2013-14 NBA Season: Ranking the Top 15 MVP Candidates
Top 15 NBA MVP Candidates So Far in 2013-14 NBA Season
We are now 10 days into the 2013-14 NBA season and already everything is crazy. Despite all of the anticipation regarding his return, Derrick Rose is still trying to regain his form. Despite the fact that he wasn’t projected to return until December at the earliest, Russell Westbrook is already back and has played two games at a solid level. Despite being projected to be a historically atrocious team this year, the Philadelphia 76ers have three wins this season. All of this is madness.
However, in all of the madness we have, as you might expect, seen some pretty exciting basketball and some impressive play out of some big-name players. As the old adage goes, it’s never too early to start talking about the MVP race. (That’s probably not an old adage, but just work with me here.)
Obviously there are the usual suspects that should be in early MVP talks, but there are also quite a few players that haven’t lived up to the bill through the first week and a half of this season. Carmelo Anthony has been struggling to get things going early on, largely explaining the New York Knicks’ early struggles. Moreover, Kyrie Irving hasn’t really started cooking at the level that many people thought he might coming into his third NBA season.
The basic point that the start of this season has pointed out is that, if the season were to end incredibly prematurely today, the award races would look far different than you might think they would and how most logical people would have projected them to look before the season got underway. In the end, things will most likely balance out because, well, there are 82 games in a season, not five or six.
Let’s say the season did end today, though, and we had only this small sample size to judge the NBA off of. Who would be in these award races? Who would be surprisingly absent from these races? Here’s my take on the top 15 MVP candidates through the young 2013-14 season, even if they are more than likely going to change going forward.
15. Eric Bledsoe - Phoenix Suns
I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical about what Eric Bledsoe could do in a featured role as he joined the Phoenix Suns. I’ll also admit the fact that through the Suns’ first five games of this season, Bledsoe has done a lot of things that have made me look quite foolish for feeling that way.
Playing 33.8 minutes per game, Bledsoe is averaging 21 points, 7.2 assists, five rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting an impressive 50 percent from the floor. Though he’s playing for a bad team and it’s still early, Bledsoe has done everything in his power to live up to his billing as “mini-LeBron” so far this season.
14. Nikola Vucevic - Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic continues to be one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in the entire league. All the guy does is go out, compete hard, and help this young Magic team succeed. If he keeps putting up double-doubles, people are going to have to start taking more notice.
Through five games for the Magic, Vucevic is averaging 17.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals in 35.6 minutes per game. More than that, he’s improved on his efficiency to shoot 56.9 percent from the floor this season and has been a big reason why the Magic have been relatively impressive for being such a youthful squad.
13. Blake Griffin - Los Angeles Clippers
People are still going to throw plenty of hate towards Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s still a productive player. Moreover, it doesn’t account for the fact that he’s shown a bit of improvement this season and is playing quite well.
Before their game on Thursday night, Griffin was averaging 20.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, three assists, one block and 1.2 steals in 37.6 minutes per game while shooting a career-high 56.2 percent from the floor. He added to those numbers by going for 27 points and 14 rebounds on 11-15 shooting on Thursday. Griffin certainly is working on improving his perception around the league going forward.
12. Dwight Howard - Houston Rockets
While Dwight Howard coming to the Houston Rockets was obviously going to benefit the team and help vault them to contender status in the West, many people were curious to see if Dwight would return to his former level of play with a new team. Thus far, he’s been every bit as good as he once was.
Over his first five games in Houston, Howard is averaging 17.4 points, 14.6 points, one assist and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. Though you can question his scoring, he is on a team where he’s not the primary offensive option, which takes away in that regard. Dwight seems at home in Houston and seems ready to put forth a big season individually.
11. DeMarcus Cousins - Sacramento Kings
You can question the sanity of the Sacramento Kings for extending DeMarcus Cousins heading into this year, but you can’t question or deny the fact that Cousins is putting up some of the best overall numbers of his career here in the early going of this season.
Through four games, the big man in Sactown is averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46.2 percent from the floor. More than that, though, Cousins has been a bit more active defensively than he has in the past, averaging 1.3 blocks and two steals per game as well. The silver lining of all silver linings when it comes to Cousins, though, is of course that he hasn’t been ejected yet. Baby steps, Boogie.
10. Tony Parker - San Antonio Spurs
For the year, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker’s statistical output really hasn’t been anything that far out of the norm for him and hasn’t been shockingly great by any means. Through five games he’s averaging 19.6 points, 7.2 assists and 2.8 boards in 33 minutes per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the floor and 42.9 percent three-point shooting. However, his MVP candidacy goes beyond just the numbers.
With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili looking their age a bit to start this season and not producing at the levels that the Spurs are used to seeing, Parker remains the glue holding them together. Night after night he goes on the floor, leads, and gets the job done. That’s certainly enough to get him respect from me.
9. LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland Trail Blazers
The biggest stories surrounding Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge this summer and at the start of the season mostly concerned whether or not he’s going to be traded this year and where he’s going to land. While he’s still in Portland, though, he’s been a force for the Blazers.
In four games for the Trail Blazers, Aldridge is putting up 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, one block and one steal in 37.5 minutes per game while shooting a solid 52.4 percent from the floor. Moreover, he’s already taken over a game or two with his work in the mid-range and posting up opponents. Who knows if he’ll be in Portland at season’s end, but he’s doing work for them right now.
8. Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
While Stephen Curry may not be putting up video game numbers that you might expect, is dealing with a foot/ankle injury, and isn’t leading the Golden State Warriors in scoring early on, it’s hard to deny that he’s been every bit as exciting and successful as Golden State could want.
His numbers a bit skewed by the injury from Wednesday and a couple of blowouts where he wasn’t needed at the end of the game, but he’s still averaging 18.6 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 46.2 percent from three. More than that, though, he’s been facilitating more effectively this season, putting up 9.2 assists per game. He still needs to get his turnovers down, but he’s well on his way to continue being a star.
7. James Harden - Houston Rockets
In news that shouldn’t surprise anyone (and probably isn’t actually news), James Harden is still really good at basketball and isn’t going to be negatively affected by the arrival of Dwight in Houston. Though he’s had one off game, Harden has been every bit as productive this season as he was when he broke out last year.
Through their first five games, Harden is putting up 25.2 points, 4.2 assists, four rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting an impressive 51.2 percent from three. He needs to get his turnovers down as he sits at 4.8 per game right now, needs to get his three-point percentage up, and needs to learn how to play defense, but he’s still a star in this league and that hasn’t changed.
6. Anthony Davis - New Orleans Pelicans
It doesn’t matter if he’s only in his second season because the time of Anthony Davis has arrived with the New Orleans Pelicans. With the team adopting a new look and nickname, Davis has made it clear that this new era is going to be led by him.
The big man has done it all through the Pelicans’ first five games. He’s averaging 21.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.2 steals and an unreal four blocks per game. It’d be nice to see his efficiency rise from 42.9 percent, but there’s no question that his contributions all over the floor are huge for this New Orleans team.
5. Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
Before you start having smoke fly out of your ears like a cartoon train engine about Kevin Durant being this low, realize that the Oklahoma City Thunder star hasn’t been as great as he can be to start this season. Whether that’s a product of him pressing, being in a slump, or not having Westbrook, I don’t know—but it’s the truth.
Durant is leading the league in scoring at 27.8 points per game and is adding 3.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. However, after joining the 50/40/90 club with his shooting percentages last season, he’s shooting just 42.9 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three and 88.2 percent from the foul line this season. With Westbrook back and as KD settles down, I’m sure he’ll get back closer to 50/40/90, but he’s not there yet which makes me drop him slightly in these rankings.
4. Chris Paul - Los Angeles Clippers
If there was any doubt that Chris Paul is the NBA’s best point guard before the start of this season (there shouldn’t have been much if any at all), there definitely shouldn’t be any now. Paul has been unreal to start this season.
Through five games, Paul is looking like he’s playing the game on rookie mode, averaging 24.8 points, 12.6 assists, four rebounds and three steals in 35.6 minutes per game while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor. If the Clippers’ team defense and record was a little better, he might be a little higher on this list. Still, Paul is one of the guys already high in these rankings that will likely be there when the season ends as well.
3. Paul George - Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers remain the lone unbeaten team in the league and Paul George playing like the superstar that many people were ready to call him in last year’s playoffs is undoubtedly the biggest reason why. While George is still growing as a player, he’s been a monster thus far.
Playing 37.2 minutes per game, he’s averaging 25.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, four assists and 1.8 steals per game. More than that, George has been efficient with his offense, converting on 48.3 percent of his shots and 44.4 percent of his threes. While he could cool off shooting, George has improved upon his already impressive game from last year, which could mean an enormous season from him in Indiana.
2. Kevin Love - Minnesota Timberwolves
Now that he’s not doing knuckle pushups and is fully healthy, Kevin Love has been showing why he’s such an integral part of the Minnesota Timberwolves. To put it as simply as possible, Love has been doing everything for the Wolves early on and has been putting up huge numbers along the way.
Ranking second in the league in scoring right now, Love is averaging 26.2 points, 14.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 0.8 steals per game. Though you’d like to see him convert on more than 28.1 percent of his shots from long-range, Love’s ability to affect the game in so many facets has been in full display. If he can lead the Wolves to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, he could wind up in this position in these rankings at the end of the year as well.
1. LeBron James - Miami Heat
Simply, LeBron James is still LeBron James and that is the constant of the NBA at this point. Leading the Miami Heat, a team with a huge target on their back, LeBron has continued to produce in every aspect of the game. He’s averaging 25.6 points, eight assists, 5.6 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game on 58 percent shooting and 50 percent three-point shooting. Perhaps I’m alone (probably not) in thinking this, but no one is coming close to LeBron this year or any time soon.
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