It’s all over, and the Golden State Warriors have beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers for their second consecutive championship and third in the past four years to officially establish themselves as a dynasty.
In this final installment of our NBA playoff MVPs, let’s again take a look at the players who did the most to help their teams advance throughout the entire course of the postseason.
LeBron is still the King, though for the third time in the past four years his team lost the Finals to an opponent with far superior overall talent.
There was a moment in which James had the opportunity to make the greatest individual playoff run in NBA history, with the Cavaliers winning by two points with less than a minute left in Game 1. However, the controversial charge/foul reversal and JR Smith‘s meme-able brain freeze were too much for the Cavs to overcome.
The video of James on the bench — isolated and frustrated — sadly became a lasting image of the Cavs’ Finals disappointment. We now know that, immediately after that loss, James punched a whiteboard in frustration and damaged his right hand.
There are those who would make another Finals defeat a historical referendum on LeBron’s greatness, but that’s a conversation for another day. In this space, James was clearly the best player in these playoffs and deserving of the top spot.
Kevin Durant had a monster NBA Finals and won his second straight Finals MVP. However, Harden was doing more to carry Houston through the first three rounds than Durant had to do for Golden State. Chris Paul took some pressure off of Harden, but he was still the primary engine for his team on a nightly basis, while Durant didn’t have to do as much with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson there to divide the responsibilities. This was probably the most difficult decision in the rankings, but Harden still edges out KD.
Durant stepped up in a major way in the Finals, leading the Warriors in scoring with 28.8 points on a 65.4 true shooting percentage, and he also led the way in rebounds (10.8) and blocks (2.3) per game while only narrowly trailing Green in assists per game (7.5).
Most important, the Warriors outscored the Cavs by 86 points with him on the court and were outscored by 26 points with him on the bench. While Durant’s isolation game was somewhat inefficient in the West finals against the Rockets, his ability to control the offense was huge against the Cavaliers when their switching defense was able to slow Curry and Thompson.
Antetokounmpo played as well in the first round as any player not named LeBron James, and thus he can’t fall any further than No. 4 despite being bounced in the first round. With his game and his upside, Antetokounmpo should continue to be high on this list for years to come. In the meantime, his #WhatsNextForTheFreak series, in which he tries American foods for the first time, is a must-read.
5. Draymond Green | F | Golden State Warriors
Green is one of the most unique players in the NBA, providing maximum impact without much scoring. He’s an outstanding defensive player, and on offense his ability to play point guard from the big-man slot helps the Warriors take advantage of mismatches and monstrous shooting ability. But do these things make a superstar?
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton suggested that Green might already be on his way to the Hall of Fame, and these playoffs were a prime example of why. In the Finals, Durant stepped up his own playmaking and overshadowed Green’s impact, but through the first three rounds Green was the Warriors’ MVP and did enough to earn a top-five slot on this list.
Davis finished off a brilliant regular season with a strong playoff run that saw the Pelicans win their first postseason series under his leadership. Davis’ style is analogous to a combination of David Robinson and Dirk Nowitzki, and if he plays next season like he finished this one he would be one of the front-runners to win his first MVP.
7. Stephen Curry | G | Golden State Warriors
Curry had some monster moments in this year’s Finals, good enough in many years to seal a Finals MVP. He led the Warriors with 29 points and nine assists in Game 1, set the NBA record with nine made 3-pointers on his way to 33 points and eight assists in Game 2, and knocked down seven more 3s on his way to 37 points in the clincher.
Ultimately, his ice-cold Game 2 cost him that Finals MVP, and Durant stepping up in a major way pushed Curry to third among Warriors in this final playoff MVP ranking, but he had another outstanding season and now finds himself on the very short list of players with three championship rings and two MVPs — not a bad consolation prize.
8. Chris Paul | G | Houston Rockets
Paul was in the midst of a strong playoff run — and one victory from the Finals — when a hamstring injury forced him out of Games 6 and 7 against Golden State. He’ll have the option to leave via free agency this summer, but his presence puts Houston on the verge of toppling the back-to-back champions.
His role as the secondary engine and primary creator when the offense broke down was vital to his team, and earned him this spot in the rankings.
Horford was the veteran leader and most consistent performer for the Celtics in this postseason, and ultimately ends up as the only Celtic in the top 10 of these rankings. Horford had the best statistical footprint for the team, he was the Celtics’ glue guy and team leader, and the veteran presence to balance the youthful energy of his teammates as they pushed King James and the Cavaliers to the edge in the Eastern Conference finals.
10. Klay Thompson | G | Golden State Warriors
This was another tight matchup, as Thompson and Jayson Tatum had an extremely similar statistical footprint in the playoffs, and Tatum likely had to do more heavy lifting. But Thompson’s ability to step up when the Warriors absolutely needed him, like in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Rockets, earned him this slot. The threat of his 3-point shot opens up the court for his teammates, and his willingness to defend at a high level also makes it easier for Durant and Curry to keep their legs for shooting.
11. Jayson Tatum
12. Clint Capela
13. Rudy Gobert
14. Joel Embiid
15. John Wall
16. Jrue Holiday
17. Victor Oladipo
18. Ben Simmons
19. Donovan Mitchell
20. Russell Westbrook
21. Kevin Love
22. Terry Rozier
23. Jaylen Brown