NBA MVP Watch – 10/22/13
For the past couple weeks, we’ve been breaking down potential candidates for the 2013-14 NBA MVP award. While the obvious names like LeBron James and Kevin Durant highlighted the first list, our second list included a pair of teammates (not unprecedented), a couple up-and-comers and a respected veteran in search of his first title.
While this third installment will be the final group of preseason candidates, it will be a fluid list throughout the season. Here is the third list:
#15 – Kevin Love – Minnesota Timberwolves
2012-13 Averages: 18.3 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 35.2 percent FG
It’s about time we can no longer say, “Kevin Love’s teams have never qualified for the NBA playoffs.” Love, himself, would likely tell you the very same thing, as the sixth-year power forward is simply too good for that trend to continue. Prior to being drafted by Minnesota out of UCLA after just his freshman season in 2008, Love was accustomed to at least having a shot at the ultimate prize. After breaking the Oregon state scoring record in high school and being named a McDonald’s All American as a senior, Love’s lone UCLA squad enjoyed a 35-3 record on its way to a Final Four run.
Having voiced his personal frustrations over that very topic prior to last season’s injury-marred 2012-13 campaign, Love is finally healthy and looking like the player an increasing amount of people considered the best power forward in the game just a couple seasons ago. It is time for Love to transcend into the type of player that can put up eye-popping statistics and find a way to get that to translate to his team’s overall success. Again, a point Love would likely agree with in full.
#14 – Deron Williams – Brooklyn Nets
2012-13 Averages: 18.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 44 percent FG
Not all that long ago, Williams was the popular “barber shop” or “Twitter debate” response to anyone labeling Chris Paul as the league’s best point guard. While several other players have elevated themselves into that discussion, with Paul remaining atop, Williams has been pushed to the margins of the conversation. With his health to start the season being an uncertainty, it would be wise for Williams to hold his return until he is fully healthy.
Health will be a focus of his aging teammates as well, but if Brooklyn truly has aspirations of challenging for the East they’ll absolutely need Williams to return to the form that made us all consider him one of the league’s top guards.
#13 – Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Averages: 23,2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 43.8 percent FG
In the second example of teammates making an appearance on this list, Westbrook joins his partner in crime Kevin Durant in our MVP race. Never was Westbrook’s overall impact upon OKC’s success more evident than after the sixth-year guard went down with a torn meniscus during last year’s short-lived playoff run. Although Durant still produced impressive individual numbers, Westbrook’s absence was truly felt in the closing quarters and moments of games when teams could hone in and swarm Durant without the fear of the lightning quick point guard slashing down the lane for a thunderous dunk.
With the news of Westbrook’s “partial participation” in Monday’s practice, Thunder fans have to be pleased by the thought of potentially having Westbrook back in action prior to the previously reported six-week absence. No updates have been given since that initial prognosis, but even a partial return to action has to be a positive sign. Expect Westbrook to return with a vengeance, and expect him to be in the discussion if OKC is able to remain dominant in a very strong Western Conference.
#12 – Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Averages: 22.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 45.2 percent FG
Whether you call the young man Uncle Drew, Kid Kyrie or any other nickname, Kyrie Irving appears destined to be a name this league might soon have to deal with in games that mean a bit more than a random road trip to Cleveland in November. Armed with a revamped and improved roster, the former All-Star and Rookie of the Year finds himself in a position to turn some heads if he can develop into the leader this team needs him to be.
We know Irving can score. We’ve seen his shot continue to improve, and we’ve seen the type of damage he can do in the open court. For the Cavaliers to actually live up to this year’s new found expectations, they’ll need Irving to continue his development from a leadership perspective. They’ll also need him to become a more consistent playmaker as well. While far from a selfish player, Irving could stand to get teammates involved and active, and will be specifically called upon to do so as the primary ballhandler in Mike Brown’s offense. A more consistent effort at the defensive end, almost a certainty under Brown, wouldn’t be the worst of things either.
#11 – Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Averages: 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 46.3 percent FG
With so many people struggling to either prematurely kick dirt over Kobe Bryant’s unoccupied grave or argue that he is still the very best player in the league, allow me to offer another perspective that is a bit closer to the middle, and a lot closer to reality. On the heels of one of Bryant’s finer offensive seasons over the last half-decade (or so), even the ever-confident Bryant would acknowledge he’d lost a step or two on the defensive end even prior to the season-ending Achilles injury he suffered in April.
Although this Lakers team probably shouldn’t be considered a true title contender even with the services of a fully healthy Bryant, don’t expect that to stop Bryant from doing everything in his power to return triumphantly on a personal level. If Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol can each play around 70 games, then expect Bryant’s return, whenever that may eventually be, to be strong enough to warrant the mention.
Don’t be surprised to see additional names like Marc Gasol, Ty Lawson, or even Anthony Davis make appearances on this list throughout the season if their respective teams make playoff runs. As always, your questions and opinions on the NBA are very much appreciated. Remember, you can always share them via my weekly chat each Thursday afternoon at 3pm EST.