A lot of things have changed since the time I listed the top MVP candidates for the 2012 season. A seemingly clear MVP race has become a lot closer than it was a month ago, which is why it’s time to take a look at who the most deserving candidates are for the award this year.
1) LeBron James – I still feel that LeBron is the best choice for the MVP award this year. This is a lot more difficult to say now because of his recent slump (as well as Miami’s), but don’t forget that his numbers are better than anybody’s and that the Heat will at the very least make the Eastern Conference Finals, barring an improbable meltdown. While Kevin Durant has stated his case for the MVP with inspiring play over the past month, the MVP Award is about the entire season, not just the month leading up to the playoffs when everyone starts paying close attention. The MVP Award summarizes which player has been the most dominant over the course of the season, the NBA’s alpha dog, the best overall player. Yes, sometimes the MVP Award does have a “value” component which takes into account a player’s necessity to their team, meaning: If you were to take that player away from their team, how would the team function without him? The “story” component also arises sometimes, such as when a talented player has never won the award or when a superstar has a particularly impressive season and becomes a popular underdog choice just so we don’t have to pick the same guy again (i.e. Derrick Rose last year, Charles Barkley in ’93, Karl Malone in ’97). That being said, LeBron’s season has a slight blemish on it thanks to the past few weeks, but overall, he remains the most deserving candidate.
2) Kevin Durant – Unfortunately, being deserving doesn’t always result in hoisting the MVP trophy. That’s why Kevin Durant is my pick to win it. Not because he’s had a better season than LeBron and not because he’s the NBA’s alpha dog. But because he is becoming the popular choice over LeBron, who hasn’t exactly thrilled us in the past few weeks. The Heat have floundered a little bit, losing potential statement games to OKC, Chicago, Indiana, Orlando and Boston. Kevin Durant is now the nation’s favorite choice because he is the best player on what appears to be the best team in the league. His numbers for this month are up, his team is winning and he has hit some clutch shots all season long. KD has become the sexy choice even though LeBron has had a better overall season. Why? Well, aside from the reasons I just listed, Durant has won scoring titles but he’s never won the MVP Award. That automatically increases his chances. Then, you add in the media and public opinion that favors Durant over LeBron, if only because most people still hate on LeBron for taking his talents to South Beach. So even though LeBron is the most deserving candidate for the second year in a row, my guess at the most likely winner for this year is Durantula.
3) Kevin Love – I only had Love as an honorable mention in my last MVP post, but his continuing ability to put up big numbers, his will to win, his unquestionable value to a team riddled with injuries and a lack of talent and his general dedication to an otherwise unimportant team have all changed my mind. If not for LeBron and KD, people would be noticing that Love has been quietly having his own MVP-caliber season. A big man that crashes the boards, attacks the rim with a variety of post moves, and can also drop threes on unsuspecting big men? I would describe that as un-guardable, which is exactly what Kevin Love has been for the Timberwolves. Although you usually like your MVP-candidate to be on a more successful team (a lack of team wins even when your personal stats are outstanding doesn’t look as impressive), no one can deny Love’s incredible value in Minnesota and the incredible season he’s having.
Kobe Bryant – Kobe is the best player on one of the best teams in the West. But the fact that he has to shoot so many times to fill up the stat sheet takes away a lot of his value. He’s not always the greatest team player and although he’s a cold-blooded killer in the fourth, a lot of attention is given to Andrew Bynum and his shooting percentages have been a bit off in the past few weeks. This season won’t be remembered as one of Kobe’s most memorable, which is essentially what we want in an MVP.
Chris Paul – CP3’s numbers are the least impressive of anyone in the bunch, but his ability to manage every game for LAC with complete control makes him the perfect point guard. Paul attacks the basket when he has to, takes over games in the last five minutes, and spend the rest of the time setting up teammates and facilitating. Any point guard that defers to his teammates and makes them better is an incredibly valuable piece to his team, but one with as much talent, competitive fire and crunch-time drive is definitely his team’s most valuable player.
Dwight Howard – Howard’s performance this season is undeniable. Superman has been a beast in the paint and is the sole reason for Orlando’s success this season. Replace Dwight Howard with any other center in the league and the Magic’s defense falls apart and this team probably doesn’t even make the playoffs. But the whole controversy and flip-flopping about leaving Orlando is the exact opposite of what we want to see in an MVP. Howard wanted out, then committed to the Magic after he had pissed off management with his “roll the dice” comment, then decided he wasn’t sure, and then finally caved under the pressure and committed to Orlando for the next year. This indecisiveness in regards to something so important to an entire fan base and playoff-contending team will stain this season and really diminishes his beastly statline.