The 2016 playoffs have been action-packed at the poles, as the Warriors have made it all the way back to the Western Conference Finals without utilizing the 2016 MVP, Stephen Curry, for much of their run while the Cavaliers have swept their East competition, positioning both teams just four games away from the NBA Finals. Players like these are the reason as to why fans are excited about this year’s basketball season. If you haven’t printed out your NCAA tournament chart, ready to make predictions as to who you think will win certain matches, be sure to do this through sites like https://www.interbasket.net/brackets/ncaa-tournament/blank/. This way, you could be part of basketball history. Who knows, maybe your favourite team will win and maybe your favourite player could make that happen! With the Eastern Conference Semifinals ending this afternoon, let’s take a look at Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James playoff performances.
For the last three MVP award winners, grades are determined by performance relative to preseason expectation, while taking into account health-related issues since the playoffs have started.
Stephen Curry: A
By winning the 2016 MVP award, Curry has not swindled proponents of the game into thinking he has played just a one-year dalliance with excellence. After a Grade 1 MCL sprain of Curry’s right knee in Game 4 of the first-round series with the Rockets—only to return in a Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals amid the Blazers series—he returned like a man who still has something to prove. In a two-week absence comprising of treatment, Curry must have dug deep and did what any one of us would do during times of despair: introspection.
The soul-searching worked as Curry’s encore did not disappoint, scoring 40 points off of 50 percent shooting, and contributing nine rebounds, eight assists and a +/- of +21. The amazing point guard is augmenting his stature every time he steps on the court.
Honestly, because he’s missed so much time it’s best to postpone Curry’s true grade until the playoffs are over. However, Curry’s recent play further cements his two-year prestige, and his handle and three-point display make him a critical piece for the offensive mystique the Warriors have built over the last two years. Still, the Warriors as a whole look awfully good even without Curry, bringing into question “most valuable player” in its literal sense. But this doesn’t take away the manner in which Curry has been able to dominate his competition on the offensive end.
Kevin Durant: A
Better late than never is the theme for the Oklahoma City Thunder cult. While the Thunder’s well-documented regular season fourth quarter debacles have been heartwrenching for OKC faithful, Kevin Durant looks like a guy who doesn’t want people to forget he earned the MVP award in 2014, and this has led the Thunder into a masterful run, eliminating the always relevant San Antonio Spurs.
Kevin Durant—a guy with as much offensive talent as anyone—has taken his frustration out on the state of Texas, averaging 27.4 points, 6.5 rebounds while shooting 43.5 percent through 11 playoff games against the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs. The biggest difference: Durant is trusting in “the others” within the flow of the game. Those players, including Dion Waiters, Andre Roberson and Enes Kanter, are valuables the Thunder will need if they want to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Now, Durant is playing in a way that’s causing lamentable defensive woes because it looks as if he’s finally learned how to harness his unstoppable offensive power: he’s learned how to play more inside and out, even adding a respectable post-up game. Yes, he can pull up from 30 at any time, but seemingly Durant finally realizes how big he is, using his post-up ability, and exploiting his assortment of head-and-shoulder fakes on a mission to get to the hole. The Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook show will make its way to Oracle Arena on Monday night.
LeBron James: A
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team in the NBA to enjoy perfection in the playoffs thus far, but the way the team has won may be of a riveting surprise thanks to the floor game of one LeBron James. The ball doesn’t stick because LeBron’s basketball IQ is off the charts, and this has led to the team moving the ball on a consistent basis.
The unselfishness of LeBron has rubbed off so much that the team ousted the all-time three-point record with 25 three-pointers of their own in the Atlanta Hawks semifinal series. Although everybody is getting in on the act, James is making the right basketball plays down the stretch, whether it’s hitting clutch shots or forcing jump balls to end the game. Simply put, LeBron James is the complete player.
The Cavs have been perfect in this year’s playoffs, largely due to the depth and the health of the team, but LeBron’s all-around dominance has engineered a precarious force that no team has been able to reckon with to date.
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