The Top 10 NBA MVP Candidates, Week 4

By: 03.27.12
Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose (photo. adidas)

Could this be the week that Kevin Durant passes LeBron James? It’s been the topic of discussion for the majority of the week, leading up to their Sunday night faceoff (in which Durant came out on top). Many have come to the conclusion that Durant has finally edged LeBron for first place in the race to the MVP. LeBron has been having one of the most impressive seasons by an individual since Michael Jordan was playing. The month of March hasn’t been his best, but there’s a lot of basketball left to be played.

Durant and the Thunder have been playing great basketball, during a time when LeBron and Miami are playing inconsistently. The Thunder still have a better record than Miami, and Durant has a higher scoring average than LeBron. So it’s understandable why someone would decide that the time has come for Durant to takeover as the frontrunner for the MVP.

However my friends, you cannot forget so quickly the type of season LeBron James has been having. It’s extremely close between the two now, but LeBron is still having the better season. Sunday night was just round one; come April 4, Durant and LeBron will face off again in Miami. This meeting will ultimately prove who deserves the number one spot going into the final weeks of the season.

The competition heats up in our fourth edition of our weekly “Race to the MVP” Watch. Here is our MVP update for last week, (Monday through Sunday)…

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10. DERRICK ROSE – Last week: 32 pts/7 ast/6 rebs
Last Week: No. 5, falling
Rose hasn’t played a game since March 12, but the Bulls are still playing the best basketball in the league. He’ll be out for another week, but his body of work up until now has the Bulls in a place where they can almost afford for him to be gone. Miami hasn’t been playing great lately, and have fallen five wins behind Chicago, so they don’t have to worry about losing first place. Also, the Bulls were the first team to clinch a playoff berth. Overall Rose has the Bulls in a great place, and when he returns he will definitely be right back in the MVP conversation.

9. TONY PARKER – Last week: 11.6 ppg/7.6 apg/1.0 rpg
LW: No. 10, rising
Tony Parker still managed to play well this week despite his limited minutes. He only played 10 minutes against Minnesota on Wednesday but still managed to dish out six helpers. He made some crucial plays in a three-point win over New Orleans in a game where he had a double-double. Then against Philly he put up 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting and dished out seven assists. Overall, a solid week for Parker and a 3-0 week for the Spurs keeps him in the top 10.

8. CHRIS PAUL – Last Week: 17.8 ppg/10.0 apg/2.8 spg
LW: maintaining
Chris Paul and the Clippers just can’t catch a rhythm. The addition of Nick Young hasn’t proved just yet to fill the void left by Chauncey BIllups. But it’s clear CP3 doesn’t want to be the one taking the most shots. Paul is a natural point guard playing on a team with other talented players. Even if the Clippers need him to take the most shots, he still won’t want to do that.

Chris Paul only scored over 20 in one of his five games last week, which was the only game he took over 15 shots. In my opinion he knows the Clippers can’t achieve the long-term success he has in mind if he’s the number one scoring option. Although the formula has proved to be successful for Rose and the Bulls, who have been playing the best regular season basketball for the past two years, CP3 wants to take the Clippers down a different path.

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7. KOBE BRYANT – Last week: 23.8 ppg/4.0 rpg/3.8 apg
LW: No. 7, maintaining
Kobe followed up his 3-for-20 performance against Utah at the end of last week by shooting 10-for-27 in a loss against Houston two nights later. He’d finally get back on track Wednesday night against Dallas, having his most efficient game of the month with 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting. Then he turned right back around and went 5-for-17 in a win against Portland. In a week where the Lakers went 2-2 you can tell that Kobe sometimes shoots them out of games. After being benched by Mike Brown in the fourth quarter against Memphis on Sunday it’s looking more and more like Andrew Bynum is the team’s most important player. Kobe is the leader, and the one responsible for putting the ball in the basket at the end of the day, but Bynum could be the most important player for the Lakers when it comes down to it. Kobe still leads the league in scoring, and the Lakers still lead the division, so it’s hard to say he doesn’t belong in the MVP conversation.

6. KEVIN LOVELast week: 33.5 ppg/15.8 rpg/2.0 apg
LW: No. 9, rising
Is there anyone who can stop Kevin Love? By the looks of it, there really isn’t. Each week he goes out and puts up astonishing numbers and it’s getting really hard to ignore at this point. Sure MVP has a lot to do with team success, but where do you draw the line? This guy Kevin Love has been playing some of the most consistent basketball week in and week out.

It goes a lot deeper than the numbers as well. Last Friday on NBA TV in a thriller at Oklahoma City, Kevin Love went nuts. He finished the game with 51 points on 16-for-27 shooting, 7-for-11 from three-point range and he pulled down 14 boards. If you got a chance to watch the game, you can see that he’s really Minnesota’s go-to guy on every possession. That’s just the type of play you’re beginning to expect from Love now. There’s no question that he belongs in the MVP conversation.

5. RUSSELL WESTBROOK – Last week: 25.0 ppg/4.8 apg/3.5 rpg
LW: No.6, rising
Russell Westbrook has continued to block out the negativity and just focus on his game. Those who criticize him about the amount of shots he takes are the same ones praising him on nights like Friday against Minnesota. Westbrook finished with 45 points on 17-for-28 shooting. What people fail to realize is Westbrook doesn’t always take food off of Durant’s plate. The reason why the Thunder are so difficult to stop defensively is because they have two legitimate scoring threats.

4. DWIGHT HOWARD – Last week: 21.3 ppg/12.8 rpg/2.5 bpg
LW: No. 4, maintaining
Last week was a productive one for the Magic and Dwight Howard, aside from that embarrassing loss at Chicago on Monday night. They responded to that loss with resilience by taking care of business against Phoenix, Cleveland and Toronto respectively. Dwight put up a typical Dwight Howard double-double in each of the Magic’s four games last week.

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Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

3. DWYANE WADE – Last week: 21.6 ppg/4.6 apg/6.6 rpg
LW: No. 3, maintaining
Miami took care of business last week for the most part, but there was only three games last week in which D-Wade was impacting the game in all aspects. Wade has continued to refuse to settle for long three-point shots and it’s been working for him. He puts a lot of pressure on defenses in the pick-and-roll, and he attacks the basket relentlessly. He proved he can still shoot the three by going 3-for-4 in the loss against OKC on Sunday. However, Wade has been making the most of his 15-20 shot attempts each night.

2. KEVIN DURANT – Last week: 29.5 ppg/10.3 rpg/5.0 apg
LW: No. 2, maintaining
Last week KD had a ridiculously efficient seven days against some of the league’s toughest teams. Aside from struggling at Utah on Tuesday in a game where he only had 18 on 22 shot attempts, Durant was on fire: 10-for-18 with 32 points against Chris Paul and the Clippers; 40 points on 15-for-26 shooting in the overtime game against Minnesota; then 28 points on 11-for-20 shooting against LeBron and the Heat (while checking ‘Bron most of the way), which was more than enough to get the victory. Many want to debate that this is the week Durant finally edges LeBron in the MVP race. Sure he out played LeBron on Sunday, and had a better overall week than LeBron did, but it’s hard to just ignore LeBron’s entire body of work this season after one great week by Durant. The main reason Durant doesn’t pass LeBron is because the two meet again in Miami on April 4th. That will ultimately decide if Durant can finally pass LeBron. For now, he’ll have to sit tight in second place, although now he’s closer than ever to the number one spot.

1. LEBRON JAMES – Last week: 18.0 ppg/7.6 apg/5.6 apg
LW: No. 1, maintaining
Not the best week for LeBron James, which isn’t exactly a surprise when you consider how well D-Wade has been playing lately. The fact of the matter is there’s only one basketball, and Wade has been getting into a pretty good rhythm.

It wasn’t exactly a bad week for LeBron. But it was definitely not the LeBron James basketball we’re accustomed to seeing. He’d better turn it around quick because Durant is coming off one of his best weeks of the season, and he clearly outplayed LeBron on Sunday night. The two meet again on April 4th which will ultimately decide if LeBron will remain in the number one spot, or if Durant can finally pass him for the first time all season.

Did I get the top 10 right?

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