2011-2012 NBA MVP Watch
Now that we’re about a quarter of the way through the NBA season, it’s fair for us to start talking seriously about candidates for this year’s MVP award.
Let me start this by saying that it’s really, really hard to narrow this field down to a single guy at this point, especially with so many players putting up huge numbers and proving so important to their teams.
We could argue until we’re blue in the face about whether the MVP award should be given to the guy that puts up the best stats, helps his team win the most games, or is responsible for the largest percent of his team’s overall production and value, but that’s not what HOOPSWORLD’s MVP Watch is going to be all about. Let’s just always assume that all of these criteria come into play somehow, and that the guy who wins the thing probably does a nice job of balancing several different things that make them MVP-worthy.
For now, here’s a look at the most likely candidates for the MVP as it stands this early in the season:
#5 – Kevin Love – There hasn’t been a single game this season that Love hasn’t had a double-double. Let that sink in for a minute. Even better—in all of those games but one he’s scored at least 20 points, and his three consecutive 30/10 games last week were a thing of beauty. His real credibility as an MVP candidate is that few players dominate statistically like this kid. He’s fourth in the league in scoring with 25.2 ppg and second in the league in rebounding with 14.5 rpg. That’s impressive business, even if the Timberwolves are still hovering below .500.
#4 – Kevin Durant – While KD’s points are down a bit from his previously astronomical numbers, his assists are up this season and he continues to develop into a much more respected overall leader for a Thunder team with the best record in the conference. Granted it’s a deep team, but as Durant slips into veteranhood, his value grows exponentially. He hasn’t been the overwhelming MVP some thought he’d be before the season, but he’s still in the discussion. If OKC keeps winning like this, his stock will undoubtedly rise.
#3 – Dwight Howard – All anyone seems to want to focus on when it comes to Howard is trade talk, but too often ignored is the fact he’s put together an MVP-esque first quarter of the season, leading the league in rebounds (15.6) as well placing among the top five in blocks (2.4 bpg) and the top fifteen in scoring (20.1 ppg). His Magic, at 10-4, are playing much better than anybody ever expected and certainly look good enough to compete in the Southeast Division. Without Howard, however, that certainly wouldn’t be possible. Should he ever get traded, we’ll see immediately how valuable he is to his team.
#2 – Kobe Bryant – Out of necessity, Bryant has returned to his dominant offensive ways this season. With four straight 40+ point games the last couple of weeks, Bryant helped push the Lakers from 5-4 to 10-5 before Thursday night’s loss in Miami, and considering this is a noticeably weaker overall team than it has been in four years, those efforts can’t be ignored. And he’s not just scoring; his 5.7 rpg and 5.6 apg are pretty respectable as well, and his defense has been terrific. Few guys mean more to their team than Kobe does the Lakers, and his performance has been good enough early on to supplement the Lakers’ need for him with actual huge performance numbers. A rough last couple of games knock him down the list a little, but if he stays healthy, he’ll remain in the MVP conversation all year long.
#1 – LeBron James – From a statistical standpoint, LeBron James has lived up to his royal nickname early this season. With 29.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, and 7.6 apg, LBJ is once again putting up Oscar Robertson-like numbers in the modern era, and it all just seems to come so easily for him. Miami has had their struggles of late, making the team seem much more mortal than they did the first couple weeks of the season, but LeBron’s overall dominance has been a thing of beauty. The problem, as always, is that an argument could be made that he’s not even the most valuable player on his own team. For now, though, there’s nobody better. With numbers like he’s been posting, there’s no way to ignore the guy, as much as we all might wish we could.
Honorable Mention – Derrick Rose – There were a lot of people who felt that Derrick Rose shouldn’t have won the MVP trophy last year, so winning it back-to-back seasons always was going to be a tough row to hoe. However, his value to the Bulls has been pretty obvious in the handful of games he’s missed this season due to turf toe, and while his scoring numbers have dropped closer to 20 ppg than the 25 ppg he averaged last year, his assist numbers are up and his turnovers are down. He’s playing smarter, more efficient basketball, his team has the best record in the league, and that Chicago group is pretty hopeless without him. That still makes him a strong MVP candidate, no matter how much some folks may not like it.
Other Names in the Conversation: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh.
Check back every week for updates in the 2011-2012 MVP race, as things are sure to shake up as the year goes on. Injuries, trades, and the fortunes of teams can easily sway the landscape of this thing, but as of today LeBron is the front-runner.
Do you agree? Hit up the comments below, email me, or drop me a line through Twitter if you’ve got some opinions worth sharing. Either way, we’ll be back here next week to sort through the feedback and update the list.