The 2013 NBA MVP race is heating up as we approach the middle of the season. Since our last ladder, the Clippers have been streaking, and Chris Paul has made a significant case for himself as the frontrunner for the award. While LeBron and Kevin Durant have both had their moment in the sun, Chris Paul has never been there.
There’s a world of difference between “best player” and “most valuable player.” What makes this award so special is the fact that it’s not all about numbers, and Chris Paul has been taking advantage of that. Paul gives the Clippers exactly what they need. His ability to distribute the basketball and attack from different angles allows every player on his supporting cast to shine at what they do best. While Kevin Durant and LeBron James have simply been doing what’s expected of them (as crazy as that sounds), Chris Paul is exceeding expectations. His mentality has the Clippers believing in themselves more than they ever did in the past. That holds value. Before it looked like it would come down to Kevin Durant and LeBron James again, but now it’s looking like those guys better not let Chris Paul’s Clippers finish with the best record in the league or else they both could be leaving this season empty handed.
As for the bottom of the ladder, David Lee earned his way onto our last ladder, but has quickly fallen off and it’s not his fault. While he’s playing great basketball, Stephen Curry is just more important to the Warriors at this point. And even though the Atlanta Hawks are beginning to look like the sub-par team we expected them to be, Josh Smith deserves to be on the ladder for taking that team as far as he has.
Here are our rankings for our fourth volume of Dime‘s official MVP Ladder.
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10. JOSH SMITH
Last week: 11.6 ppg/3.6 apg/7.6 rpg
Vol. 3 rank: 8
On the MVP Ladder, Josh Smith is skating on thin ice. He earned his way on by leading the Hawks to a 19-10 record through December. That came as a surprise to many, considering the Hawks are in their first season without Joe Johnson and are heading for rebuilding mode in the near future. In the New Year, the Hawks have been on a serious decline. After only losing five games in both November and December, they’ve already lost six out of the eight games they’ve played so far this month. Now sitting at 21-16, they went from being one of the top teams in the East to falling to the middle of the pack. They’ve watched teams like Brooklyn and Indiana pass them by, and other teams like Boston and Chicago are very close to doing the same.
The Hawks’ recent struggles couldn’t come at a worse time for Smith, who is hoping to earn his first All-Star appearance. Although he’s shooting a dismal 42 percent from the field in January, he still has four double-doubles this month, and has picked up his assist numbers. Even though Atlanta has been playing terribly as of late, Josh Smith has never been more deserving of an All-Star spot. He’s been doing a great job being “the guy” for Atlanta this season, and that’s exactly why his name is on the ladder.
9. STEPHEN CURRY
Last week: 25.0 ppg/7.6 apg/2.0 spg
Vol. 3 rank: 9
It’s tough to decide who’s more valuable to the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry or David Lee. Judging on numbers only, the untrained eye would choose Lee. He’s averaging a whopping 20 and 11 this year, and is second only to Zach Randolph in double-doubles. However, there is no denying that Stephen Curry is the main reason the Warriors have been playing so well. He’s been the catalyst for the Warriors offense all season, and really allows the team to play their brand of basketball. The reason the Warriors have been winning has a lot to do with the play of David Lee as well, but without Curry, the offense wouldn’t move as fluidly as it does and they wouldn’t be able to play that up-tempo style and actually win games.
Curry has been playing so well, he’ll likely make his first All-Star team this year. He’s been consistent all season long and has done a great job running the offense for the Warriors. While Lee has been having an outstanding season for Golden State, it’s just so hard to say he’s more valuable to the team than Curry.