2011-2012 NBA MVP Watch 2/6/12
A couple of weeks ago, we ran our first look at the MVP race, but it’s obviously very difficult to gauge who might win the thing that early on in the season. Two weeks later, things haven’t necessarily become any clearer, but that certainly has been enough time to shake up the rankings.
Based on how things have panned out around a third of the way through the NBA season, here’s how we see the MVP race at the trimester:
#5 – Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls – The argument for Rose winning this award again is always going to come down to how much the Chicago Bulls rely on him over the course of a game. There still might not be a player on a good team that’s so integral to his team’s success, and the fact that he’s fifth in the league in scoring (23.6 ppg) and seventh in the league in assists (8.2 apg) means there’s some statistical support for his consideration as well. We’ve said all along that it would be very tough for Rose to repeat as MVP, and guys like Kobe and LeBron are making it even harder, but he hasn’t gone away. Chicago has the best record in their conference—again—due in large part to the efforts of D-Rose.
#4 – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder – One of the most efficient scorers in the league, Durant has been the catalyst that has helped lead the Thunder to the best record in the NBA. He’s the league’s third-leading scorer at 26.8 ppg, but it’s his career-high 8.3 rpg that really has bolstered his status as an MVP candidate this year. Despite all that, however, he’s still only fourth on the list a third of the way through the season. That speaks volumes for how competitive the race is this season.
#3 – Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers – We have to give Kobe a good measure of credit for leading the league in scoring with a torn ligament in his wrist. That’s not an injury to scoff at and Bryant is still hanging 30-point games on opponents with regularity and ease despite it. Short of a torn ACL, it’s hard to imagine Bryant sitting out a game at this point and his ability to play hurt for a team that clearly needs him so very much is more than just reputable. It’s borderline heroic.
#2 – Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers – Paul makes the jump into the top five this time simply because he’s transformed the Clippers into a legit championship contender despite the fact that Vinny Del Negro is the coach. All jokes aside, his 8.9 apg gives him the third-highest average in the league, but his effect on the development of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has been noticeable and the Clippers are winners in large part because of his presence. If Paul isn’t among the most valuable guys in the league right now, then something is wrong with our definition of value.
#1 – LeBron James, Miami HEAT – What LeBron James is doing statistically this year is beyond ridiculous. His 29.2 ppg is second in the league, his 7.0 apg is good for 12th, and his 8.5 rpg places him firmly in the top 25 and first among small forwards. The HEAT still have their flaws, but at this point they’ve played well enough to make most of us believe they’ll represent the East in the Finals again this year, and that’s due in large part to how insane LBJ’s play has been. If he keeps this up, and none of us have seen anything to suggest that he won’t, it’ll be hard to pick anyone else for MVP at the end of the year.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves – The Timberwolves aren’t bad anymore, and Kevin Love gets a ton of the credit for that. Of course, 25 ppg and 13.7 rpg—both of which place him in the top four for the category—give him some credibility, too.
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic – Like they always are, the numbers for Howard are insane. However, 20.4 ppg, 2.2 bpg, and a league-leading 15.1 rpg haven’t been enough to keep Orlando competitive the last few weeks, and his seemingly imminent departure continues to loom over that team’s collective head like a storm cloud. He’s dominant, but he hasn’t been as valuable as some of the other players ahead of him on this list.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers – While he does look headed for his first All-Star game, we can’t consider him too seriously as an MVP candidate at this point simply because his team has been too mediocre and his statistics haven’t been dominant enough to offset that fact. It’s been a great season for Aldridge, but not necessarily MVP-caliber.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers – Okay, so 9-13 isn’t a show-stopping start for an NBA club, but that’s about six more wins than most of us thought the Cleveland Cavaliers would have at this point in the season, and the only reason that club has won as many game as they have is because of Irving. This 19-year-old rookie point guard is scoring 18.1 ppg on 50% FG shooting and has his team a mere half-game out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Anybody that gives Cleveland hope after what they went through last year is valuable. Five years from now, he could very well be a guy we take pretty seriously in this space. At this point, it only seems like a matter of time.
We’ll check back in with the MVP race at about the halfway point of the season, and while LeBron James might still have the advantage by then, you just never know what will happen with the way this season has gone. Anything and everything is possible, and that includes someone surprising winning the Most Valuable Player award.