NBA MVP Watch: January 24th
With most teams reaching the halfway point of the season, players are starting to establish themselves as contenders for this year’s Most Valuable Player award. In my eyes, there are really only three legitimate contenders for MVP thus far: Chris Paul, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Carmelo Anthony is having one of the best seasons of his career and the New York Knicks are exceeding most of our expectations. But Anthony still needs to learn how to share the basketball better if he wants to win MVP. His score-first mentality takes teammates completely out of games at times and his defense still leaves something to be desired. Tony Parker leads the 33-11 San Antonio Spurs in points and assists. But his numbers would have to increase significantly if he wants to be in the discussion with Durant, James and Paul. James Harden has proved that he is a star in this league and has made the Houston Rockets a potential playoff team. But at 22-11, it is hard to imagine that Harden will get many first place votes this year. While we still have a long way to go before we’re ready to crown a winner, it’s starting to become evident who deserves the award and who’s just having a phenomenal season.
Here are the top five candidates for MVP after 12 weeks:
#5 – Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs
19.7 points, 7.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals
Even though Parker’s numbers don’t jump out at you, the Spurs have the second-best record in the NBA and Parker leads the team in points and assists. He is also leading all point guards in field goal percentage. During the Spurs five-game winning streak, Parker is averaging 21 points and nine assists. While Tim Duncan is a huge reason why the Spurs have had so much success this season, it is Parker’s ability to handle the ball and find open shooters that cannot be overlooked. It will be hard for Parker to get a lot of votes this season, but it would be unfair for the second-best team in the NBA to not have a representative in the top five. Parker is having another solid season and the Spurs continue to prove that their age isn’t a factor.
#4 – Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
29.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals
The Knicks’ schedule has been pretty light since they returned from London. After the Knicks demolished the Detroit Pistons 102-87, they couldn’t hold off Joe Johnson and the surging Brooklyn Nets on Monday night. In the Knicks’ last four games, Anthony is averaging 30.3 points and 4.8 assists. Anthony is currently tied with Kobe Bryant for second in the NBA in scoring. The Knicks currently have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and have the sixth-best record in the NBA. What has impressed me the most about Anthony recently is that he has found a way to play with Amar’e Stoudemire. If these two can continue to coexist with one another, the Knicks could find themselves with the best record in the Eastern Conference by the end of the season. That’s what it would take for Anthony to pass Durant, James and Paul this season.
#3 – Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
16.6 points, 9.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 steals
It’s been a rough week for Paul. His knee seems to be worse than the Clippers initially thought. While the Clippers continue to list him as day-to-day, it seems clear right now that they are better off waiting for him to get 100 percent healthy. L.A. is currently 3-1 with Paul out of the lineup this season. However, it was evident in the Clippers’ 109-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night that the team could’ve used Paul’s lockdown defense. As I mentioned above, Paul, James and Durant are in a class of their own so far this season. If Paul misses significant time and the Clippers are still floating around the top of the Western Conference, Paul could potentially find himself even further behind James and Durant.
#2 – LeBron James – Miami HEAT
26.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks
Yes, James is averaging more rebounds and assists than Durant. He is also shooting a higher percentage from the field. James is also leading the Miami HEAT in points, rebounds, assists and steals. But the HEAT remain the fourth-best team in the NBA and Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting in first. If James wants to win his second straight MVP award, he is going to need to carry the underachieving HEAT past the Thunder by the end of the season. Although James won last year with the HEAT finishing in fourth place, the previous three MVP winners’ teams all had the best record in the NBA. If Durant wins the scoring title and his team ends the season with the best record, it will be hard for James to repeat.
#1 – Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
29.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks
Durant’s 32 points in his team’s 109-97 win over the Clippers were good enough for him to pass Kobe Bryant as the leading scorer in the NBA. Durant has scored at least 40 points in nine games this season. He has also continued to shoot over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point and 90 percent from the free throw line. What is most impressive about the possibility of Durant winning his fourth straight scoring title is that Russell Westbrook is seventh in the NBA in scoring and takes more shots per game than Durant. While one can argue that James is forced to do more for his team than Durant does on a nightly basis, the Thunder are the best team in the NBA and the voters will find it easier to give the award to Durant if his team finishes with the best record. It’s not fair to penalize Durant because his supporting cast is better. The fact is, Durant is having one of the best seasons of his career and his team is on pace to win 64 games this season.
James Harden, Houston Rockets: 25.9 points, 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.7 blocks
Will Kevin Durant finally surpass LeBron James for MVP this season? Is Chris Paul’s injury serious enough to hurt his MVP chances? What does Carmelo Anthony need to do to find his way back into the top three? Who’s your MVP after 12 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.