Weekly Debate: NBA Finals MVP

Kansan sports columnists Logan Fricks and Dylan Cunningham debate who deserves the NBA Finals MVP.

The NBA Finals are live, and the Toronto Raptors lead the series 2-1. With five players in the series receiving a 2019 All-Star selection, one question remains: who will step up for their team and win Finals MVP?


Stephen Curry - Logan Fricks

The only player to ever receive the Finals MVP in a losing effort is Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969. With that being said, the Golden State Warriors will bounce back in this series, especially with the return of guard Klay Thompson in game four and the eventual return of forward Kevin Durant.

However, the injuries to the Warriors have really put a damper on most players' cases for Finals MVP, thus leaving Curry as the best choice for the award.

In the first game of the series, Curry dropped 34 points, five rebounds and five assists. He was the force driving the Warriors offense all the way through the game.

Game one was the first time Curry had lost a game one of an NBA Finals series, to no fault of his own. Curry put up a strong effort but was unable to carry his team to a victory.

The second game of the series played out in favor of the Warriors, tying up the series in game two. Curry struggled in the second game, missing his first six shots, but once he got past the hump, he lit it up.

Curry dropped 23 points on 6-of-17 shooting, but after his six-shot slump, he was 6-of-11. He struggled from behind the arc, only going 3-of-10, but four of his initial six missed shots were three-pointers, meaning he shot 50% for the rest of the game.

However, Curry’s impact was significant down the stretch in the second quarter. With four minutes remaining in the half, the Warriors trailed by 10, but that's when Curry got hot.

In the closing minutes, Curry made his first three-pointer and went on to score nine more points to give him 16 on the game. He helped Golden State narrow the lead down to just five going into the half.

Without his hot shooting, game two could have played out very differently for Golden State, and his shooting was the main reason the Warriors had the momentum going into the half. The momentum carried over and led Golden State to go on an 18-0 run to open up the third quarter.

Game three, however, is where Curry made his strongest case for Finals MVP. Dropping 47 points, the second-most points ever in an NBA Finals loss, Curry carried the Warriors the entirety of the game.

Without Thompson and Durant, the Warriors were shorthanded. Curry kept Golden State in the game for most of it, and despite being double teamed for portions of the game, he still managed to find room to get shots off.

Curry has been the most impressive player in this series, and if Golden State can bounce back and win the series, Curry has already done enough to prove his case for his first ever Finals MVP.


Pascal Siakam - Dylan Cunningham

Heading into this year's Finals, many pegged Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard to be the most important piece in stopping the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. Game one of the Finals changed that narrative entirely as Raptors forward Pascal Siakam exploded for 32 points on a ridiculously efficient 14-of-17 shooting.

Despite a 12-point dud in game two, Siakam bounced back with a strong effort of 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists effort in game three to help the Raptors go up 2-1 in the series.

Siakam has undergone a meteoric rise to stardom this season. Prior to the Raptors drafting him with the 27th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Siakam was a relatively unknown three-year player out of New Mexico State. He flew under the radar for his first two years with Toronto, but his performance in this year's regular season and postseason has placed him on the NBA map for good.

The Cameroon native has become an efficient transition scorer, a more effective jump shooter and an excellent post player. His signature spin move is just about unstoppable, and his ability to create his own shot inside the paint has given the Raptors a deadly weapon against one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. 

Despite Leonard's bounce-back, 30-point performance in game three, Siakam still remains the X-factor for Toronto in this series. Siakam's length and quickness have given the Raptors the ability to make Golden State get back in transition and exert more energy.

In addition, Siakam's playmaking ability has been on display with pinpoint passes to shooters like Kyle Lowry and Danny Green. This is what sets him apart from Leonard, who tends to look for his own shot first rather than electing to pass, especially on the fast break. 

Despite Leonard's obvious ability to take over games and will Toronto to victory, Siakam has looked much more consistent throughout the first three games. Leonard has not shot the ball particularly well from three-point range, averaging just over 35% from deep. This includes a putrid 2-of-9 performance in game two, which largely contributed to Toronto's 109-104 loss to Golden State.

Leonard will undoubtedly improve as the series goes on, but Siakam's unique skillset puts him at the top of the list of Finals MVP candidates for Toronto.

Siakam's performance this season has propelled him to the forefront of Most Improved Player conversations, and his playoff performance looks to be a strong indicator that he will win the award once the NBA Awards roll around June 24.

"The Klaw" might be the main focus for Toronto in this series, but the versatility and efficiency of the man many call "Spicy P" will prevail in Finals MVP voting if the Raptors can close out this series.