Candidates for NBA Finals MVP are ranked by their power

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Because of Steph Curry, the NBA Finals MVP conversation took up an abnormally substantial portion of the conversation before the series began.

In each series, the future Hall of Famer has been outshone by teammates, with Andre Iguodala winning in 2015, partly because of his defense on LeBron James, and then Kevin Durant winning back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

With the Celtics leading the series 2-1, the conversation is obviously a lot more challenging. If the Warriors can rally, Curry is still a viable option, and if the Celtics hold on, there are other potential options on the opposite side.

There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, but here’s how I think the NBA Finals MVP possibilities are now stacking up.

After three games, who should be the favorite to earn NBA Finals MVP?

3. Steph Curry

Steph Curry’s case is a little more convoluted than it appears at this time. He’s had a fantastic season so far, averaging 31.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 64.1 percent. He’s been playing about as well as he can, though, and the Warriors are still down in the series.

If the Warriors were to win the series, he’d have to keep playing at this level, and he’d be a strong contender for Finals MVP. However, for the Warriors to change their fortunes, they’ll need a lot more from players like Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, and Andrew Wiggins.

If one of those guys goes off and the Warriors turn things around, it might create a captivating narrative arc that’s impossible to deny-the Warriors were still losing with Steph at his prime, and it was an explosion from Player X that transformed the series for the Warriors.

2. Jayson Tatum

Tatum has struggled shooting the ball for the Celtics, making just 10-of-36 shots from beyond the arc in the opening three games. Despite this, his floor game has been excellent, and he’s done an excellent job of utilizing defensive attention to create shots for his teammates.

Tatum averages 8.3 assists per game, and his teammates make 70.6 percent of effective field goals after receiving a pass from him. Even though he hasn’t been producing self-created shots at the rate we’re used to, he’s played outstanding defense on Draymond Green and has kept the offense humming.

Tatum isn’t at his best right now, but his ability to adapt to the game’s circumstances and continue to find new ways to make an enormous effect has been impressive.

1. Jaylen Brown

Brown and Tatum are currently separated by a razor-thin margin, but I’m giving Brown the edge because of his slightly higher scoring numbers, which, regrettably, frequently carry disproportionate weight in award voting.

Brown is averaging 22.7 points per game in the NBA Finals, slightly ahead of Tatum’s 22.0, but he’s also shooting 55.1 percent true, compared to Tatum’s 48.4. His offensive balance has shifted more towards scoring, but he’s been terrific at finding open teammates and has done a much better job of creating for himself—he has a 53.1 effective field goal percentage on pull-up jumpers and 14 of his 15 made 2-pointers in the series have come without help.

Perhaps most crucially (in terms of Finals MVP), he’s been a key figure in Boston’s two pivotal fourth quarters, averaging 13 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block in 20 minutes of fourth-quarter action in the series.

The Celtics need two more victories to clinch the championship, and Tatum and Brown could easily swap spots depending on how those two hypothetical victories play out. Brown, on the other hand, is the preferred option right now.

Other NBA stories:

The Cavaliers have an intriguing core of youthful talent, but at No. 14 in this year’s NBA Draft, they need to add another strong piece. Who should they be keeping an eye on?

Rob Mahoney goes in-depth at The Ringer if you’re looking for more Jaylen Brown information.

If you watched the Celtics throughout the regular season, you’d be shocked to learn that their halfcourt offense is what’s keeping them in the NBA Finals.

I didn’t put Marcus Smart in my rankings because of the quality of his game, and I believe he has a slim chance of winning Finals MVP. However, you could make a strong case that no player is more vital to the Celtics than Ray Allen.

On this week’s episode of Above the Break, Justin Carter discusses the New York Liberty and its flashy new combo guard, Marine Johannès, as well as WNBA All-Star voting and more.