Most years, accomplishing a feat that hasn't been done in 55 years--as Russell Westbrook has done by averaging a triple-double--would make you the obvious candidate to win NBA MVP. Not this season.
While Westbrook, who is averaging a league-best 31.9 points per contest to go with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists, is still regarded as the favorite, there is a trio of studs who have made things extremely difficult for the voters.
James Harden doesn't the allure of the triple-double average, but if he's certainly not that far off with numbers of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds. Orchestrating the league's second-most efficient offense doesn't hurt, either. “The numbers are very close,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon told ESPN's Calvin Watkins. “Westbrook might average two points more or two rebounds more. That’s not really much. Both having fantastic years. No way, I don’t believe, there’s no way [Harden] would straight up lose it.”
Kawhi Leonard is putting up 25.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game while serving as arguably the best perimeter defender in the league and leading the Spurs to the second-best record in the NBA.
And, of course, the annual MVP conversation (or debate or screaming match or whatever you prefer) wouldn't be complete without the inclusion of LeBron James. The 32-year-old is putting up perhaps the most under-the-radar 26.4-8.6-8.7 in history. He's setting career-highs in assists and rebounds, and he's been more efficient (61.9 true shooting percentage) than any of the other candidates.
While Steph Curry ran away with the MVP in unanimous fashion last year, thins are far less clear-cut this time around. Each of the aforementioned four players has a case for MVP, and each have blemishes in the resume. You can click through the gallery for a closer look at the argument for each candidate. (Getty)