Point/Counterpoint: Who is the NBA playoffs MVP so far?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Stephen Curry

The emergence of Stephen Curry in the NBA playoffs is nothing to sleep on. Curry has put Golden State in prime position for a shot at the Western Conference Finals. After big-man David Lee went down in the first round, it only seemed inevitable that the Warriors would fall to the higher-seeded Denver Nuggets. However, Curry’s immaculate play has carried this under-manned Golden State team.

Curry is averaging 25 points, 8.3 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game — all improvements over his regular-season numbers. He is also having an impact on the defensive end, averaging 1.8 steals per game. The key for Curry has been his incredible shooting from behind the 3-point line. He has made a playoff-leading 39 3-point field goals, 16 more than the second highest — Curry’s teammate Klay Thompson. Sure, he has fired up a ton of 3s, 91 to be exact, but he is still shooting a very respectable 43 percent from behind the arc.

Curry’s point total in the playoffs is just behind Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, two of the more prolific scorers in the league. Curry, though, has shot fewer times than either Durant or Anthony. Possibly the biggest reason the Warriors have been so successful is Curry’s incredible plus/minus ratio. When he is on the floor, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by an amazing 92 points. That mark is the best in this year’s playoffs by any player.

The most amazing part of all this is that Curry has been hobbled by a twisted ankle. Who knows what he would do if he were completely healthy. He has yet to score under 15 points in a game this postseason, which includes a 44-point outburst in the Game 1 loss to the Spurs. The way Curry is playing, look for the Warriors to continue to compete in the playoffs. He has thus far been the MVP of the postseason.

— by Scott Albanese

LeBron James

Really, who else can you pick? While his numbers in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls haven’t been as flashy as the ones he put up in round one against the Milwaukee Bucks or in the regular season, his overall performance definitely merits recognition.

It goes without saying that LeBron is the backbone of the Heat. Everything starts with him.

Facilitating the ball? LeBron’s job, not Mario Chalmers. Scoring? That can be his job, too, and with deadly precision at that. He scored 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting in Game 1 against the Bucks.

LeBron has averaged about 7 assists and rebounds per game so far in the playoffs, along with 23.7 points.

Has anyone seen Nate Robinson or Steph Curry put up those kind of numbers over the course of a season or the postseason? Curry comes close with averages of 25 points and 8 assists per game, but he’s also played three more games than LeBron and the Heat.

To even call Robinson the MVP of the Bulls is incorrect — that role falls to Jimmy Butler. Robinson played the game of his life in a Game 1 win against the Heat, scoring 27 points and tallying 9 assists, prompting Bulls fans to call him the 5-9 Derrick Rose. Not quite: Robinson has been a nonfactor since then, thanks to stiff defense from LeBron and guard Norris Cole.

LeBron, meanwhile, has responded since his 2-point first quarter in Game 1 against the Bulls. In Game 2, the MVP scored 12 of his 19 points in the first quarter alone and facilitated the ball to the tune of 9 assists in 32 minutes.

He finished Game 3 with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists and a 2-1 series lead over Chicago.

Sounds like an MVP to me.

— by Matt Cabel

Nate Robinson

If I told you at the beginning of the season that Chicago would win a playoff series against the Nets by stealing Game 7 in Brooklyn without Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, and Derrick Rose, you would probably have thought that I was borderline insane. Yet, I’m not crazy — the Bulls did do it, and Nate Robinson is driving force behind their improbable playoff success. Nate Robinson has been the catalyst for the Bulls’ offense this postseason as he’s put the team on his back.

Robinson exemplifies Stacey King’s new catch phrase “heart, hustle, and muscle” for this Bulls team. His intensity is contagious while the United Center crowd, and his teammates feed off of his swagger. The 5-9 Seattle native has been the heart and soul of the Bulls during the playoffs. The point guard’s production in the postseason has been stellar for a team lacking a true offensive threat. Over the course of the postseason Robinson is averaging 17.4 points per game while shooting 47.8 percent during 32.6 minutes per game. But his late-game heroics have been the bigger story.

The Bulls would have lost Game 4 of their opening-round series against the Nets if it wasn’t for Robinson. Chicago was down 109-95 with fewer than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter until Robison went on a 12-0 run to bring the Bulls within 2.

Nate the Great continued his stellar play in the opening round of the Bulls’ heated matchup with Miami. Robinson was crushed by LeBron James’ 6-8, 270-pound frame in the second quarter of Game 1, resulting in 10 stitches on his upper lip. Not only did Robinson come back in the game, but he also led the Bulls on a 10-0 run with 1:59 left in the fourth quarter to steal Game 1 from the King and his men.

This is a guy who wasn’t signed to a guaranteed contract at the beginning of the season. Still, he’s given Chicago something to cheer about in the dark days of Rose’s absence. He’s entertained the fans while giving them hope in a season in which there wasn’t supposed to be any. He’s not the tallest or most athletic player in the playoffs, but he is the most valuable.

— by Dominick White

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