for this trophy: Boston Celtics point guard Marcus Smart (2.9 WS), Orlando Magic PG Elfrid Payton (2.3), or Los Angeles Lakers PG Jordan Clarkson (2.4). Crazily enough, Brooklyn Nets small forward Bojan Bogdanović (2.4) also played pro ball in Europe for years before joining the NBA during this season.
Thus, one more time … Boston improved 15 wins to snag the No. 7 seed in the East, while Orlando improved just 2 victories and missed the postseason by 13 games. Maybe those two wins were due to Payton, but Smart remains atop our pile of candidates. Minnesota overhauled its roster completely, and the T’Wolves improved 22 games—and still missed the Western Conference playoffs by 9 victories with Wiggins as just a small part of that rebuild project.
As for Clarkson, the Lakers dropped 6 games from the prior year, while they, too, chose to rebuild. For us, this comes down to Smart or Wiggins, and with Boston improving by a lot to claim a postseason spot, we give the nod to Smart for his higher WS mark as well. But this was a crazy year to analyze, so we are tepid on this choice, in general.