The men have separated themselves from the boys up to this point in the regular season, but the MVP race is a wide open still. Here’s a look at the top MVP candidates.
1) LeBron James – In all honesty, LeBron should be a lock for the MVP award. He’s putting up ridiculous numbers, increasing production in every category (except for assists) since last year, which includes increases in scoring, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and 3-point percentage while decreasing his turnovers and fouls. LeBron is playing out of his mind and makes the Heat a serious contender for the title. The only thing that hinders his path to another MVP award is his inability to make shots in a close game down the stretch.
Stats: 27.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.8 bpg, 55.4% FG
2) Kevin Durant – Another frontrunner in the MVP race, Durant is Oklahoma City’s leading man. Durantula is a dynamic scorer and clutch performer, often lifting the Thunder to victory with momentum-shifting 3-pointers and impressive fourth quarter displays. Durant’s statline isn’t as balanced as LeBron’s, but he makes up for it in the MVP race with his electrifying play, crunch time performances, and his team’s current success (best record in the NBA). The fact that he has never won the award certainly helps him in the contest for the MVP award, as the story/team’s success is an important component, almost as important as the pure statistics these days.
Stats: 28.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.1 bpg, 50.4% FG
3) Kobe Bryant – Kobe is leading the league in scoring and leading the Lakers to victory, all with one of the worst benches in the NBA. The only other offensive threats the Lakers have are Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, meaning Kobe has had to pick up his offensive production for the team to win. The Lakers got off to a rough start, but are slowly regaining their composure and are climbing the Western Conference standings. And it’s all because of Kobe Bryant. His stats are not as impressive as LeBron and he is also largely to blame for the Lakers’ losses, but if L.A. continues to succeed and Kobe continues to dazzle, don’t leave his name out of the running.
Stats: 28.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.3 bpg, 44% FG
4) Dwight Howard – The possibility of Dwight Howard leaving Orlando certainly hurts his case for the MVP award, but his level of production for his team is undeniable. If Superman does stay in Orlando, it’s important to remember that he’s currently leading his team in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocks. He’s carried his team all season and without him, the Magic would be absolutely terrible. Which is basically one interpretation of what the Most Valuable Player is.
Stats: 20.7 ppg, 15 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.2 bpg, 56.7% FG
5) Derrick Rose – The reigning MVP deserves consideration for the second season in a row, if only because without D-Rose, the Bulls would barely be a playoff team. Derrick Rose absolutely takes over when his team needs it most, his array of acrobatic moves at the rim provide plenty of highlights, and his ability to hit ridiculously tough shots is a testament to his mental toughness and competitive fire. I don’t think he should be MVP again, as a big factor in his MVP award last year had to do with the fascination with his story and the Bulls’ success, which is now old news. But a guy as valuable to his team as D-Rose who can score and pass like this should be at least considered.
Stats: 22.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 7.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg, 46% FG
6) Chris Paul – Chris Paul’s numbers are nowhere near as good as these other five candidates, but the impact he’s had on the Clippers in such a short amount of time is certainly worth mentioning. In just half a season, Paul’s presence has blurred the lines between which Los Angeles team is better, a phenomena we’ve never seen before. Paul’s leadership down the stretch of games is reputable and his ability to facilitate makes him a tough threat to deal with defensively. Aside from his aforementioned numbers, what hurts Paul’s chances at an MVP award is actually the absence of Chauncey Billups, as the Clippers have taken a slight dive in the standings because of it.
Stats: 19.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 8.3 apg, 2.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.7% FG
Kevin Love – Minnesota fans will be quick to jump on this MVP bandwagon as he’s the biggest reason the T-Wolves are relevant for the first time in years. With Rubio running the point and facilitating, Love has been putting up monster numbers of 25.4 ppg and 13.7 rpg. The only reason he’s not being more strongly considered is that his team needs to be better than just above .500.
Russell Westbrook – Westbrook is a star, but he’ll never be the star for OKC. And until that day comes, Westbrook’s averages of 23.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 5.5 apg will pale in comparison to whatever Durant’s putting up.
Dwyane Wade – The same problem Westbrook faces could be said of D-Wade as well. Although I believe Wade should handle last-second opportunities, other than that, LeBron is the one putting up the big numbers. Wade’s injury-prone season has also hurt his case as his numbers have taken a slight hit (22.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 4.8 apg).
Tony Parker – Parker should be commended for his excellent play without Manu Ginobili on the court. His averages of 19.2 ppg and 7.9 apg are the least impressive on this list, but they’re significantly higher than the past few years and have helped the Spurs climb to the second spot in the West.
Rajon Rondo – Rondo’s fantastic triple double against the Knicks and the recent trade rumors have certainly led to more MVP talks than he might deserve, especially considering that the Celtics’ prime is behind them. But when Rondo comes to play, the Celtics are usually competitive. Rondo’s averaging a career-high 14.1 ppg along with 10.2 apg and 5.3 rpg. Unfortunately, his numbers (and the Celtics) aren’t good enough to get him more serious consideration.