This was an interesting week in the NBA’s MVP race.
LeBron James has fallen victim to his own expectations, and has his eyes on a bigger prize. Kevin Durant wants this MVP more, and it has become evident. Tomorrow night OKC visits Miami and you should expect to see Durant come out victorious again as the Thunder are playing the best basketball they have ever played as a team, winning six straight against teams like the Clippers, Heat, Lakers and Bulls (before Monday’s loss against Memphis).
Miami knows the regular season is pretty much meaningless to a team with championship aspirations. They have tunnel vision on that Larry O’Brien trophy. Dwyane Wade and LeBron are pacing themselves right now, catching breath before the playoffs, while Russell Westbrook and Durant haved turned it up to the max. So Durant and Westbrook have taken the advantage over LeBron and Wade respectively this week.
Durant hasn’t won an MVP yet, so he wants it now more than ever. On top of that, he deserves it more than ever, so look for him to really make strides in this race while LeBron slowly, but surely falls behind.
The competition heats up in our fifth edition of our weekly “Race to the MVP” Watch.
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10. DERRICK ROSE â€“ Last week: N/A
Last Week: No. 10, maintaining
Despite Rose being out for the past few weeks, there’s no way you can leave him out of the top 10 MVP candidates. This season he’s done enough to give the Bulls the best record in the league. That’s MVP-worthy in it’s own right. He expects to return before the playoffs begin. Depending on where the Bulls finish, their record ultimately decide where he finishes in this race. If they finish first, there really isn’t any way you can see Rose finishing out of the top five.
9. TONY PARKER â€“ Last week: 17.3 ppg/7.3 apg/5.0 rpg
LW: No. 9, maintaining
Tony Parker has continued to keep up his consistent level of play. As a result, the Spurs have only lost three games in the last two months (February and March). Parker has been able to contribute consistently without taking a large amount of shots. He took 20 shots or more in only two games last month, and he’s been able to maintain a positive output despite nursing his injuries. The Spurs are winners of six straight so TP has a tight grip on his spot in this MVP race.
8. CHRIS PAUL â€“ Last Week: 21.5 ppg/7.3 apg/5.0 rpg
LW: No. 8, maintaining
The Clippers seem to have finally found their niche. They’ve won their last six games and are right there with the Thunder and the Spurs as the hottest teams in the West. Chris Paul never accepted that role as the number one scorer for the Clippers, and that’s finally started to translate into wins. In three of his four games last week, Paul had a double-double. On top of that, his turnover numbers (1.2 a game) were extremely low last week. Paul has stayed true to his point guard duties and has continued to run the team the way he planned: low shot attempts for himself, with high assist and low turnover numbers.
7. KOBE BRYANT â€“ Last week: 21.3 ppg/5.6 rpg/4.0 apg
LW: No. 7, maintaining
Last week, Kobe Bryant continued shooting a horrendous percentage. In a win at Golden State on Tuesday he was 9-for-24 with 30 points. In a loss against OKC at home on Thursday he shot 7-for-25 with 23 points. Then against New Orleans at home he was 3-for-21 with 11 points. Eleven points on 21 attempts is not the typical efficiency of an MVP candidate. Despite his poor shooting however, the Lakers have still been good enough, losing only six games in the month of March. Kobe is still amongst the league’s most valuable to his team because of what he offers in terms of leadership. But on paper, his numbers just aren’t MVP worthy.
6. DWIGHT HOWARD â€“ Last week: 18.0 ppg/10.0 rpg/1.0 bpg
LW: No. 4, Falling
Although Dwight Howard didn’t play on Sunday against Denver for the Magic due to back spasms, he still had a decent week. First he put up 23 and 10 in a win against Toronto. He played terribly in that 22-point loss at New York on Wednesday, but bounced back by putting up 19 and 15 in a loss against Dallas. Two double doubles with a 1-2 record over three games… when his back spasms ease up, hopefully he can help the Magic can get back on track.
5. KEVIN LOVE – Last week: 29.0 ppg/12.5 rpg/3.3 apg
LW: No. 6, Rising
Putting up monster numbers seems to come easy to Kevin Love. It’s expected of him. He knows that unless he continues to operate at a ridiculously productive level, his team won’t be able to get to where he wants them to be. Kevin Love is a winner, and you can tell how badly he wants to pay for a winning team. He’s been doing all he can individually to win the way he wants to. It just hasn’t worked out for him yet. The Timberwolves are a good 4.5 games behind the eighth seed right now, and unless they win out, they won’t have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. However, you still can’t ignore Kevin Love’s individual contributions. If your definition of “most valuable” had nothing to do with team wins, he’d probably be your MVP.
4. DWYANE WADE â€“ Last week: 21.2 ppg/5.0 apg/5.5 rpg
LW: No. 3, Falling
D-Wade has been solid for Miami, however this past week he didn’t play as well as he had been. It looked as if Miami, and Wade especially, were kicking it into high gear tuning up for the playoffs. However this week it looked the exact opposite. Wade seems a bit burnt out; he isn’t running the floor as much as he was, isn’t defending with that pesky tenacity he was defending with. His energy seems a bit low. On paper you can’t really tell.
He’s continued to contribute despite taking a bit of a breather. He played great at Toronto on Friday with 30 points on 12-for-19 shooting, but aside from that it was pretty much cruise control for Wade last week.
3. RUSSELL WESTBROOK â€“ Last week: 31.6 ppg/6.3 apg/2.3 rpg
LW: No. 5, rising
Nobody can tell Russell Westbrook anything right now. America became so infatuated with Kevin Durant’s skill and humility that many of us automatically feel he has to take the most shots every night. Russell Westbrook comes off as cocky and a bit full of himself on the court, but he usually backs it up pretty well. Who can tell him he’s taking too many shots when he’s making most of them and the team is playing at an all-time high? Yes he’s the point guard, and yes his job is to make sure the best player gets the most shots, but who’s to say he isn’t the best player on some nights?
When he’s playing at the level he’s capable of playing at and shooting a high percentage from the field, he isn’t taking away from the team’s success. He isn’t taking food off of KD’s plate. He’s a matchup nightmare for some point guards; how can you criticize him for taking advantage of that? He only hurts the team when he shoots poorly and often, which has now become less often. The Thunder are playing the league’s best basketball right now and he has a lot to do with it.
2. LEBRON JAMES â€“ Last week: 18.0 ppg/7.6 apg/5.6 apg
LW: No. 1, Falling
No player in the NBA has it as difficult as LeBron James does. Quite frankly, whatever he does in the regular season will ultimately go unnoticed if Miami doesn’t get the job done this year. MVP or no MVP. He knows that and he’s been playing like it, just not as hard recently as we’re accustomed to seeing. His effort hasn’t been the same on defense and on offense he’s been very passive, especially against Boston on Sunday.
Miami has been looking like a team that’s tired of playing meaningless games. It almost seems as if they like their chances better as the No. 2 seed. LeBron really needs a convincing performance against OKC tomorrow night if he wants to become the leader in this race again. If Durant comes out victorious again, he really becomes the runaway favorite to win it.
1. KEVIN DURANT â€“ Last week: 24.0 ppg/9.0 rpg/3.3 apg
LW: No. 2, Rising
KD has taken over this MVP race. Here’s why: The Oklahoma City Thunder are the hottest team in the league right now. With Rose being out, Chicago has been struggling, and Miami is appearing to have it in cruise control. They look comfortable with the two seed while the Thunder appear to be playing for the league’s best record. They’ve turned it up while Miami and Chicago have turned it down.
The Thunder have emerged as the best team in the league after recently stomping Chicago (without Rose) and Miami, and Durant has been playing consistently efficient while LeBron has been sporadic. Right now, there’s no question Durant has taken over as the leader in this MVP race.
Who are your top 10 MVP candidates right now?
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