Without fail, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award garners a ton of attention throughout the season. This season is no different, as the main storyline rests around Lebron James and his quest for 3 straight MVP’s (and 5 in 6 seasons), with numerous contenders lining up to knock him off that perch. Here’s a look at our MVP “power rankings” for Week 1.
- Lebron James, Miami – Okay, Okay. I can already hear you screaming at me about his numbers (23.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 23.49 PER) not being fantastic, and you’d be right. However, I’m a firm believer in the “to be the best, you have to beat the best” moniker, and a 3-game sample isn’t enough to bounce Lebron from the top spot here. The Heat are having some self-diagnosed “chemistry issues” in the early going, but LBJ is still flying around on defense and creating havoc, and with what we’ve seen from him, there’s absolutely no reason to think the numbers won’t follow.
- Kevin Love, Minnesota – The T-Wolves are 3-0 and Kevin Love is leading the league in scoring (29.7 points per game) while being 2nd in rebounding (14.7 rebounds per game). It seems silly to do the “if the season ended today…” stuff after 3 games, but Love would be the MVP winner if we did, and he’s been outstanding. The counting stats aren’t the only stand-outs for Love, either, as he is also shooting 50% from the field and more than 38% from 3-point distance (on a mind-boggling 7 attempts per game). Love’s game continues to evolve, and he’s keying an early surge from Minnesota.
- Chris Paul, LA Clippers – Paul leads the league in PER (a dazzling 37.66 through 3 games), and his 42-point, 15-assist, 6-steal performance on Thursday night stands out as the best single game of the season to date. The Clippers took a tumble on opening night against their cross-arena rivals, but Paul’s numbers (27.7 points, 12.0 assists, 3.7 steals per game) are borderline insane at this point, and he’s the engine that makes the Clips a real contender in the West this season.
- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City – Lost in the madness surrounding the return of Russell Westbrook was Kevin Durant putting up MVP-level numbers again. Durant is 2nd (only to Kevin Love) in scoring at 29.3 points per game, and he’s managed that level of production despite an ugly 27.8% clip from beyond the 3-point arc. If he levels that out to his established norm in the 38-40% range, Durant will be the leading contender for the scoring title, and that brings immediate MVP consideration. If Westbrook is as productive as he was last season, he could steal spotlight (and votes) from Durant, but he’s the 2nd-best player on the planet and that goes a long way.
- Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia – If I’m brutally honest, this will most likely be the last time we see Michael Carter-Williams on this list, but he’s certainly been worthy in week 1. The rookie from Syracuse has been the centerpiece of a wildly unlikely 3-o start for the 76ers (just take a look at their roster), and his numbers are mind-boggling. He started the season with an insane 22-point, 12-assist, 7-rebound, 9-steal performance against the defending champion Heat, and his level of play hasn’t dipped much after that, ending up with season averages of 20.7 points, 9.0 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.3 steals per game with a sterling 29.26 PER. Obviously, his production will likely slip in the coming days, but he announced his presence with authority in the early going, and the fact that Philly is 3-0 is a testament to how good he’s been early.
Darkhorse Candidates -
- James Harden and Dwight Howard, Houston – These guys are going to split votes in Houston, but the Rockets are 3-0 and each guy has been spectacular at times. Harden is 4th in the league in scoring at 26.0 points per game, and Howard looks like his old self with a league-leading rebounding total (17 per game) and 15.0 points per game on 50% shooting.
- Paul George, Indiana – George is in the top-10 in both scoring (25.7 points per game) and PER (28.88) in the early going, and Indiana is cruising along at 3-0. The Pacers aren’t a team built to sustain a legitimate MVP candidate, but George is looking every bit the part while shooting 43.5% from long distance and playing his normal, lock-down defense.
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans – The “brow” has been absolutely lights-out this season. In fact, he’d certainly be in the top-5 if the Pelicans hadn’t struggled to a 1-2 record out of the gate, and he’s doing it with an all-court game. Davis has the defensive stats (4.0 blocks, 2.7 steals per game) and he’s averaging 23.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per game for good measure. It’s frightening how much of a terror Davis can be, and if New Orleans can make the playoffs, he could be threatening the top-5 all season.