By Flint Wheeler

Most years, accomplishing a feat that hasn’t been done in 55 years–as Russell Westbrook has done by averaging a triple-double–would make you the obvious candidate to win NBA MVP. Not this season.

While Westbrook, who is averaging a league-best 31.9 points per contest to go with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists, is still regarded as the favorite, there is a trio of studs who have made things extremely difficult for the voters.

James Harden doesn’t hold the allure of the triple-double average, but he’s certainly not that far off with numbers of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds. Orchestrating the league’s second-most efficient offense doesn’t hurt, either. “The numbers are very close,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon told ESPN’s Calvin Watkins. “Westbrook might average two points more or two rebounds more. That’s not really much. Both are having fantastic years. No way, I don’t believe, there’s no way [Harden] should straight up lose it.”

Kawhi Leonard is putting up 25.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game while serving as arguably the best perimeter defender in the league and leading the Spurs to the second-best record in the NBA.

And, of course, the annual MVP conversation (or debate or screaming match or whatever you prefer) wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of LeBron James. The 32-year-old is putting up perhaps the most under-the-radar 26.4-8.6-8.7 in history. He’s setting career-highs in assists and rebounds, and he’s been more efficient (61.9 true shooting percentage) than any of the other candidates.

While Steph Curry ran away with the MVP in unanimous fashion last year, things are far less clear-cut this time around. Each of the aforementioned four players has a case for MVP, and each have blemishes in the resume. You can click through the gallery for a closer look at the argument for each candidate.

Switching gears to the current Las Vegas Odds on who will win this year’s NBA Championship? Not much hope given to the Blazers or the above mentioned Oklahoma City Westbrooks. Here is where the odds stand currently;

Golden State Warriors – 5/12, Cleveland Cavaliers  – 3/1, San Antonio Spurs – 13/1, Houston Rockets – 15/1, Boston Celtics – 30/1, Washington Wizards – 50/1, Toronto Raptors – 55/1, Milwaukee Bucks – 100/1, Los Angeles Clippers – 125/1, Utah Jazz – 125/1, Chicago Bulls – 175/1, Atlanta Hawks – 200/1, Memphis Grizzlies – 200/1, Oklahoma City Thunder – 600/1, Portland Blazers – 9999/1.

My money’s on the Golden State Warriors. Last year’s best record and season long favorites to win it all collapsed in dramatic fashion to LeBron’s Cavaliers. This motivation, combined with an eager (and rested) Kevin Durant, will provide too much firepower in the end. Warriors win in 6 games. G’Luck 🙂

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