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Saturday, April 21, 2018

If The Finals Ended Today, Would Kobe Be MVP in Defeat?

In 1969, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA Finals series that went seven games.  Lakers guard and 14-time All-Star Jerry West was named the NBA Finals MVP — in defeat.  It was the first time the league issued an award for a Finals MVP, and the only time a player on the losing squad has ever be given the honor.  Ironically enough, as the same two rivals face-off once again for an NBA title, we could find ourselves in a similar situation for the first time in over 40 years.

I’m not saying the NBA Finals are over and Boston should start celebrating; the Celtics have pushed LA to the brink of elimination, but the series now returns to the Staples Center for Games 6 and 7 (if necessary).  What I am saying is that if the Finals were to end after Game 5, Kobe Bryant would have to be named the MVP of the series.  Let’s have a look at the average stats of the MVP candidates through the first five games, not including Shrek and Donkey:

Kobe Bryant               30.2 (PPG)           6.0 (RPG)                4.4 (APG)                    2.0 (SPG)
Paul Pierce                 19.0                        4.6                             3.4                                0.6
Pau Gasol                   18.8                        10.0                            2.6                                0.8
Rajon Rondo              14.2                         6.2                             7.4                                1.6
Kevin Garnett            15.6                         6.0                             3.2                                1.8
Ray Allen                    14.0                         3.0                             1.4                                0.4

Feel free to take a second to let that sink in.  No other player on either team has averaged more than 20 points per game and Kobe is over 30.  Unless Ray Allen can put together another performance like the one he had in Game 2, he’s out of contention.  Kevin Garnett is also a long shot at this point, especially with his low rebounding numbers for the series.  Paul Pierce has come on stronger lately and he could very well win his second NBA Finals MVP trophy if he plays in Game 6 like he did in Game 5 and the Celtics win.

As of right now, I’d say the MVP race comes down to Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant.  If you’re looking at it from purely a numbers standpoint, Kobe is the obvious choice with his 30.2 PPG which accompanies an impressive 6.0 rebounds and a series-leading 2.0 steals.  However, it doesn’t seem like the NBA wants to give the award to a player on the losing team — there’s a reason it hasn’t happened in over 40 years.  For that reason, Rondo would be my front-runner for the Finals MVP if the series were over.

Well, guess what?  The series isn’t over.  If Paul Pierce puts up 35 points on Tuesday night and the Celtics win, none of this matters.  If Ray Allen goes 9-for-9 from beyond the arc, the discussion ends.  At this point it’s purely speculation.  I just didn’t feel like talking about LeBron James.

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