Let’s talk about the changing of the guard. For the first time in this rollercoaster ride of a NBA campaign, LeBron James is not the favourite to be the league’s MVP. Neither are the Cleveland Cavaliers the outstanding candidates to pick up the title.
It is quite possible that the best player in the game, and the finest team, are going to be out of left field. These are exciting, if uncertain, times.
Golden State Warriors playmaker Stephen Curry has been slashed to 2.25 to become the most valuable. As the regular season reaches its half-way line this weekend, it is a fair projection to make. The All Star is averaging 23.3 points and 8.0 assists per game heading into Friday’s visit to Oklahoma City. And his team are on a 70-win trajectory at 31-5 while producing the most dynamic displays.
James, if injuries cease, may still have some say at 3.00. The Pelicans Anthony Davis, perhaps the best performer, is 10.00 with Memphis centre Marc Gasol at 19.00. Curry, however, will be tough to dislodge on his present pace, despite those who would argue he has quite earned an ascension into the upper strata of the elite.
Yet the most powerful statistics the NBA offers are wins and losses. The Warriors – now 6.50 for the championship - have won eight straight and their average margin of victory this term is a potent 11.2 points per night. Formidably, they have pushed through a stretch when Andrew Bogut sat out for 12 games. With the Australian available, their points differential surges even higher to 18.
Their ascent coincides with a decline from Oklahoma City that now cannot be entirely attributed to the early absences of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder - 3.00 even on a modest handicap of -4.5 - to pull off the upset at home, are only 5-5 after their last ten games, including a 117-91 drubbing to Golden State on January 5. If we had to pick the one-two tandem to watch, it would be Curry and Klay Thompson, rather than OKC’s stellar pair.
A lot can happen in the next 40 games or so. Everything is subject to change. But if the Warriors keep showing this kind of fight, we could see the old guard making way.