Steph Curry was the unanimous MVP for the NBA season. Not a single other player got a number 1 vote, but there were some fantastic players who just got overshadowed by the greatness coming out of Golden State.
It’s not so much that we ignored the best players, as guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin were still making headlines, but we just didn’t have the time to watch those guys who weren’t winning 73 games. Guys who were fighting for playoff spots, or guys who were singlehandedly trying to make their team relevant.
Each team has a player they can boast as their Most Valuable Player (kinda). There wasn’t a single team who didn’t win a game, so they must have somebody worthy of recognizing.
Here are the MVPs for every NBA team.
65 Atlanta Hawks – Paul Millsap
The Hawks may have made the playoffs, but after they surprisingly got the number 1 seed in the Eastern conference last year it feels like a bit of a disappointment. However Paul Millsap was fantastic this year, ending up near the top of the league in rebounds, blocks, and steals and led the NBA in defensive win shares. In fact the only major stat that he didn’t lead the team in was assists and seeing as he is a power forward, that’s not a surprise. While many of the Hawks players seemed to have taken a step back this season, Millsap took a huge step forward.
63 Boston Celtics – Isaiah Thomas
This year must have felt really good for the 5'9" Isaiah Thomas. After being the last pick in the 2011 NFL draft, behind guys like Adam Hanga, and Chu Maduabum (both who never played in the NBA), and being bounced from the Suns for close to nothing. Isaiah led the Celtics to the playoffs scoring 22.2 and dishing out 6.2 assists per game, and was able to play in all 82 games. He also tallied up a player efficiency rating of 21.5 leading his team. This season Thomas became only the 9th player under 6 feet tall to make an All-Star game. During the playoffs he was essential in getting the Celtics back into the series after falling down 2-0 to the Hawks by scoring a career high 42 points followed by 28 points in the next game. Isaiah Thomas proved himself a star this year and it looks like good things are happening for the future of the Celtics.
61 Brooklyn Nets – Thaddeus Young
Oh man this team had a rough season. It wasn't long ago when they moved to Brooklyn and the Nets were talked up as the next great team to watch following the Heat putting the Big 3 together. A great Dwight Howard was demanding to play there, Deron Williams chose them over the championship contending Mavericks, and Joe Johnson anchored the back court with some of the best scoring in the league. Things sure changed quickly. The experiments run in Brooklyn all seemed to fail and they chose to scatter all the pieces across the league. Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young both played very well for the 21- win team, but as with other poor preforming team choosing a player was quite a problem. There were some delightful surprises in Rondae Hollis-Jefferon and Thomas Robinson putting in good minutes, but it was those two men who really anchored the team. We lean towards Young because he played better on defense, but the two were so close statistically that picking one over the other is like picking your favorite brand of bottled water, they’re all the same.
59 Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker was the only consistent scorer for the Hornets. He led the team with 20.9 points per game while playing some of the best defense on his team. His efficiency rating was significantly higher than any of the other starters on the team. Much of the Hornets’ season was characterized by the amount of injuries they saw to players they were meant to rely on. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist only played 7 games, Tyler Hansborough missed half the season, and so did Al Jefferson; yet Kemba was still able to lead his team to their first playoff win since 2002. Since he was drafted in 2011 Kemba has been the heart and soul of this franchise that is so often thought of as a loser and has actively worked to change the feelings about the team both for fans and the media. The Hornets are not quite a contender, but they are no longer a joke, and fans can thank Kemba.
57 Chicago Bulls – Pau Gasol
The Bulls have been a perennial playoff contender for almost a decade now being led by stars like Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah. However this season the trio were often hurt and just couldn’t produce the way they have in the past. So this year none of them produced at an MVP level, but Pau Gasol really stepped up. He averaged 16.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game. He also was third on the team in assists averaging 4. Since coming to the Bulls Pau has seen a resurgence of his career since going to Chicago and he almost led his team to the playoffs coming only 2 games from making the cut. How old is Pau Gasol you ask? He’s 35, proving that the older guys can still ball.
55 Cleveland Cavaliers – Lebron James
Honestly did you expect someone else? Cleveland ended the season with 56 wins and a number one seed in the NBA playoffs. He led the team throughout the playoff and into the finals. 2 years ago he was the best player in the league and he hasn’t taken a step back since then (though Steph Curry has taken a giant leap forward). Lebron was in the top 10 of the league in points and assists and led his team in points, assists, and steals. Taking Lebron off the Cavaliers would not be as detrimental as it was when he went off to Miami in 2010, but without the King it’s hard to see Cleveland making it to the playoffs, much less to the championship. There are no players in the league who are as essential to their team as Lebron is to the Cavaliers. Lebron can play almost every team one-on-one and come out with a win.
53 Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk is the MVP for the Mavericks for about the 17th straight season. Obviously he isn’t as great as he once was when he was winning MVPs and going to the finals, but he was able to help carry a hapless Dallas team into the playoffs in a very tough (and young) Western conference. His 18.3 points per game led the team throughout the season, and he stepped up in the playoffs by scoring 20 points per game. It seemed like every time one of his teammates tried to step up and play at Dirk’s level they ended up on IR. Chandler Parsons went down in March, JJ Barea was instrumental in the team’s playoff push until he went down in late April, and Deron Williams even went down with a sports hernia that required surgery. It was as rough a season could go for Dallas while still making the playoffs, but without Dirk we’d be talking about one of the worst teams in the NBA.
51 Denver Nuggets – Kenneth Faried
Kenneth Faried has quietly been one of the better players in the NBA since he was drafted out of Morehead State 4 years ago. He is one of the most tenacious rebounders and has the ability to score when he needs to. He would be a great second or third option on almost any team, but since he is forced to stay in Denver for now, his numbers struggle as he has to focus on trying to put the ball through the hoop. If Faried was playing on a team like the Cavs you’d see him collecting double digit rebounds and he wouldn’t have to deal with injuries that are often seen with players playing out of position. Any team would be luck to have Faried and the Nuggets should look at moving the star while he is still worth something.
49 Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond
Except for the crazy things happening in Golden State, this season could have been noted as the rise of Andre Drummond. Andre led the NBA with 14.8 rebounds per game and had one of the highest defensive ratings of all players in the NBA. Don’t get it wrong here though, Drummond isn’t just a rebound magnet who plays good D, he also was his teams second highest scorer averaging 16.2 points per game. The core of Drummond, Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Reggie Jackson are all young and just entering their prime so you can expect the Pistons to be making noise in the league for a long time. The Cavs in the playoffs may have swept Detroit, but it was the first time the Pistons made the playoffs since 2009 when Allen Iverson was starting for them. Outside of Lebron, the East looks weak and Drummond will be looking to dominate it.
47 Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry
Steph Curry was the first player to have won the NBA MVP unanimously, though it’s a baffling stat that it has never happened before. Curry has been doing unbelievable things the past couple years, and this year he had the best year of his career. He led the league with 30 points per game and made 402 three-pointers this season. Those 402 three-pointers shattered the previous season record of 286 made by Curry in 2014/15, which beat his earlier record of 272 in 2012/13. Curry has only played 6 full seasons, and in 4 of those years he has ranked in the top 10 for most 3-pointers made in a season. His new play style has taken the league by storm and you’re seeing other team emulate him, though normally unsuccessfully. He is often knocked for not guarding the best player on the court, but nobody wants to knock the like of Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, or Paul George for doing the same thing. There is nobody in the league like Steph Curry.
45 Houston Rockets – Dwight Howard
People have been knocking Dwight Howard for his lack of energy and lazy play on the court, but it’s hard not to give up when James Harden refuses to share the ball. People hated on Dwight Howard for his lack of energy and enthusiasm this year, but they don’t want to point a finger at Harden who was the real problem for the Rockets. Not to defend the way he has handled himself in Orlando and LA, but that should not be looked at when judging his 2015/16 campaign. The big man averaged a double-double and had the second highest player efficiency rating on the team. James Harden scored a ton, but seemed to love turning the ball over and refused to play defense (more so than Howard did). The amount of plays where he would let a man just blow by him and score while pointing at a teammate as if to say “your fault” was astounding, and a player like Dwight, who begrudgingly had to take the “Robin” role to Harden’s “Batman,” really didn’t appreciate it. The team’s inefficiency starts with Harden and trickles down from there. Everyone on the team played lazy ball so trying to knock Howard for it is not fair too.
43 Indiana Pacers – Paul George
After missing pretty much the entire 2014/15 season following the gruesome broken leg while playing for the USA national team, Paul George came back and played at an all-star level and took his team to the playoffs. Paul was the only player on his team that was able to score more than 15 points per game (which is strange seeing as the team consisted of Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, and George Hill), and he wasn’t far behind for the team lead in both rebounds and assists. He scored 23.1 points per game, which was a career high, as were his 2 steals per game and his 4 assists. This was a fantastic season for George who may be moved during this offseason in an attempt for Larry Bird to sell his playoff contender for spare parts, but we would love to see Paul George on a team like Boston or Portland where he has a real point guard and the entire team’s hope of scoring is not solely on him.
41 Los Angeles Clippers – Chris Paul
Chris Paul has quietly been one of the best players in the NBA throughout his career. He was ignored for years while he played in New Orleans and after going to the Clippers he was overshadowed by the highflying Blake Griffin. There was never any point in his career that Chris Paul was not the best player on his team and he has kept up that streak this season. For the 2015/2016 season Chris Paul averaged 19.5 points and 10 assists while grabbing a respectable 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals. Despite a chaos filled season that involved Blake Griffin punching a team staffer and multiple mid-season trades of key pieces. After being embarrassed by the Trail Blazers in the playoffs it looks like the Clippers may be in for a hectic off-season and following his injury at the end of his playoffs may look to move his contract, but wherever Chris Paul ends up, he’ll probably be the MVP of that team.
38 Los Angeles Lakers – Jordan Clarkson
This has been a very bad couple of years for Lakers fans. Following a franchise worst 21-61 season in 2014/15, the team came out and lost even more games going 17-65. The season was highlighted with embarrassing moments from the Roy Hibbert trade to D’Angelo Russell’s leaked video of Nick Young. The gut reaction is to give MVP to Kobe Bryant just because he’s Kobe, but through most of the season he couldn’t play at full speed yet he demanded the ball often even though he had a career worst .358 field goal percentage. Jordan Clarkson scored 15.5 points per game, and had a field goal percentage of .433, which was the highest of anyone on the team that also scored 10+ points per game. Clarkson is a touchy guy to put on this list as he wasn’t truly all that valuable and may not even be a Laker next year, but we have to dig deep when a team only wins 17 games.
36 Memphis Grizzlies – Zach Randolph
Nobody on this team was able to start 60 games this past season. Two of the team’s stars, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, went down early, and Memphis was forced to trade for Lance Stephenson just to have a veteran set of legs for their playoff push. Zach Randolph, the 14 year veteran, was by far the MVP of the team, despite only managing to start 53 games and play in 68, his lowest since the injury riddled 2011/12 season. He grabbed the least amount of rebounds and played the fewest average minutes since his sophomore season in Portland, but he still was able to net 15 points per game while carrying the team into the playoffs somehow. The case could be made for Mike Conley to win MVP, but he was only on the court for 56 games and wasn’t able to help in the late in the season and the playoff series against the Spurs. It’s shocking that a team who was able to find a spot in the Western Conference Playoffs had such a rough year.
34 Miami Heat – Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside might be the most underpaid player in the NBA right now. The third year veteran has been a defensive monster since coming to the league and has grown as a player every year. On a team with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic you may expect one of the high scoring stars to take the title of MVP, but without Whiteside this team would just be a mess of passing as a majority of the team aren’t known to play tight defense. It doesn’t matter if you score 115 points if the other team scores 130. That’s where Whiteside comes in leading the league in block shots and defensive rating, and playing a big role getting his team to the playoffs. Without Whiteside there would be no one who could be called a defensive stopper in the front court and Miami has the talent to fill any of their scorers shoes, but not Hassan’s.
32 Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. The 6’11” forward made starts at small forward, point guard, and shooting guard and he also has spent minutes at the power forward and center positions when the game called for it. This hurt his overall stats, as he was forced to have a different focus every game. However, because of his versatility he was second on his team in scoring, rebounds, assists, and blocks. He also led the team with 80 games played. The NBA has had a small debate brewing for years about the importance of positions. We have seen forwards like Lebron taking the ball up the court, we have see guys like Draymond Green (who is 6’7”) declare themselves the best Centers in the NBA, and we have seen combo guards dominate the league for years now. Antetokounmpo shows that the league is not too far from having position-less teams.
28 Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns
Something fantastic is happening in Minnesota. Andrew Wiggins is as great as expected, Zach LaVine is an electric scorer off the bench, and Ricky Rubio is finally showing why he was a top 5 pick (don’t start with comments about him being taken ahead of Curry, we know they messed up). However, as great as those guys have been, it was the rookie Karl-Anthony Towns who should be getting fans excited. Not only was he a fairly consistent scorer netting 18 a game, but he was the team’s best defender and ran-away with the Rookie of the Year award. He led his team in rebounds and player efficiency while starting in all 82 games. The tandem of Towns and Wiggins looks like they might be as good as Durant and Westbrook in a few years, unfortunately they will have to compete with the Warriors, Spurs, and Thunder for a long time.
26 New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis
The Pelicans have one of the 10 best players in the NBA right now and bunch of injured guards. Davis was one of 2 players in New Orleans who was able to start 60 or more games, and while a number of guys played in more games, none of them had the impact that Davis had. Davis led the team scoring 24.3 points per game; the next highest scorer was his backup Ryan Anderson with 17 points per game. There were very high hopes for the Pelicans this season as Davis was going to make a run at the MVP award and the electric back court consisting of Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans were all supposed to be healthy for the first time ever. Instead injuries depleted the team and New Orleans wound up having to use 40 different starting lineups, the most in the NBA. Maybe next year will be the year that Davis makes a run in the playoffs and shows the world what makes him so good, but unless the team stays healthy it will never happen.
24 New York Knicks – Carmelo Anthony
Who else on the Knicks could you possibly give this to? Kristaps Porzingas was very good for a rookie, but his stats were far less impressive than Carmelo’s. Aaron Afflalo and Robin Lopez both were fine, but don’t belong in any sort of MVP conversation. Jose Calderon took a major step back from his play only 2 seasons ago. Basically the Knicks have a lot of average to below average players and a hands-down superstar. Carmelo scored 21.8 points per game, which was his lowest since his second year in the league, but he did have a career high in assists per game and more rebounds than he is known to get. This year Anthony was forced to change his focus and become less of a scorer and more of the all-around player that fans had been expecting for years. However, this late in his career it is too little to late. Carmelo will be all in for a ring, but he can’t in one in New York unless he makes a time machine.
22 Oklahoma City Thunder – Russell Westbrook
Who do you choose between Russell Westbook and Kevin Durant? A couple years ago the obvious answer was Durant as he was winning MVPs and leading the league in both scoring and popularity amongst fans. Now it’s a tougher call. Durant is still a great player, but isn’t playing at a higher level than his teammate who over the past two years has become the master of triple-doubles. Westbrook also has become a better defensive stopper than Durant who’s defense has always taken a back seat to his scoring ability. We aren’t trying to down talk Durant as he is probably one of the 5 best players in the NBA, but so is Westbrook. We had to pick an MVP, so we chose the ball distributor who plays better on defense than the most dynamic scorer in the league. This was probably the toughest decision for any team.
20 Orlando Magic – Nikola Vucevic
18 Philadelphia 76ers – TJ McConnell
Bleh… TJ McConnell played more games than his teammates and that’s enough for this team. The 76ers as a team should have considered folding after Sam Hinkie’s process showed itself as a mistake. It’s not hard to understand his attitude and goals, but it was taking far too long and other teams weren’t inept enough to just let it work. Trading away pieces like Michael Carter-Williams wasn’t a horrible plan, but drafting about 500 injury prone big men in a league that has been dominated by shooters was ill informed and already looks like a terrible idea. The entire roster was always hurt, bad, or ineffective, while TJ was average. He gets the nod because someone had to.
16 Phoenix Suns – Tyson Chandler
Another terrible group of players to choose an MVP from. Our pick of Tyson Chandler is partially because we have so much respect for the veteran who actually played hard despite being in the league for 14 years and being on the worst team in his career. Every one of the players who was supposed to be good either was a huge disappointment or got hurt, which made the Isaiah Thomas trade look even worse. One player started more than 60 games and that was PJ Tucker, who was not exactly the most effective player. Chandler was able to start 60 games, and he led the team in rebounds and field goal percentage, all while playing at 33 years old. This might be the final year Chandler will play in a Suns’ jersey, as if the team doesn’t trade him, there is a chance he retires so he doesn’t have to watch the painful rebuilding process in Phoenix.
14 Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard
After the 2015 offseason, everyone wrote off the Blazers expecting them to win maybe 30 games in a very tough western conference. Instead the Blazers won 44 games, made the playoffs, and even beat the highly favored Clippers; all on the shoulders of Damian Lillard. Lillard led the team with 25 points per game and was one of 2 players to average more than 11 (the other being CJ McCollum). Together the two accounted for 43% of the team’s points. Lillard also led the team in assists and player efficiency, played tighter defense than most expected, and hit 229 three pointers (which is a ton when you don’t look at Steph’s new records). Lillard was a special player this year and has put himself in the discussion for best player in the league considering he took a team that was labeled as one of the worst in the league, and put them in the playoffs.
11 Sacramento Kings – Rajon Rondo
Demarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins scored 26.9 points per game, pulled down 11.5 rebounds per game, had 1.4 blocks, had the highest player efficiency rating on his team, and was even scoring threes and a 33% rate (from the Center position). Also worth noting, he was top 5 in points and rebound in the NBA. Statistically he was the best player on his team by miles, but he was such a head case and got his coach fired so it’s impossible to give Boogie such a glamorous award. Instead we gave it to fellow head case Rajon Rondo. Rondo had a career resurgence in Sacramento after singlehandedly ruining the future of the Dallas Mavericks. Rondo did lead the NBA in assists and led his team in steals, plus he didn’t get a legendary coach fired.
8 San Antonio Spurs – Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi is the embodiment of the Spur’s franchise. He flies completely under the radar, isn’t often seen on highlight reels, plays fundamental basketball, and wins games. Since the 2013 NBA finals against Miami, Kawhi has been the best player on the team and one of top 5 players in the league. People just cannot score against him, but he can score on anyone guarding him. He deserved his back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the Spurs to one of their best regular seasons in franchise history. It should be Gregg Popovich here, but a coach cannot win MVP. Pop taking teams to the playoffs has been the most consistent things over the past 20 years (only missing the playoffs in 1996/97) and he consistently turns players like Kawhi into stars.
6 Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan put together one of the most dangerous back courts in the NBA, even if the playoffs may have seemed to show otherwise. However, during the regular season these two guys truly dominated the Eastern conference leading the Raptors to 56 wins and the Eastern Conference finals. Both guys had a 20+ player efficiency rating, DeRozan led the team in scoring and Lowry led the team in assists. We leaned toward Kyle Lowry as his assists were much higher than DeRozan and he had a slight rebounding lead. You can take your pick between the two, but this race is so close that both men should be sharing the award.
3 Utah Jazz – Gordon Hayward
The obvious pick for this would be Gordon Hayward who has been the catalyst for the Jazz since they took him out of Butler in the 2010 draft. Derrick Favors made a strong case to win the award after scoring 16.4 points per game, and pulling down 8.1 rebounds a game while putting up the highest player efficiency rating on the team. However he only managed to play in 62 games and was MIA for the playoff push at the end of the season. For that last month of the season, Hayward scored 20 points per game adding on 6 rebounds. When it came to those final few games and the Jazz had to work to ward off the Timberwolves and Mavericks, Hayward played tough against the teams that mattered, even if his teammates didn’t. The Jazz missed the playoffs, but they were only on the cusp of making it because of Hayward’s play.
1 Washinton Wizards – John Wall
It was a bad year for the Wizards. With key pieces like Bradley Beal and Nene dealing with injuries, Washington just didn’t have the fire power needed to make it to the playoffs after making it out of the first round in consecutive seasons. In the past decade their 41-41 record would have been enough to make the playoffs (maybe even a top 5 seed), but this was the strongest eastern conference we’ve seen in years. John Wall played his heart out this year, averaging nearly 20 points and 10 assists per game, and he kept the team competitive even when it looked like their own coach had given up on the season. Next year, with a (hopefully) healthy Nene and Beal, and Scott Brooks taking over as head coach, expect great things from John Wall as he cements himself as one of the NBA’s star players.
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