M-V-P chants have been raining down at the TD Garden since the beginning of the season for Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas. His tremendous season continues to avalanche into something really special, and has him legitimately in the conversation for NBA's Most Valuable Player award. As of this writing Isaiah sits at 4th in the NBA in scoring (28.2 ppg), tied with DeMar Derozan for the Eastern Conference lead. His 4th quarter heroics have been well documented, but after last's nights most recent triumph over the Hawks - they've just reached historic levels:
Isaiah Thomas is averaging 9.9 points per game in the 4th quarter, the most for any player since '96. Unbelievable! (per @nbastats) #NBAVOTE pic.twitter.com/2HfYtlpDBz— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 14, 2017
So where exactly does Isaiah actually rank in the MVP race? Right now the vote is a two headed race - Russell Westbrook and James Harden are miles ahead of the pack, putting up some MONSTER numbers. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double (30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.5 assists) AND leads the entire NBA in scoring, which is absolutely insane. Oscar Robertson is the only player in history to average a triple-double, and that was a loooonnng time ago - 1962 to be exact.
Although Westbrook is my pick for MVP (and pretty much everybody else's), Harden is not far off. He's currently putting up 28.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game himself, and although his numbers might be slightly behind Westbrook he's scoring at a more efficient rate. His eFG% (that's effective field goal percentage, which factors both your 2s and 3s here's the formula if you're a nerd like me) is 52.5%, ahead of Westbrook's which sits at 46.6%. Does a little more efficiency put him ahead of Russell? Not quite, but it certainly does gain him a little ground. Ultimately if you took either one of those guys off of their respective teams they without a doubt would both be high lottery pick teams, instead of sitting in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Now that we have the undisputed front-runners out of the way, here's where things get debatable. Who comes in at 3rd? Well NBA.com broke down their MVP list a couple of days ago and of course they had Westbrook and Harden at 1 and 2, but here's the next 5 according to them:
3. Kevin Durant
4. LeBron James
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
6. Isaiah Thomas
7. Steph Curry
Aside from the emergence of Giannis and IT, you could call the rest of this list the NBA's The Usual Suspects. If you had an NBA reset draft and the entire league was available, those other guys might be the first 5 picks (although Anthony Davis might have something to say about that). Both LeBron and Durant do so many things on the floor so their places above Isaiah and the "Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo are deserved. LeBron leads his star studded team in scoring, and consistently fills up the stat sheet each night doing whatever it is necessary for him to help his team win. He's like a basketball playing chameleon that can change his game to whatever is most necessary. Durant just joined the team that set the NBA regular season win/loss record over an 82 game season last year, and yet he comes in and now leads that team in scoring, rebounds, and blocks. He might be playing the best defense he's played in his entire career.
As for Giannis and Isaiah at 5/6, I think you could flip it either way. Antetokounmpo is a 5-tool player, and much like LeBron he fills up every category in the box score every night. He's averaging 23.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.8 steals and 2 blocks a game. He's only 22 years old so there's no limit to what this kid is going to become. Although Giannis' numbers are extraordinary, Isaiah has compiled quite a resume for himself this season. His scoring numbers have been well documented, and his ability to close out for the C's this season is unprecedented. Not only is he scoring the most points in the 4th quarter in at least 20 years, he's doing it with ultra-efficiency:
Most impressive aspect of this 4th Q stat is @Isaiah_Thomas' efficiency; a 57.2 eFG% and 68 TS% on a 43.1% usage is so bonkers. #NBAVote— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 14, 2017
His consistency has been off the charts, as he's scored 20 or more points in every game this season but 1 (which was still 18). Steph Curry still has a slight edge over Isaiah in terms of efficiency, but the reigning MVP also finds himself some additional space to operate with Durant and Klay Thompson drawing the attention the do from opposing defenses, something Thomas is not afforded. Isaiah continuing to deliver each night even when the defense knows he's going to be the guy shooting when the game is on the line is probably the wildest thing about this stellar run he's been on since the start of the year, and he's shown no signs of slowing down.
Is he going to win the MVP? No, but he's hanging right up there with some of the best players in the world.
Related: Isaiah Thomas is now first in fourth quarter scoring in the NBA
Photo Credit - Maddie Meyer/GETTY Images
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401
Mark Allison 1/14/2017 02:01:00 PM Tweet Edit