Friday, 13 January 2012

Early Season MVP Candidates

Who said this season wasn't going to be fun? Early days yet, but these are my Top 10 candidates (in order) for the MVP.

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat (8-3) - 29ppg, 8.5rpg, 7.5apg, 2.0spg, .570 FG%
Am I the only one noticing just how dominant James has been so far this season? Probably not. Just about every MVP ranking I've seen this season lists LeBron as the #1. I think it's unanimous. Scary thing is, now that he's working more down low, these numbers are realistically sustainable. Yikes.

2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (8-4) - 30.3ppg, 5.9rpg, 5.7apg, .459 FG%

I think this guy actually prefers to play injured. Back to back 40 point games to take the early lead in the scoring title, decent percentage for a volume shooter and he's dishing out more assists than he has since the 2004-05 season. According to LA fans, he's also defending and rebounding at a more intense level than he has in recent seasons. To all those folks on twitter who were doubting Kobe, saying he's "no longer Top 5"... SMH.

3. Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder (10-2) - 25.7ppg, 7.2rpg, 3.6apg, 1.2bpg, .491 FG%
Still the best player on the NBA's best team (so far), KD almost gets consideration by default. Never mind that he's sacrificing some of his shots to get his teammates more involved offensively (assists are at a career high) without complaint, you'd have to be seriously nitpicking to find something bad to say about Durant's campaign thus far.

4. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (10-2) - 20.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 8.6apg, .450 FG%
Has Rose quietly snuck past Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the league's best point man? The way he's carrying Chicago's offense without scoring 25ppg makes for an interesting debate. There's room for improvement, too - Rose is making just 1.5 three pointers out of 5 attempts per game for a shade under 31%. He'll either make more or take the ball inside for a boost in efficiency or assists. Glad to have him on my fantasy team!

5. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (8-3) - 20.5ppg, 15.2rpg, 2.2bpg, 1.6spg, .586 FG%
Thirty-nine free throw attempts in a single game. That's something you might expect to see from two teams combined on an average night, not from an individual. It's an NBA record, and if he shot from the line at an average NBA level (75%) he would've broken the record for made free throws, too. Won't be the last record he breaks in his career, in Orlando or otherwise.

6. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (7-3) - 22.2ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.2spg, .489 FG%
Aldridge has made the transition away from Roy/Oden seem effortless and hardly of significance. What is significant is that he's still ballin', proving last season was no fluke. He's quickly moving up the arm chair ranks of best bigs in the game, and Portland's early season form more than justifies it.

7. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (3 -7) - 23.6ppg, 14.7rpg, 2.2 3pm, .424 FG%
Figures to jockey with Dwight for the rebounding title all season long, and with that spanish guy in town figures to finish the season shooting at a better clip than 42%. Makes the list for his dominant rebounding and his improved outside shooting (connecting on 2.2 of his 5.4 attempts per game), and will rise/fall with his team's success.

8. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (8-4) - 16.8ppg, 8.8rpg, 3.1apg, 1.4spg, 1.6bpg, .506 FG%
After a slow start, Josh Smith has been Atlanta's best player, followed by daylight, then Al Horford. Now it's daylight in third, too with Horford going down with a torn pectoral muscle, meaning Smith's touches are bound to increase, as will his rebounding. He's a 5x5 threat nightly and, dare I say it, if he keeps up this level of play, the Hawks might not be losing all that much with Horford out...

9. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (8-3) - 19.4ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, 1.0bpg, .512 FG%
Tom Ziller, of SB Nation and Sactown Royalty fame observed that Bosh has been the Heat's second best player so far this season, and I find myself agreeing. He's trying to add range to his jumpshot, extending himself out to the arc more this season than he has in his career, which makes sense for Miami as extra spacing to allow LeBron to occupy the block. Often criticised since joining the Heat (myself among the doubters), Bosh is proving a lot of people wrong so far this season.

10. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (5-3) - 16.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 8.8apg, 2.8spg, .515 FG%
Chris Paul... one gets the feeling he's holding back for something big. Read that again. Then looks at his stats. Then consider what they'll look like Paul decides to hit the next gear. Keep in mind too that he's still getting used to having two athletic bigs in the froncourt and two excellent spot-up shooters on the wings and REALLY let your imagination go wild with the numbers he might put up, especially in the assist department. Getting Paul was a win-now move (I wrote a few weeks ago that Eric Gordon will end up the better player), and when it starts showing in the standings, CP should start hearing more MVP chatter.

Outside looking in: Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, Ray Allen

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