2011-2012 MVP Watch, 3/30/12
There are only about 15 games left in the regular season, which means in about a month we’ll be kicking off postseason basketball already. Yes, it’s happened quickly, but we knew it would when we got news about the condensed 66-game schedule. As weather improves, we expect the NBA regular season to wind down, and that also means our MVP Watch has to start coming to some hard-and-fast conclusions. Unfortunately, picking the person to win this award still isn’t easy. As much of a no-brainer as LeBron James has been all season, it looks closer than ever between him and Kevin Durant. So who will top the rankings this week? That’s what we’re here to explore. Here are the top five MVP candidates this week:
#5 – Kevin Love – It’s time for us to be honest about Kevin Love. Statistically, there isn’t a more incredible player in the league right now this side of LeBron James. There just isn’t. How many box scores do we have to read and say, “Wow!” before we consider this young man one of the best players in the league? In just the month of March, Love has only failed to score 20 points only once, and he’s scored 30 or more 8 times. That includes that 51-point game, as well as a 42-point and 40-point performance, as well. And none of that is even taking into considering the rebounding numbers, which are equally impressive. It would be helpful if Minnesota won more games, but when that does happen in a year or two, Love will move right up these rankings. For now, he’s at least worthy of the fifth spot, though it’s unlikely he gets much higher than this the rest of the season.
#4 – Tony Parker – The San Antonio Spurs have the second-best record in the Western Conference despite the fact that Manu Ginobili has played only 20 games and Tim Duncan is earning “DNP—Old” in the scorebooks. Somebody deserves some kind of credit for that, and who better than Parker? He’s carried a top-two team in his conference all season long by scoring the crud out of the ball. In fact, his 19.4 ppg is the second highest average of his career, and his 8.0 apg is easily the best he’s ever done in that category. The guy’s having a career year, keeping his team great despite tons of changes outside of his control. He absolutely deserves to be on this list.
#3 – Kobe Bryant – Despite all the soap opera drama in Los Angeles this year, Kobe has kept the Lakers as the third best team in the West while leading the league in individual points per game. He’s been the third place guy on this list pretty much all season long, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll move down (or up, for that matter) from here on out. On top of being incredible as an individual despite a cornucopia of nagging injuries, he’s also been a leader for a team that absolutely would’ve fallen apart without him. No NBA team needs their star more than the Lakers need Kobe.
#2 – Kevin Durant – If LeBron James didn’t exist, Kevin Durant would be running away with this thing right now. He’s second in the league in scoring (27.8 ppg), third in PER (26.81), and making his Oklahoma City Thunder look like a legit championship for the first time since the team moved from Seattle. Durant and the Thunder are rolling (with a few blips here and there, like any other team/player), and that combined with some of LeBron’s recent struggles have certainly tightened up the race.
#1 – LeBron James – We have no idea how bad that knock to the melon from Grant Hill really affected James, but ever since that win over Phoenix, James has been slightly off. But just because he’s had a rough week or so doesn’t mean he still hasn’t been the single most dominant player in the entire league for almost the entire season. He’s starting to get dinged up like everybody else, but he’s still one tough human being on a basketball court. Even when he shot 4-for-14 for 14 points in a win over the Magic, he still almost managed a triple double. He’s just too good. It should be noted, however, that James’ PER is down to 30.65, no longer the best of all time, and Durant is probably as close to stealing LBJ’s votes as ever before. This race just keeps getting closer.
Dwight Howard – This is Dwight’s first time out of the top five all season long, and it’s not necessarily because he’s floundered or his team has played poorly. Other guys have just been more impressive and/or led their teams to more wins. The Magic have been a rollercoaster all year, and a lot of that has had to do with Howard. The soap opera is over for now, thankfully, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all for him to finish in the top five for MVP voting. He’s just not in this particular top five this particular week.
Dwyane Wade – For all LeBron James’s issues in the fourth quarter, Wade has been just as good as LBJ has been bad. He looks as healthy as he’s been all season, and he keeps coming alive in the closing minutes of games to keep Miami a top-two team in the East. If James is the statistical stud, Wade is the crunch time specialist. As for being considered MVP of the league, it’s hard to justify since he’s got two other stars to take some of the pressure off, but he’s certainly been good enough to earn mention here.
Derrick Rose – I only bring Rose up to explain why he no longer will be on the list for the rest of the season; he’s simply missed too much time, and the Bulls have won a ton of games without him. The two things that won him the award last year have proven to be the opposite this season, and that’s why it won’t be surprising if Rose gets zero votes for MVP. There are just too many other guys worthy of it.
What do you think? Is it LeBron or Durant at this point? Who will it be at the end of the season? Keep tabs on HOOPSWORLD the next few weeks to see who we eventually pick, and for now, debate our decisions heading into the last month.