We are rapidly approaching the NBA All-Star break and while we do know the All-Star rosters, there are many players qualified to be in the running for the MVP. While there’s still about two months left in the NBA season, we now have a pretty good idea of who is worthy of MVP consideration. However, there could always be a late-season injury, or an end of the year run that sets a player apart from the rest. While production is the most important factor, the success of the team is also very important in decision. With let in mind let’s take a look at the top-five MVP candidates so far this season.
Honorable Mentions: DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Paul George (Indiana Pacers).
5. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
When healthy, Love is one of the most productive players in the league and is regarded as one of the top forwards in the NBA today. Love possesses a skill that is rare for NBA big men today, the three point shot. Love is deadly from behind the arc, and that is one reason why he is such a productive player.
He is currently averaging 25 points per game, ranking him fourth in the league. He is also a very effective rebounder, averaging 13 per contest. These great statistical accomplishments make him the only player in the NBA to be in the top-five for both points and rebounds. Love also excels at making outlet passes, earning him four assists per game. This kind of unselfishness ranks him third in assists per game among big men. In total, Love has a PER of 27, making him one of the most effective players in the NBA. His estimated wins added (EWA) is 13, ranking him in the top five.
Unfortunately for Love, he plays on the Timberwolves, and their lack of success will hurt his chances. He also makes little impact defensively averaging under one block and one steal per game. One would like to see a big man make more of an impact for his team, unfortunately, he is too one dimensional to be considered a real candidate.
4. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
For years, Anthony has been one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. He is often criticized for being a ball-hog, however; he is extremely effective shooting the ball, making that argument harder to backup.
This year is no different, and Anthony currently ranks second, averaging 27 points per game. Carmelo has also shown a great increase in his efforts on the glass, as he is averaging a career high nine rebounds per game.
He is also averaging three assists per game, which is surprising given the lack of talent surrounding him.
Carmelo currently ranks eighth in player efficiency. Melo’s 12.3 EWA also ranks him within the top-five as well. What hurts Carmelo is the lack of success of the Knicks.
While they have started to turn things around (thanks in large part to him) they are still nine games below five-hundred in a very weak Eastern Conference. While Carmelo shouldn’t be blamed for his team’s struggles, it will factor heavily on his MVP chances.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are one of the biggest surprises this year, thanks in large part to Aldridge’s increased production. Aldridge is currently averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists. His 24 points per game ranks him sixth in the league and second among power forwards. He is also averaging 11 rebounds per game, ranking him fifth in the NBA. LaMarcus has become a much more complete player as he currently ranks fourth in the league with 30 double doubles. This mark is only eight shy of his total for all of last year.
Aldridge’s great success this season has earned him a PER of 23, which ranks him 11th in the NBA. He also has a very respectable 10 EWA. While the Blazers have been extremely successful, there are some unfortunate truths for Aldridge’s MVP hopes. The first is that Portland is a very small market, and they do not get the national media attention they deserve. This lack of consideration will hurt his chances. The second is that there are two extremely gifted and well-rounded players ahead of him, and it would be nearly impossible to outshine them. LaMarcus is having a spectacular year and certainly deserves to be in the conversation, however; the likelihood of it actually happening is very slim.
2. LeBron James, Miami Heat
LeBron is a four time MVP award winner and is the greatest player on the planet. So what is holding back the two-time MVP? Unfortunately for LeBron it is something out of his control.
LeBron is in the process of completing another outstanding season. He is, by far, the most well-rounded player in the league. He is currently averaging 26 points per game, which ranks him third in the league. Surprisingly, both his assist and rebound averages are much lower than the year before.
However, he is still averaging nearly seven boards and six assists per game, which is extremely impressive. He also ranks second in the league with a PER on 29 and a EWA of 15.
Once again, the Heat are one of the top teams in the NBA, thanks in large part to the contributions of King James. LeBron is certainly worth of MVP considerations and could very well end up winning the award, especially when one considers the media's infatuation with the Heat and LeBron.
However, unless LeBron goes on a magical run, similar to last year’s 27 games win streak, the MVP trophy will be going to a player in the Western Conference for the first time in five years.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
For the first time in his professional career, Durant will emerge from the shadow of LeBron James. Durant’s season has been spectacular, to say the least. His 31 points per game average is the highest since Kobe Bryant did it in 2006. He is also scoring these points at an extremely effective rate, as he is currently shooting 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the arc. Durant is also averaging seven rebounds per game and dishing out five assists. The truly amazing part of Durant’s amazing season is that he has been doing most of it without Russell Westbrook, meaning he is often getting the defenses full attention.
Durant is also leading the league with a PER of 31 and an amazing 18.7 EWA. The Thunder are currently enjoying a great amount of success as they are currently 38-11 and have the best record in the West. They are also achieving this success without star point guard Russell Westbrook. Durant’s season has been truly spectacular, and it will most likely be defined by his 12 straight 30-point games. The only thing that could make Durant’s season more special is if he is able to lead the Thunder as Finals Champions. As for Durant’s MVP hopes, they are currently a very real possibility.