Roundtable: 2014 NBA Finals MVP so far?
SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest question of the day. Today, we examine …
Who is your pick for NBA Finals MVP so far?
Ben Golliver: Tim Duncan. There's no question that Kawhi Leonard has been more spectacular, but he's also been a little bit more volatile, with quiet nights in Games 1 and 2. If he seals the series with another monster night in Game 5, I'm OK with giving him the trophy.
If Leonard isn't the central force in Game 5, though, I love Duncan as the Finals MVP for a number of reasons. First, he's been a rock throughout the series (15.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 58 percent shooting), providing the interior fulcrum around which all of San Antonio's perimeter players orbit. Second, he set a confident tone with his pre-series remarks -- more or less predicting a victory -- and then backed it up with a huge performance in the "No AC" Game 1. He's still San Antonio's most indispensable piece, if only because it has so many options in the backcourt and on the wings. If you took away Duncan for this series, I think it would have had a greater impact than removing any other Spurs player.
I'm not huge on lifetime achievement awards -- especially when it comes to ridiculous contract extensions like the one the Lakers gave to Kobe Bryant -- but Duncan's place in NBA history makes him the perfect choice if a tiebreaker is needed. Even at 38, he was the best and most reliable big man in the playoffs, and he delivered San Antonio to the Finals with his strong play in overtime of Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City. The Spurs exist, as we know them, because of Duncan, and a fourth Finals MVP award to go with his fifth championship would be a great recognition of that reality and of his phenomenal season and playoff run.
Chris Mannix: Boris Diaw. There are no shortage of candidates, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who picked Leonard, Duncan or Tony Parker. But Diaw’s unselfish play has changed the complexion of this series. With Diaw operating as a point forward, the Spurs offense' has exploded, scoring 125 points per 100 possessions (and allowing just 91.9) through four games when Diaw is on the court. Heat players and coaches have gone out of their way to single out Diaw’s impact, and if he puts up another strong performance in Game 5, he deserves the hardware.
Rob Mahoney: Kawhi Leonard. Not only does he have the two most spectacular performances among Spurs players, but he's also defended LeBron James and Dwyane Wade about as well as can be done. Leonard's influence has been profound. His aforementioned D is menacing, whether in focus against a Heat star or in adding pressure in help. His offense is somehow both insistent and efficient -- a perfect balance for attacking the Heat's pressure-based scheme. To top it off: Leonard has been a dominant player in the margins, scooping up offensive rebounds and getting the jump on 50-50 balls. In a series in which the Spurs have been so roundly great, it seems only fitting to pick a player whose contributions reflect that complete floor game.
Matt Dollinger: Tim Duncan. Much like the Spurs' success this series, Duncan's accomplishments are almost numbing. If the 38-year-old wins the award this year for a fourth time, there will have been a 15-year gap between his first (1999) and most recent Finals MVP. That's not only an NBA record, but also a duration of dominance only comparable to that of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who went 14 years between Finals MVP trophies and is regarded as arguably the best big man to ever play the game. Duncan's play against the Heat has been vintage Timmy, with Duncan leading the Spurs in minutes and posting a double-double in three of four games. He's more timeless than Coca-Cola. You want to know why people think Duncan and the Spurs are boring? Because they've been talking about them for almost two decades.
Chris Johnson: Kawhi Leonard. After splitting Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio, the Spurs faced a pivotal Game 3 in Miami. Leonard delivered the best game of his career, scoring 29 points and smothering James. Two nights later, after ample time for the Heat to concoct a game plan to keep Leonard in check, the 6-foot-7 forward came through with 20 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one monster putback jam less than two minutes before halftime that elicited boos from the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd. Leonard’s back-to-back gems swung this series in San Antonio’s favor, and now, it seems only a matter of time before the Spurs are hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Anyone who predicted before the season that Leonard would outplay the best player on the planet in two crucial Finals games – I salute you. From here, I’ll defer to Stuart Scott.
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