NBA MVP Watch: February 14th
Week fifteen of the NBA season is in the books, and that means it’s time for another edition of HOOPSWORLD’s weekly MVP watch. This week there is a slight shift in the top 5, but the names remain the same. For the third straight week the MVP is LeBron James.
On Tuesday night James became the first player in NBA history to score 30 or more points while shooting 60 percent or better in six consecutive games. The HEAT are 6-0 in those six games. It seems like we say this every year, but James is having the best season of his career. He is playing with a level of confidence that we haven’t seen from him yet. He seems to have an extra gallop in his step and he is starting to attack the rim more than he ever has. What is most intimidating for the rest of the league is the fact that James is just now starting to enter the prime of his career. Is it possible that we still haven’t seen the best that LeBron James can be? It’s a scary thought.
#5 – Chris Paul – Los Angles Clippers
16.6 points, 9.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 steals
Chris Paul has once again returned to the Clippers lineup after missing nine straight games with an injured knee. Although he struggled in the their loss to the HEAT on Friday, he is beginning to return to where he was before the injury. In his last two games Paul is averaging 23 points, nine assists, four rebounds and one turnover. Paul remains the league leader in steals and sits right behind injured guard Rajon Rondo in assists. So far this season the Clippers have played without Chris Paul 12 times. They’re 6-6 when Paul is out of the lineup. Despite the Clippers deep roster, Paul provides this team with a playmaker who can hit clutch shots down the stretch. If Chris can remain healthy for the rest of the season and the Clippers continue to play well, there’s no question that Paul will finish the season in the top 5. If Paul can catapult the Clippers to the best record in the NBA, it’s possible that Paul could end up in the top 3, behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
#4 – Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs
20.7 points, 7.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals
If anyone in the Spurs organization deserves an award this season, it should be Gregg Popovich. The Spurs 103-89 win against the Bulls without stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker on Monday was just an example of how great Gregg Popovich is. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Tony Parker is having one of the best seasons of his career. Parker is averaging career highs in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage. He is also averaging a career-tying 7.7 assists per game this season. The Spurs, who have played without Tim Duncan 10 times this season, have the best record in the NBA at 41-12. Record is always an important factor for MVP voters and although Parker won’t win the MVP even if the Spurs finish with the best record, it will definitely help his case to finish in the top 5 this season.
#3 – Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
29.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals
Carmelo Anthony’s rise in the rankings this week is not actually based on anything he did. Rather, its because the Spurs demonstrated that they can win without Tony Parker. Although Anthony is averaging 34 points in his last four games and his offensive numbers were good enough for him to catch Durant as the NBA’s scoring leader, Durant’s numbers are down because he’s only averaging 31.4 minutes in his last five games. I’m not discrediting what Anthony has been able to do this season. He’s having another great offensive year and the Knicks have the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Anthony is averaging the most points of his career, yet nothing but his scoring can match what Durant and James have been able to do this season. He continues to be one of the best fourth quarter scorers in the NBA and he’s sixth in player efficiency according to ESPN.com. At the end of the day, I don’t see Anthony finishing any higher than third in the MVP race this year.
#2 – Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
29.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks
Before the Oklahoma City Thunder were beaten by 15 against the Utah Jazz, the Thunder were on a 4-game winning streak in which they beat their opponents by an average of 25 points. Because of these dominating wins Durant found himself on the bench during most of the fourth quarter of those games. While a 4-game win streak is never a bad thing for a team, resting Durant has hurt his MVP pitch. Durant has found himself tied with Carmelo Anthony in scoring, a title that Durant held for most of this season. Regardless, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the second best record in the NBA and Durant is still averaging 51 percent from the field, 43 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. The race for MVP is far from over and LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been neck-and-neck all season. But LeBron James is playing at a level right now that we haven’t seen since Michael Jordan was rocking the Air Jordan VII’s.
#1 – LeBron James – Miami HEAT
27.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks
This season he is averaging career highs in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds and turnovers. James is currently third in the NBA in scoring, eleventh in assists and fourth among small forwards in rebounds. He is also first in ESPN’s player efficiency rating. While the HEAT have the best record in the East, they still trail the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers for the best record in the NBA. If James is going to win the MVP this season it’s important that the HEAT compete for the best record in the NBA. Kevin Durant will take away votes from LeBron if the Thunder finish ahead of the HEAT in the wins column. Even with Russell Westbrook playing as well as he has been this season, it also hurts James that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are starting to play like their former selves. At this point though, it seems like LeBron is headed for his fourth MVP award.
James Harden, Houston Rockets: 26.1 points, 5.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: 27.0 points, 5.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals
What will it take for Kevin Durant to win the MVP this season? Is LeBron James playing the best basketball of his career? Will Chris Paul find his way back into the top 3? Who’s your MVP after 15 weeks? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below! Check back next week to see who moved up and down in the race for the 2012-13 NBA MVP.