LeBron James- Miami Heat SF (19-7)
28.5 points: 56.4% FG, 38.6% 3p FG, 74.9% FT
LeBron says he is an “easy target” for criticism, in the wake of Kendrick Perkins and Larry Legend landing two very different types of ‘hay-makers’ at his sensitive psyche. Well, time for you to get your props, Mr. James. We all witnessed that NBA Finals meltdown against the Mavericks last June. No need to re-hash that, as LeBron has come back with a vengeance. The 2-time NBA MVP has actually managed to increase his career scoring, largely in Wade’s absence (Heat were 7-1 with LeBron leading w/Wade out w/injury), is right on par with his career average in assists (7APG), and has managed to increase his rebounds (8.2>7). Say what you want about his tweeting, posing, and “playing the game for fun”, LeBron is the clear-cut favorite for MVP this year. Real recognizes real, and in the regular season, LeBron is the truth. All those folks that love seeing him fail had better absorb/enjoy it while it lasts. With the West looking wide open, and the Chicago Bulls’ collective health being an ultimate question, we may be ‘witnessing’ a few big celebrations (for James) that would finally bring validity to his self-assigned nickname.
Chris Paul- Los Angeles Clippers PG (15-8)
18.4 points: 50.4% FG, 47% 3p FG, 83% FT
Full disclosure, CP3 was my preseason prediction for MVP. Some laughed, but it really wasn’t all that much of a stretch. The Clippers have been the butt of NBA jokes for the better part of 30 years, and even with the added pieces, the expectation/pressure surely wouldn’t be as high as that of James’. Definitely not taking anything away from Paul, just placing perspective. All that said, CP3 is back to playing like the best point guard in the league. Whether this label is aided by Derrick Rose being beaten up, is an argument for another day. The Clippers are in 1st place in the Pacific Division, and don’t look like they are going anywhere anytime soon. With Chauncey Billups being lost for the season (torn achilles), CP3 has the opportunity to truly prove his winning mettle and poise. The Clippers’ progress and ultimate success may ultimately decide this race.
Kevin Durant- Oklahoma City SF (20-5)
27.3 points: 50.4% FG, 32.5% 3p FG, 81.1% FT
Durant fans won’t want to hear it, but Russell Westbrook‘s emergence as a legitimate star ultimately hurts KD’s chances at the league’s MVP. Fair or not, Westbrook’s improved play may siphon off some of his votes. That said, Durant is a scoring beast. Most impressively, Durant doesn’t seem to be a guy that cares about individual accomplishments. OKC fans are definitely thankful of that fact. The guy is a walking/talking/balling daily reminder to Trail Blazers fans of just how big of a mistake their previous GM Kevin Pritchard (Oden>Durant). Not to rub salt in in any wounds, as Porty has a NICE squad. Just sayin’, folks in Portland clinging to those old/tattered Sam Bowie jerseys still have yet to recover. I will say, while not criticizing Durant, I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that he doesn’t receive anywhere near the scrutiny of players like Kobe and LeBron. If he did, ESPN, Twitter, and the blogging world would rant and rave about his low career assists numbers (2.7 apg) even with the slight improvement in that department (so far) this season.
22 points: 46.2% FG, 31% 3p FG, 84.1% FT
Derrick needs some help. Strange way to start an MVP candidate explanation, but the facts are the facts. Chicago has done a decent job at throwing together a few cats that were once-good or almost-good at this point, but none of them are good enough to warrant being called an NBA Title-contending roster. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that asking SO much from one player (smaller guard, at that) is simply too much to ask. It is unrealistic to think one guy can dance under so much water and not get wet. The injury bug has limited his numbers, but he still deserves to be in the conversation if only based upon his team’s overall record.
29.3 points: 44.4% FG, 30% 3p FG, 84.5% FT
Second verse, same as the first? Kobe needs some help. Sounds even crazier, when you consider the fact that he has Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol towering around the court with him. Problem is, Andrew Goudelock (a rookie) has been their most consistent and reliable 4th option on a team that was once considered one of the deepest in the league. Rumors of trades for Superman-lite and just about every other scrap-heap guard in the league won’t change Kobe’s approach. In his 16th season, Bryant is still bringing it at MVP levels each night. Plenty of folks will point towards the questionable record, but those that have watched each game would tell you the Lakers might be something closer to 8-17 without Kobe going to work with such regularity.
Jabari A. Davis
RealTalkOnSprts on Twitter
NBA Real Talk on Facebook
LeBron must have felt like it was coming at him from all angles, as two very different individuals came forth with some real talk about his personality and (most indicting) about his game. Kendrick Perkins, which should come to no surprise, finally responded (publicly) to LeBron’s tweets about the Blake Griffin dunk . LeBron, in case you forgot, responded to the Griffin/Perkins dunk with this tweet:
“Dunk of the Year!! @blakegriffin just dunked on Kendrick Perkins so hard!! Wow!! I guess I’m #2 now. Move over #6.”
That patented ‘Perkins Scowl’ must have been at playoff-level heights as he uttered these words about James:
“You don’t see Kobe tweeting,” Perkins said. “You don’t see Michael Jordan tweeting. If you’re an elite player, plays like that don’t excite you. At the end of the day, the guys who are playing for the right reasons who are trying to win championships are not worrying about one play. They also are not tweeting about themselves talking about going down to No. 2. I just feel (James) is always looking for attention and he wants the world to like him.”
Sounds like Perk isn’t ready to let his dislike for LeBron go, whether in a Celtics uni or not. Some would chalk Perkins’ disdain for LeBron up to competitive vigor, or maybe even a simply a case of contrasting personalities. Although, I do think some of Perkins’ anger stems from a natural sense of embarrassment that would come from being ‘posterized’ like that, I do think Perkins has some valid points on LeBron. Larry Bird, however, nailed it right on the head in this video:
LeBron is the most freakishly gifted player I’ve ever witnessed on the basketball court. As a proud, lifelong Lakers fan, it almost pains me to say that, but it is true. Anyone arguing otherwise, is simply permitting their “fanaticism” get the better of them. No one can question LeBron’s skill, but Larry Legend manages to question his “will” in a very polite and matter-of-fact manner. By his response, it’s evident that he’s given the subject a great deal of deliberation, and Bird encapsulated the opinions on so many basketball fans, historians, and ex-players. If LeBron were to ever “take his talents” and gifts as seriously as he takes himself, the league wouldn’t have an answer for him. Bird, like so many of the ‘All-Time Greats‘, values winning over anything else. He appreciates LeBron’s incredible physical capabilities, but (like us) seems to wonder if James will ever focus on winning above all else?
Jabari A. Davis
RealTalkOnSprts on Twitter
NBARealTalk on Facebook