With every NBA team having played at least 5 games on the young season, the picture of the league is beginning to take shape. Every week, we’ll be joining you to take a snapshot of the ever-intriguing MVP race, and without further ado, here’s a look at our MVP “power rankings” for Week 2.
- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City – It didn’t take long for the “champ” to be unseated, as Kevin Durant assumes the top spot this week. Durant leads an Oklahoma City squad that is now 5-1 after their OT win over Washington on Sunday night, and Durant’s numbers (30.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game with his normally solid shooting splits) speak for themselves. It is probably a product of team success to see Durant land in this spot, but if you saw his 33-point, 13-rebound, 6-assist performance that included the game-winning free throws on Sunday, it would be easy to see why KD lands here.
- Kevin Love, Minnesota – Wow, still no Lebron? Yes, Kevin Love sits above Mr. James in the rankings, as his numbers are just too insane to ignore through 7 games. In addition to leading Minnesota to a sparkling 5-2 record (that non-coincidentally puts the T-Wolves above the Heat in the standings), Love is leading the league in rebounds at 14.4 per game (and 12+ in each of the 7 contests), and scoring at a ridiculous clip of 26.9 points per game for good measure. The 25-year-old power forward is the league’s consummate double-double machine, but his ability to step out and hit the 3-pointer (34% on 6.7 attempts per game this season) separates him from the pack. Love can only keep himself this high with the combination of a great record by his team and insane numbers, but that doesn’t look to be a stretch at this point.
- Lebron James, Miami – Ok, I didn’t forget about the 4-time MVP. It’s been a “quiet” start to the season for Lebron, as his PER sits at 26.49 through 7 games, and the Heat are just 4-3 on the campaign. However, he’s been his normal, terrorizing self on both ends, and even a “down” stretch for LBJ results in 24.4 points, 8.0 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game with insane shooting numbers like 57.9% from the field and 47.6% from 3-point distance. When all is said and done, I firmly expect Lebron to return to full-on contention for the top spot (if not landing there himself), and as the Heat record rises along with his numbers, his stock will rebound here.
- Paul George, Indiana – It’s almost criminal to see Paul George land this “low”, given how productive he has been in leading the Pacers to the league’s best record at 7-0. George is one of the best two-way players in the league thanks to his suffocating perimeter defense, but his offensive numbers are really what has stood out in the early going. The 23-year-old wing is averaging 25.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while shooting 42.9% from beyond the arc, and when you combine that with elite defense, you have an undisputed top-10 player in the league (as evidenced by his league-leading mark in win shares). It’s fair to say that the only way George can get legitimately involved in the MVP discussion is to have Indiana run away with the Eastern Conference’s best record, but since that appears to be in play, his candidacy is valid.
- Chris Paul, LA Clippers – Paul has been utterly brilliant in leading one of the league’s best offense through 7 games. He’s top-5 in PER at 28.74, and Paul is far and away the leading assist man in the league, averaging 12.6 per game (with Jeff Teague in 2nd-place at 9.8 per contest). The Clippers’ defense has been nothing short of wretched in the early going, and because of that, their 4-3 record is enough to keep Paul out of the top 3 here. However, Paul’s stats are screaming off the page at this stage (21.3 points, 12.6 assists, 2.7 steals per game), and if his shooting numbers rebound a bit, look out.
Darkhorse Candidates -
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans – It’s very, very tough to leave Anthony Davis out of the top 5, and in the end, the only reason he was excluded was due to his team’s 3-4 record. Davis was leading the league in PER before Sunday’s action was completed, and his numbers are still outstanding despite an off night in their road loss to the suns. For the year, Davis is averaging 21.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.9 blocks (!), and 2.3 steals per game from the power forward position, and when you consider his defensive impact, his overall importance has been immeasurable. I’ve been on record that Davis should be (and probably will be) an MVP candidate if he can carry New Orleans to a playoff spot, and that remains the case.
- James Harden, Houston – I still believe Houston is a contender for home-court in the West, and their 4-3 record in the early going isn’t going to dissuade me. With that, Harden’s elite offensive production (24.7 points, 4.4 assists, 8.4 free throw attempts per game) is just the beginning of what he is capable of, and voters love statistics. His defense should probably exclude him from legitimate candidacy (it’s been woeful), but between Harden and Dwight Howard, there will probably be a fringe run at the award by someone in Houston.
Topics: Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Lebron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Minnesota TImberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul George