Monday, June 5, 2023

Which players should have won Western Finals MVP? Revisiting the history of the award

The ultimate goal of an NBA star is to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy and win the Finals MVP award as the leader of a championship-winning team. There’s nothing like the feeling of being on top of the world.

But now there are other prizes to be won along the way. In 2022, the league announced that it would introduce a conference finals MVP. The West Trophy is named after Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who has reached the milestone 10 times in his career.

Only Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry have officially won this trophy, but what if it was active in the past? Which players would have won it?

One clarification, this list goes back to 1950, when the league officially became the NBA after the BAA and NBL merged.

Western Conference finalizes MVP by decade

2020 – Western Conference Finals MVP

  • Deandre Ayton (2021)
  • Anthony Davis (2020)

Davis and LeBron James were spectacular in the 2020 bubble, but the inside has the upper hand thanks to excellence in the paint and perimeter. Oh, and a memorable shot from Game 2.

Ayton is a bit of a surprise pick. Devin Booker struggled in that 2021 series and Chris Paul missed two games. The interior takes the prize with an efficient double-double.

2010 – Western Conference Finals MVP

  • Stephen Curry (2015, 2016, 2017, 2019)
  • Kevin Durant (2012, 2018)
  • Tim Duncan (2014)
  • Tony Parker (2013)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (2011)
  • Kobe Bryant (2010)

The Warriors owned this decade. Curry and Durant take home all the trophies from 2015 to 2019, leaving only the other four Hall of Famers. Nowitzki’s entire run to the 2011 title is arguably the most impressive individual effort in league history.

2000 – Western Conference Finals MVP

  • Shaquille O’Neal (2000, 2002, 2004)
  • Kobe Bryant (2001, 2008, 2009)
  • Tim Duncan (2003, 2005, 2007)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (2006)

Bryant and O’Neal led the Lakers to multiple championships in the 2000s, and easily defeated other contenders in the West. Duncan receives a trophy for each year the Spurs end with a title.

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