Even with a wild and crazy week in the NBA world, there wasn’t a ton of movement in the league’s MVP race (at least at the top). However, that doesn’t necessarily reflect a lack of excitement with the best basketball players in the world, and with that, let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings!
- Lebron James, Miami – When the Miami Heat win ten consecutive games, it is virtually impossible to displace Lebron James from the top spot. However, LBJ doesn’t really “need” the extra credit for team success, simply because his efficiency numbers are borderline criminal. James leads the league in PER, is averaging 26.2 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game, and has some of the best shooting numbers ever. Don’t believe me? Well, James is currently shooting 59.8% from the field (which would be incredible even for a big man), 48.1% from 3-point distance (which would be awesome even for Kyle Korver), and a very solid 80.6% from the free throw line. I could list superlatives all day for Lebron, but he is still far and away the most valuable player in the NBA right now.
- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City - Kevin Durant is a monster. He has been the best player on an OKC team that has won 7 consecutive games (as of this post), and he punctuated the week with a 32-point, 10-rebound, 12-assist triple-double in the Thunder’s 10-point home win against Minnesota. For the year, Durant is now averaging 28.3 points per game (leading the league) with over 8 rebounds and 5 assists per contest, and his shooting numbers (46% FG, 37% 3-PT) still haven’t rebounded to his normal levels. If there’s a single player capable of chasing down Lebron James in this race, it’s probably Durant, and he lands in the 2-spot.
- Chris Paul, LA Clippers – Chris Paul’s job got much harder on Sunday when JJ Redick was diagnosed with a 6-to-8 week injury, but if anyone can handle that type of absence on the offensive end, it’s Paul with the Clippers. LA lost a 5-point decision at the hands of the red-hot Pacers on Sunday, but Paul’s stats (18.9 points, 12.1 assists) speak for themselves, and he’s the prototypical floor general for a contending team. His value is absolutely unquestionable (as you can tell by watching LAC when he’s not on the floor), and if he can continue to lead the league in assists with a top-3 output in steals (2.3 per game), he’s going to hang around.
- Paul George, Indiana – PG24 just won’t go away. The aforementioned Pacers are 16-1, and he’s been every bit of the best player on the best team in the East. On the season, George is averaging 23.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and while his advanced metrics aren’t quite to the level of everyone else on the list, the team success thrusts him into the real conversation. Obviously, Indiana can’t be this good, but if George’s leap to a 40+% 3-point shooter is sustainable, he’s going to be here for the long haul.
- Kevin Love, Minnesota – Love comes in 5th this week, but really, it isn’t his fault that Minnesota is just 9-10 on the year. The power forward is averaging 23.7 points and a league-leading 13.6 rebounds per game this season, and that is with somewhat dismal (at least for his skillset) shooting percentages of 43.9% FG and 34.5% from 3. I frankly can’t believe that he’s been able to produce at this clip without shooting the ball better, but if we assume even a modest jump, he could be in the 25-point, 15-rebound range that very few players ever approach.
Darkhorse Candidates -
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans – This one has a giant asterisk. Davis went down with a fractured hand on Sunday afternoon, and that will likely keep him out for a long period of time. Whatever chance that the 20-year-old had to actually win the MVP award probably died with the injury, but we have to laud his numbers (28.35 PER, 19.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.6 blocks per game entering Sunday’s action) in the early going. Get well soon, Anthony.
- Ty Lawson, Denver – Did you know that the Nuggets have won 6 consecutive games? Did you know that Ty Lawson places in the top-10 in the NBA (entering Sunday’s action) in both PER and EWA (estimated wins added)? Well, both of those things are true, and Lawson is leading a team that many (including myself) tried to bury after a handful of games. The diminutive point guard is averaging 20.9 points and 8.9 assists per game on the year, and his 38% shooting clip from beyond the 3-point line references real growth in his game. He’s probably not the type of player that would make a legitimate run at the award, but his play should be honored.
- Dwight Howard, Houston – The advanced metrics absolutely do not support Howard as an MVP candidate due to his very good, but unspectacular 20.31 PER this season. However, the “old school” numbers of 16.7 points, 12.4 rebounds (3rd in the NBA) and 1.9 blocks per game begin to shape a possible run for Dwight, and with the Rockets winning their last 5 games to vault to a 13-5 mark on the year, he’s earned his way on to the fringe.