As the NBA season progresses, the always entertaining race for the league’s Most Valuable Player award is really heating up. Without further ado, let’s get to the top candidates!
- Lebron James, Miami – In recent days, it has become fashionable to suggest that someone other than Lebron James should be atop the list for NBA MVP, but for me, it’s a simple case of getting “too cute” to put anyone over LBJ on this list. James is currently #1 in the league in PER (29.18) by a significant margin, and if that’s not good enough for you, he’s putting up some of the most efficient shooting numbers in league history. Lebron is shooting 59% from the floor and 42% from 3-point land (even after a minor shooting “slump”) to pulse his 25-point per game scoring average, and when you factor in his versatility (6.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists per game) and his top-flight defense, he’s still the best (read: most valuable) player in the league by leaps and bounds.
- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City - The league’s leading scorer lands in the 2-hole, simply because the guy in the number 1 spot is so ridiculously good at basketball. In addition to leading the league in scoring at 28.5 points per game, Durant has a top-5 PER, over 8 rebounds per contest, and he is currently leading the team with the league’s longest winning streak at 6 straight victories. At 19-4, OKC is a full-fledged title contender, and Durant’s incredible efficiency (48/40/88 shooting at the moment) is the biggest reason. To me, he’s easily the most likely guy to pass LBJ in the voting (if anyone actually could), and if OKC wins 65+ games, it’s suddenly a conversation.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland – There is exactly one Western Conference team with a better win-loss record than Oklahoma City, and they are led by LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland’s power forward has been incredible this season, averaging 23.9 points per game while playing in every contest, and he’s gone above and beyond in silencing the doubters on his biggest weakness. Coming into the year, Aldridge had never cracked 9.1 rebounds per game in his 7 seasons in the league, but this season, that number has jumped to 10.9 per game (and 11.8 per 40 minutes) and that has raised his efficiency across the board. In truth, Aldridge probably isn’t the 3rd-best player in the league, but as long as Portland is playing like this (they scored 139 points on Saturday, for reference), he’s firmly in the mix.
- Paul George, Indiana – George drops a spot from last week’s apex, but that had more to do with the greatness above him than anything that “PG24″ put together. George is the closest thing to Lebron James that we have in terms of an all-court player (read: he’s a great defender), but his offensive numbers don’t quite compare to the James/Durant upper tier. George is outside the top-10 in PER (23.62) due largely to his still-low assist numbers (3.5 per game) and average field goal percentage (46.6%), but he’s been a monster. For the year, he is averaging 24.1 points (including a sparkling 41.6% from 3-point range) and 5.6 per game, and the best advocacy for him in this spot is the fact that Indiana is sitting atop the East with a 20-3 record. George is here to stay.
- Chris Paul, LA Clippers – To be honest, it was tempting to drop Paul out of the top-5 for the first time this season, simply because of the lack of momentum behind his candidacy and the fact that the Clippers have been considered to be a mild disappointment. Then, I remembered that Los Angeles is still 16-9 on the season (not exactly disappointing) despite the loss of JJ Redick and the fact that the frontcourt defense is laughable at times, and with that, it brought things back to Paul’s greatness. CP3 is the best point guard in the league and the unquestioned floor general of a top-4 team in the Western Conference. For good measure, he is currently sporting a top-5 PER (28.32) and leading the league in assists by more than 2 per game (11.5 per game to John Wall’s 9.3), while sitting in the top-3 league-wide in steals per game at 2.29 per game. He’s an absolute monster, whether people want to remember that fact or not.
Darkhorse Candidates -
- Dwight Howard, Houston – It may be a bit of a surprise to see Dwight on the list at all, but the “problem child” has been quietly turning it up in recent weeks. Since the calendar turned to December, Howard is averaging 19.3 points and a staggering 15 rebounds per contest, and that has lifted his potential candidacy. He’ll certainly be battling for potential votes with teammate, James Harden, but Dwight has been reminding everyone of just how dominant he can be recently, and if Houston can maintain their 16-9 record (identical to that of Chris Paul and the Clippers), he’ll hang around.
- Kevin Love, Minnesota – Team success (or the lack thereof) is the only thing separating Love from the top-5 this week. The T-Wolves currently sit at 12-12, and at the moment, they would be out of the playoffs in the West. That is certainly not Love’s fault, though, as the power forward is putting up incredible numbers this season. Love is the league’s leading rebounder at 13.6 per game, and he’s also stepped up his scoring with 25 points a night, including over 39% from 3-point land. In addition, Love is one of the game’s best passers from the frontcourt, and he’s the singular reason why Minnesota is considered a viable playoff candidate despite their rough start.
- Someone on the San Antonio Spurs – We’ve heard this story before, but the Spurs are currently 19-4 despite the fact that they don’t have a single player in the top-25 in EWA (Estimated wins added), VA (value added), PER, or scoring. Tony Parker (18 points, 6 assists per game) and Tim Duncan have been the best players for San Antonio this year, but as usual, it is a thoroughly balanced effort to keep them atop the standings. If anyone were to push themselves into this race, it would certainly be Parker, but for now, we’re left to simply marvel at their team-focused excellence.
Topics: Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Lebron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Minnesota TImberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul George, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs