Separation is the name of the game when trying to differentiate between the talent at the NBA’s highest level, and we’re beginning to see a select group that forms the majority of the top 5 every week. In that vein, here’s a look at our NBA MVP “power rankings” for week 4.
- Lebron James, Miami – It’s never shocking to see Lebron James at the top of an MVP list, but he’s more than deserving of this spot for the second straight week. Lebron led the Heat to a 3-0 mark this week, stretching their winning streak to 6 games, and while his pure numbers weren’t fantastic (at least for him) in any of the wins, LBJ still ranks 2nd in the league in PER (29.3) with an absurd 64.2% effective field goal percentage over 12 games. It’s scary to think that a guy who is averaging 25.3 points, 6.8 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game can be expected to produce more, but that’s where we are with Lebron, and no one has claimed his throne yet.
- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City - After a week where he landed in the 3-spot (thanks to a rough week for his team), Kevin Durant rises to #2 based on his stellar play. Durant started off the week with a 38-point outburst in a win over the Nuggets, and after a 3-0 week, the Thunder now sit at 9-3 on the season, which is good for 3rd in the loaded West. KD has been utterly tremendous, ranking in the top-5 in PER, win shares, and scoring, and his offensive game makes the rest of the league (sans the player in the number 1 spot) salivate with jealousy.
- Chris Paul, LA Clippers – The Clippers’ latest win (a 42-point drubbing of the Bulls) reminded everyone why Chris Paul is a legitimate MVP candidate. CP3 needed only 27 minutes of game action to tally a startling 17 assists (and 16 points), and with that, he raised his already league-leading assist total into the stratosphere. Paul also places in the top-5 in PER and win shares, and leads one of the league’s best offenses with a workload that compares favorably to the players that rank below him. Throw in the fact that the Clips currently hold the 4-seed in the West, and Paul makes the leap up a spot to number 3.
- Paul George, Indiana – It’s getting very difficult to leave Paul George this far down the list. The Indiana Pacers are tied for the league’s best record at 12-1, and George is 5th in the league in win shares. His raw numbers are tremendous (24.2 points, 6.2 rebounds per game) and with his shooting numbers firmly above his career norms, he is the epitome of a player who is making “the leap” before our very eyes. His efficiency numbers (23.91 PER) aren’t quite to the level of his competition, but if the Pacers win 60+ games, it’ll be impossible to keep George off any final MVP ballot.
- Kevin Love, Minnesota – Love took a bit of a tumble this week (from #2 down to #5), but really, it wasn’t a function of Love coming up short. In fact, Love continues to play out of his mind, leading the league in rebounding at 13.6 per game (tied with Dwight Howard) and going back and forth with Chris Paul and Lebron James for the league lead in win shares. On statistical resume alone, Love would be up there with anyone, but his team is now holding him back, as the Wolves fell to 8-7 by losing 3 of their last 4 games. I’ve long said that Love’s candidacy rests squarely on his team success, and that remains the case, even if he’s absolutely dominating on the stat sheet.
Darkhorse Candidates -
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans – Speaking of team success holding a player back, that is the easiest way to describe why Anthony Davis isn’t in the top 5. David leads the entire league in PER (yes, even over Lebron James) at 29.9 for the year, and his stat line of 20.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per games screams “MVP candidate”. As of this post, however, the Pelicans are 6-6 and sitting outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference, and no matter what Davis does (within reason) on the court, he won’t crack the top-3 (or, really, the top-5) without leading a playoff-bound roster.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland – For the second straight week, Aldridge lands on this list, and he’s incredibly deserving. First, he’s the best player on a team that has a sparkling 12-2 mark (3rd in the NBA), and secondly, Aldridge has lifted his rebounding total to the point where he’s nearly averaging a double-double. “LMA” now sits at 22.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, and with his field goal percentage (45.3%) still sitting 4 points below his career norm, the best could be yet to come for the Blazers big man. The team record will certainly taper off a bit, but Aldridge isn’t going anywhere.
- Someone on the San Antonio Spurs – Okay, I’m cheating a little bit on this one. However, the San Antonio Spurs are so good that it is almost criminal that they can’t produce a legitimate MVP candidate. They are tied with Indiana for the league’s best record at 12-1, and they are far and away the best team in point differential, at a staggering 13.2 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions. At this moment, center Tiago Splitter (and his 21 minutes per game) lead them in win shares, but Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard give them 3 players in the top-25 in that overarching category, and maybe Parker could make a run at the bottom of this list. Either way, they are utterly fantastic.