Moore: Polling NBA Insiders on Where Finals MVP Stands Before Game 3
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green
- Steph Curry is the favorite to win the 2019 NBA Finals MVP award entering Game 3.
- Matt Moore polled league personnel and media members for their thoughts on who has hurt their candidacy the most, who's the leader at the moment and more.
OAKLAND — It’s too soon.
We’re just two games into the NBA Finals, with the series tied 1-1. We’ve barely started. There hasn’t been a signature game by any of the stars beyond Pascal Siakam. The Finals MVP is up in the air, which is why Steph Curry remains the favorite by a thin margin at -125 odds ($125 wager would profit $100).
Narratives are forming, however, and after consulting with media and league sources, that’s shifting the momentum. So instead of just trying to narrow down who is the MVP, let’s also focus on who isn’t. Or, another way of putting it: Who’s put themselves behind the most?
Kyle Lowry was the easy and obvious answer. He’s averaging just 10 points on 30% shooting overall and 33% from 3-point range. He hasn’t made a big impact in other areas on offense — just 3.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists — and the Warriors attacked him defensively in Game 2. Overall, the Raptors have been outscored by 6 points with Lowry on the floor.
Marc Gasol was another answer. But surprisingly, several of those polled suggested Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has put up the numbers but the “impact” hasn’t felt commiserate with the numbers, so goes the thought. That can turn quickly, however, in these games in California. Road wins behind 30-plus-point performances shape the conversation differently.
Notably absent were both Curry and Draymond Green.
No one disputes either as worthy. Warriors are a MAS*H unit and yet, here we are, with the series tied 1-1, winnable for either team, the. With Kevin Durant out for Game 3 but likely to play in Game 4, his case becomes very borderline. Missing at least half the series comes with complications.
Curry has some baked-in advantages. Not only is he tied with Leonard for the lead in points per game, but much of the Warriors’ success in Game 2 was on capitalizing off Curry’s gravity. The fact that his statistical line was much better in the game they lost doesn’t seem to have caused much of a drag on his case, just as how Green’s struggles in Game 1 don’t have seem to have held him back.
The best player in Game 3 may very well wind up winning it, given how close the two teams are and what it would mean for the series. For Durant to win it, he would have to be hyper-dominant — even for him — across the remaining games in the series with all of them Warriors wins. If the Warriors were to win Game 3, it’s difficult to see Durant garnering enough pull in a Golden State title to be labeled “most valuable” when he only aided two wins.
All of this makes Curry the justifiable leader, with Green the best bet to cash at longer odds (+350 currently). If Toronto takes Game 3, it’ll be whoever comes out of that game with the bigger story, Leonard or Siakam, who will likely be the new favorite.
This series feels close, but it also feels complicated in how the dynamics play out. Subtlety leans toward Curry because of his indelible gravity; many of the supporting players for Golden State scored off the attention paid in crashing Curry off screens to the tune of 8 screen-assist points in Game 2. For Leonard to secure it, it will have to be painfully obvious, but his game is also well built for that.
Just like with the series, Finals MVP has a lot of different paths in how it can play out, and the status of Kevin Durant may tip the scales either way.