Culture of Hoops

Are Blake Griffin and Joakim Noah legit MVP candidates?

Image courtesy of Kimberly N./Flickr.

Image courtesy of Kimberly N./Flickr.

At the end of the 2013-14 NBA regular season, most of the votes for the Most Valuable Player will go to Kevin Durant and LeBron James, the game’s two biggest stars and presumably the best players in the world. But more consideration needs to be given to two low-key, but very strong presences around the league. These players might not garner the cache that LeBron or KD do, even though one of them is surely on his way, but they are both extremely valuable to their team, which is the heart of what the MVP award is all about.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah are both having phenomenal seasons. They are both putting up big numbers, and they have both played integral roles in their teams’ success, especially in the absence of superstar talents. For what these players have helped their teams accomplish at various stretches during the season, they both deserve to be a bigger part of the MVP conversation.

For the season, Griffin is averaging 24 points, nearly 10 rebounds and is shooting better than 53 percent from the field. Those stats alone are MVP worthy, but Griffin had his shining moment of the season during a stretch in which fellow Clipper Chris Paul, who many consider to be the premier point guard in the league, missed significant time due to injury.

During the 19 games CP3 has missed this season, the Clippers have compiled a 13-6 record, while not falling drastically in the standings, thanks in large part to Griffin and his improved offensive game. Currently, the Clippers are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, and Griffin has been one of the main driving forces for the 45-20 team. Griffin has expanded his game outside the paint, and is now shooting jump shots, even with the occasional three-pointer thrown in there. He no longer has to live in the inside. Instead, he can bring you out to the perimeter and sink the jump shot, or he can take you off the dribble and finish gracefully.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.  Joakim Noah lead the Bulls to victory with a monster line of 26/19/6.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

While his game is not nearly as flashy as that of Griffin’s, Joakim Noah is having a dominant season in his own right. The University of Florida product is averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds per game, and has kept the Chicago Bulls, who are without Derrick Rose for the rest of the season and traded former All-Star Luol Deng a few months ago, among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Noah is known primarily for being the anchor of a very stingy Bulls’ defense, but he has also been a playmaker on offense. For the season, he is averaging nearly five assists per game, which is by far the most for a center, and he has recorded three triple-doubles in the last month. As arguably the game’s most passionate player, Noah has made it clear that he does not like the chants of “MVP” because he feels the Bulls have just one MVP, Derrick Rose, but he does deserve to be in the running.

Unfortunately, despite their great play and production, neither Griffin nor Noah will finish higher than third in MVP voting, if that, due in large part to what will go down as one of the most intriguing MVP races in recent history. Both Kevin Durant and LeBron James are having stellar seasons, and much like Griffin and Noah, KD and LBJ have each had to carry big loads in the absence of their own sidekicks (Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade).

Regardless of where they finish in the MVP race, each man will look to prove his value in the playoffs, as both the Clippers and the Bulls will be very difficult outs come April, May, and possibly June. Each of their teams is currently sitting in fourth place of their respective conferences, with room for them both to move up in playoff seeding. In fact, the Clippers are just 2.5 games out of first place in the West, while the Bulls are just half a game out of the third spot in the East.

Not bad for two teams that have been without their best players for extended periods of time.

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