After a “status quo” week in the NBA MVP race, we’ve got some serious movement in the rankings as Week 6 arrives. Let’s take a look at the incredibly intriguing pool of candidates!
- Lebron James, Miami – There were a few cases this week where it looked like Lebron could be dethroned, but in the end, he lands in his rightful place atop the rankings. Miami is flying under the radar this season, thanks to Indy’s dominance and various other stories around the league, but LBJ is absolutely killing it from an efficiency standpoint. On the year, James is shooting 59.4% from the field, 44.4% from beyond the arc, and leading the league in PER by a significant margin. Add that to the fact that his counting numbers (25.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists) are still elite to go along with Miami being an impressive 16-5, and you have the recipe for a runaway win.
- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City - Heading into Sunday, Kevin Durant was poised to drop on this list. Then, he dismantled the smoking-hot Indiana Pacers to the tune of 36 points and 10 rebounds in a 24-point blowout, and Durant zoomed back to the #2 spot. OKC has won 9 of 10, and KD is leading the league in scoring at nearly 29 points per night to reaffirm his candidacy as one of the best (if not the best) offensive players in the league. Durant’s shooting numbers (47.4% FG, 37.6% 3-PT) are rebounding a bit, but with room to grow from there, he’s still the best bet to unseat Lebron.
- Paul George, Indiana – “PG24″ was certainly poised to make a run to the top of this list after a huge week, but he ran into the gauntlet that was OKC on Sunday night. Even with that loss, though, George has led the Pacers to the league’s best record at 18-3, and his numbers have jumped into the fully “elite” conversation. On the year, he is averaging nearly 26 points a game with over 42% from 3-point land, and when you add in that he’s a top-flight perimeter defender (something that no one on this list, save Lebron, can say), he’s a no-doubter for the top 3 this week.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland – We have a newcomer! If I asked you in the preseason who would be leading the Western Conference on December 9th, no one would have said the Portland Trail Blazers, but they are currently 17-4 and earning every victory. Aldridge is the best player on the best team in the West, and in a “normal” year, he’d probably be higher on this list. The big man is averaging more than 23 points and 10 rebounds this season, serving as the unequivocal “go-to guy” for a would-be contender, and carrying himself like a full-blown superstar. In fairness to LMA, this is probably his ceiling, but Aldridge may be the best power forward in the league today, and it’s good to see him getting some additional love.
- Chris Paul, LA Clippers – It’s almost comical that someone as good (scary good, really) as Chris Paul could land at #5, but that’s the name of the game. Paul is in the top-5 in PER (26.75), he’s leading the league in assists (12.0 per game), and he’s 3rd in the league in steals (2.35 per game) for good measure. The Clippers haven’t been quite as hot as Portland or Indiana (just 6-4 in their last 10), but much of that has been due to JJ Redick’s absence and the lack frontcourt depth, rather than Paul falling short of any benchmark. CP3 will be on this list for the duration of the year unless something surprising occurs.
Darkhorse Candidates -
- Kevin Love, Minnesota – This is the first time this season where Love hasn’t landed in the top-5, but it’s hard not to punish him a bit for the struggles of his team. Minnesota is now just 9-11 on the season, and while Love has been wonderful (23.7 points per game, 13.6 rebounds per game, 25.69 PER), he can’t make a legitimate claim against anyone above him this week. If Love can keep up his torrid statistical pace while helping Minnesota into the playoffs, he’d jump up the ranks, but until then, he lands here.
- Ty Lawson, Denver – Lawson and the Nuggets simply won’t go away, as the early-season castoffs are hanging around as the West’s 7th seed with a 12-8 mark. The size-challenged point guard won’t have the counting stats needed to compete for the “real” award (19.3 points, 8.0 assists per game), but his shooting numbers (44% from the field) should improve, and Lawson is the engine behind everything that Denver is doing right now.
- Roy Hibbert, Indiana – Two members of the Pacers? Well, they are the only team that can support two MVP candidates given their league-best record, but Hibbert’s dominance on the defensive end of the court automatically makes him too valuable to exclude. The 7-foot-2 center is averaging 3.1 blocks per game (2nd in the league behind injured stud Anthony Davis), but his defensive impact is so much more than that, and he’s the unequivocal front-runner for the DPOY award. Hibbert’s “traditional” numbers (12.4 points, 9.1 rebounds per game) won’t be enough for real consideration, but he’s a monster.