538 started a nice series on the case for each of the top 5 MVP candidates. But my favorite MVP article is Matt Bonner’s sandwich analogy for The Players Tribune:
You’re probably getting hungry as you’re reading this, and maybe you’re even thinking about making a sandwich of your own. And that’s smart. Your head’s in the right place. Those ingredients sound really good. The fixings are crucial — and you can’t have your best possible sandwich without them.
It’s not all jokes, though. Matt’s insight into the Spurs system, where you move the ball instead of hogging it, puts Kawhi’s 25.7-point average in perspective:
And since there’s so little ball domination in that system … it makes it pretty impossible for any one player to put up a huge scoring average. Even Tim Duncan — arguably the greatest power forward to ever play the game — never had a season in which he averaged 25.7. And that’s really all you need to know.
Last night, the Spurs lost in Portland by 1 point. It was a game that didn’t matter much, so the Spurs bench finished the game. Portland’s win was mostly a fluke — a Spurs turnover at the end, then a steal that was mishandled and fell to Blazers' Noah Vonleh for the buzzer-beater layup. But here’s the important point: the Spurs probably wouldn’t have lost if Kawhi was in the game for the final minute.
That’s not to take anything away from the bench. Those guys are great. Living in Austin, we got to watch Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons finish plenty of great games for the D-League. It’s just that San Antonio has played many close games this season, and this is what happens when Kawhi is in the game late.
I’ll be shocked if Russell Westbrook doesn’t win MVP this year. But any of the top 5 candidates deserve it, and Kawhi is focused on other things. Maybe it’s fitting that the award will end up going to a player like Westbrook and his fans who seem to care so much about whether he wins.