We now know the big three candidates for the NBA's MVP Award. Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James, Houston Rockets James Harden, and New Orleans Pelicans Anthony Davis.

Most will automatically eliminate Davis from this conversation, I'm here to tell you why you really shouldn't do that and look a little bit closer at this race for the MVP.

We all know LeBron James is the best player on the planet and could conceivably be the league MVP every single year. This year, at age 33 James did it all by averaging close to a triple-double (27.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 9.1 apg).

James Harden was the best player on the best team in the league during the regular season. He lead, not only the team but, the league in scoring with 30 ppg and was third in the league with 8.8 apg.

Finally, AD had arguably his best season as a professional at the age of 25 this past year. He finished second in the league in points per game average with 28.1, lead the league in shots blocked with 2.6 per game, and turned the ball over just 2.2 times per game which is a very low number with all the double teams he deals with.

Okay, so you've got the numbers, those are typically what people look at because they're on the surface and you don't have to dig too deep to see these were the three best players in the league. But I want to take you a little bit deeper and tell you why you shouldn't immediately eliminate Anthony Davis from the conversation just because he's not "The King" or the best player on the best team.

First of all, take a look at the Pelicans season as a whole. They brought in DeMarcus Cousins last year via trade and this was going to be the first time we'd see the two big guys play alongside one another for an entire year. They signed Jrue Holiday to a 5 year, $132 million dollar contract, a guy who was good but seemed as though you had to overpay to keep him. They brought in a Rajon Rondo who was basically a castoff since his prominent years with the Boston Celtics and missed about the first month or so of the season with a sports hernia.

How did that all pan out? Well, we know DeMarcus Cousin tore his Achilles in late January in a win against the Houston Rockets. So, we weren't able to see what AD and Cousins looked like together for a full season. In direct relation to that, General Manager Dell Demps made a move to acquire sharp shooting big man, Nikola Mirotic from the Chicago Bulls. Jrue Holiday proved that he was well worth his shinny new contract and really blossomed at age 27 and Rajon Rondo turned out to be a tremendous leader who took some of the burden off of Holiday and Davis.

We've seen Davis take things over in the past for the Pelicans but this season was different, he finally had some help. The greatest point that can be made is the adjustment, not only the team had to make but the one he had to make after Cousins went down was major. Alvin Gentry had to reinvent the offense; all while trying to incorporate a new player in Mirotic, staying in the playoff race in a tough Western Conference, and making the most out of a shallow bench.

The team had to adjust from playing at a slower tempo with the two dominate big men, to playing fast, fast that rivaled the Golden State Warriors game speed. Not only did Davis not break stride, he thrived in this uptempo style offense when he finally had some legitimate help around him.

In 2017 the Pelicans accumulated 34 wins and missed the playoffs. In 2018 this team lost their second best player half way through the season, missed their new starting point guard for a month and a half, and improved by 14 games winning 48. That is a direct testament to how Anthony Davis handled adversity this year and the team improved by 14 games! Again, that was with them losing their second best player in Cousins.

James Harden's Rockets added Chris Paul, a player Pelicans fans know the greatness of very well, and they improved from 55 wins a year ago to 65 this year. You would expect that.

The Cavaliers had a rocky year in a weaker Eastern Conference after trading away their second best player in Kyrie Irving and then once again revamping their roster at the trade deadline. Still, the team only lost one more game than they did a year ago-51 wins last year, 50 wins this year.

We expected what we got out of James Harden and LeBron James but what Anthony Davis was able to do was remarkable. Not only did he fight through adversity by losing Cousins but he then had to adjust to a completely different offense mid-way through the season, I don't think he gets enough credit. In my eyes, he's the league MVP and you know I'm not just saying that because I look at the NBA world through New York Knicks colored glasses.

 

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