The 2016-17 most valuable player race was arguably the best in NBA history. Russell Westbrook became the second player ever to average a triple-double for a season. James Harden transformed into Steve Nash 2.0. LeBron James reinforced why he is the greatest player of his generation, and one of the handful of players in the conversation for greatest of all-time. And Kawhi Leonard proved he is the best two-way player in the sport.
In the end, Westbrook’s historic statistical season — coupled with lifting the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs in the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure in free agency — was enough to swing the necessary votes in his favor, as he topped Harden by a slim margin.
This season doesn’t have quite the same drama around the award, but it’s still shaping up to be a compelling race with strong cases already being made once again by Harden and James, as well as the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Golden State Warriors duo Stephen Curry and Durant.
To measure where things stand a quarter of the way through the NBA calendar, The Washington Post conducted its second annual MVP straw poll, a survey of 105 media members who cover the league. They were asked to place votes for five players, just as the actual ballot requests at the end of the season. It should be noted that not all of these media members are part of the 100-member panel that does the actual voting but, with the survey conducted over the past 72 hours, their selections provide a snapshot of where things stand right now.
Harden has led the Houston Rockets to the best record in the Western Conference, largely without co-star Chris Paul, while James has powered the Cleveland Cavaliers to 12 consecutive wins, lifting the team back up the standings after a lackluster 5-7 start. His former Cavaliers sidekick, Irving, leads a Celtics team with the NBA’s best record, one that stunned the NBA by reeling off 16 straight wins in the wake of Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury on opening night. Antetokounmpo has taken the final step to NBA superstardom, while the Warriors continue to be the league’s best team thanks to the combined brilliance of Curry and Durant.