NBA MVP Watch: March 14th
With just over a month left in the regular season, the usual suspects are starting to solidify their spots in this year’s MVP race. It looks as if it’s LeBron James’ award to lose this year. There may still be enough time for Kevin Durant and the rest of the top five to make a late season push and potentially knock James off of his throne, but with the way that James and the Miami HEAT are playing, it would take a special performance during the final month of the season.
Here are the MVP candidates after 19 weeks of basketball:
#5 – Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs
21.0 points, 7.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals
The Spurs’ 107-83 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night was an indication of just how important Tony Parker is to this team. Patty Mills, who comes off the bench for the Spurs, led the team with eight assists, but the Spurs struggled to work the ball around and find open shooters, a key component of their normally potent offense. Parker leads the team in points per game and assists per game. What makes Parker so special is his ability to break down the defense, attack the basket and either finish at the rim or find the plethora of open Spurs shooters. Currently, the Spurs are 6-3 without Parker this season. While that record shows the depth that the this team has, come playoff time the Spurs are going to need Parker at full strength if they want to come out on top of the Western Conference. Even with his injuries this season, Parker should receive some votes for the MVP award when all is said and done.
#4 – Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
27.4 points, 5.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals
The Lakers are fighting for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot. If they fall short, it would be the first time in eight seasons that they did not qualify. As of Wednesday night, the Lakers are currently in ninth place. Regardless, Kobe Bryant has been the only consistent positive for L.A. At 34, Bryant has found the fountain of youth. He ranks second in points per 48 minutes, third in points per game and 20th in assists per game. In the Lakers’ last five games, Bryant has averaged 28.8 points, 9.2 assists and 6.8 assists. There’s not much more that he can do for this team. Whether or not the Lakers make the playoffs, MVP voters will take notice of Bryant’s season.
#3 – Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
16.4 points, 9.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 steals
In the Clippers’ last five games, Chris Paul has been nearly perfect in all aspects. Not only is he averaging 17.4 points and 11.2 assists, he’s also shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and nearly 95 percent from the line. On top of that, Paul has only had four total turnovers in those five games. Despite the fact that the Clippers are 3-2 in those games, they’re 7-3 in their last 10 games and remain the fourth best team in the NBA. Paul is crucial to the success of the Clippers because he’s not only one of their best scorers, but he is also one of the league’s best passers. He is the league leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, second in assists per game and first in assists per 48 minutes. Paul is also one of the best defenders at the point guard position. He leads the league in steals per game and is second in steals per 48 minutes. The Clippers have one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but Paul is what makes this team dangerous. He deserves MVP votes and will likely receive them at the end of the season.
#2 – Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
28.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.2 blocks
If Kevin Durant continues to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point line and 90 percent from the free throw line, he would be just the fifth player in NBA history to do so. Not to mention the fact that the Oklahoma City Thunder are second in the Western Conference and have a chance to win 60 games this season. So why isn’t Durant the MVP this season? The MVP is someone who not only is fabulous in his own right, but also makes his teammates better. While Durant is in no way a ball hog, LeBron James’ ability to drive and kick creates havoc for opposing defenders and opens up the floor for his teammates. Durant is the best “pure scorer” in the league. Still, James is the better all-around player. James is averaging more rebounds, assists, steals and fewer turnovers. There’s no question that Durant will receive his fair share of votes at the end of the season, it may even be a closer race than it was last year. But James’ success this season still outweighs the brilliance that we’ve seen from Durant.
#1 – LeBron James – Miami HEAT
26.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.7 steals
Make that 20 wins in a row. As the HEAT continue to chase the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game winning streak, LeBron James is proving that even when he isn’t scoring, he’s still the most valuable player in the NBA. James hasn’t had a game in which he scored 30 points or more since February 26. Instead, LeBron is assisting his HEAT teammates and letting them do the scoring. During the 20-game winning streak, James has seven games of at least eight assists. He is ranked 10th in assists per game and his assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.41, which is second among small forwards. James is also fourth in the NBA in points per game and 24th in total rebounds. Yes, Dwyane Wade is having one of the better seasons of his career, but James is once again proving that he is the all-around best player in the NBA.
Dwyane Wade, Miami HEAT: 21.8 points, 4.9 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals
James Harden, Houston Rockets: 26.4 points, 5.9 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals
Is LeBron James the clear-cut favorite this season? Can Kobe Bryant finish ahead of Kevin Durant? Will Carmelo Anthony climb back into the top five before season’s end? Who’s your MVP after 19 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.