Ranking Kevin Durant and the Top 15 2014 NBA MVP Candidates
Ranking Kevin Durant and the Top 15 NBA MVP Candidates This Season
As the 2014 NBA season hits its halfway point for most teams, we begin to think about several hot topics buzzing around the league. The trade deadline is coming up. Who will be dealt? Will teams that have already made moves continue to do so in effort to put themselves in better position for next summer? The All-Star Break is on its way, and the starters have been decided. Were the right guys voted in? Will there be other players deserving of a spot to get snubbed in favor of a popularity vote? I think we know the answer to that question, unfortunately.
One of the biggest topics lately has been that of Kevin Durant and his MVP-type of season so far. Right now, we begin to wonder a few things. First, can he keep it up? Durant has been going at quite the pace as of late, looking nearly unstoppable -- at least, scoring-wise. Second, is there anyone even close to him in the running for the NBA MVP award? His season has been nothing short of incredible, particularly in the new year. However, you might be surprised as to how close a couple of other guys are to catching him in the race.
The tough part about the MVP race, at times, can be looking at certain guys who play for non-playoff teams yet continually prove one of the best in the game. One of them, Kevin Love, has been outright dominant in 2013-2014. But, playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves is sort of a handicap if you will. Should Minnesota make the playoffs, Love's stock as an MVP would greatly increase. But, that doesn't appear likely to happen with the way things have been going at the moment.
Both Durant and Love are deserving when you discount the teams they play for. But, that's all a part of the award as well. If a player sits on an underperforming team that misses the playoffs, can they still be considered for an MVP award? If you ask me, the answer is yes. While Durant may be the clear frontrunner at the moment, there are 14 other guys behind him that have had stellar seasons of their own. This year may be one of the tightest races we've ever seen. Here are the top 15 players in line for the award at the moment.
15. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Lost in the New York Knicks' rough season, is the fact that Carmelo Anthony is having arguably his best year yet as a pro. Anthony is a couple points shy of his career best per-game average, but as a whole his season has been phenomenal. He's shooting the second-best percentage of his career from long distance at over 41 percent, while averaging 26.1 points per game. He's rebounded the ball at a career number of 9.0 per game and is also stealing the ball at a rate of 1.2 times per contest. Anthony likely won't win the award, but deserves to be in the discussion for a phenomenal year to this point.
14. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
While Dirk Nowitzki isn't having a career year by any means, he will be one of the sole reasons the Dallas Mavericks get back to postseason play if they can pull it off. 21.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, coupled with shooting nearly 40 percent from three point range. Still by far one of the best players in the game today, Nowitzki can fill it up on any given night and has been a consistent for the Mavs this year.
13. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard has been on another level for the most part of this season. His stat line won't completely blow you away, averaging 21.2 points and 5.8 assists. However, his shooting has been out of this world -- especially when his Portland Trail Blazers need it the most. Lillard is lighting it up from long distance, where he's taking over seven three-point shots per game. But, he's making 43 percent of them. The Blazers have been a pleasant surprise, and Lillard has been a great reason why.
12. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin is currently holding onto a career-high 22.6 points per game, just 0.1 points over his rookie season's number. But, coupled with 10.0 rebounds per game, 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals, Griffin definitely belongs in the MVP conversation. While he may not crack the top 10, Griffin has still had an outstanding season and has kept his Los Angeles Clippers competitive without their leader.
11. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
I don't care what anyone else says -- DeMarcus Cousins is the best all-around center in the game this season, bar none. The Sacramento Kings may not be in postseason form quite yet, but Cousins has proved to be one of the best players in all of basketball, regardless of position. The fact that he may even be snubbed of an All-Star bid is absolutely despicable. Cousins has averaged 22.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. That should speak for itself.
10. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
I know what you are thinking. If I think Cousins is the best center in the game, why is Dwight Howard a notch higher on the MVP list? The biggest reason why, is the fact that Howard's presence defensively is worth more to the Houston Rockets at this point than Cousins' game is to the Kings. The Rockets are in the thick of a playoff race, thus Howard has been more valuable to his team. Howard's stat line of 18.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game isn't too shabby, but his overall presence defensively means the world to Houston.
9. John Wall, Washington Wizards
To go with his 20.2 points per game, John Wall is fourth in the NBA with 8.5 assists as well. He's also grabbing 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per night. Wall has improved even more this season, as he continues his personal quest to be the best point guard in the game. The Washington Wizards are in the playoffs as it stands right now. Yes, the Eastern Conference is a joke. But, if Wall can keep this up and grab a playoff berth, he'll definitely be worthy of MVP talk.
8. James Harden, Houston Rockets
It's just another season of James Harden averaging 24.0, 5.0 and 5.0 per game folks. With 24.3 points, 5.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds, Harden has been an all-around problem for opposing teams. If he can get his Rockets out of the first round and maybe into the conversation of a title in 2014, his MVP chances are bolstered even further. Sure, Howard has helped in a big way. But, Harden is still the heart and soul of Houston.
7. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Let's say the Timberwolves were in the middle of the playoff race in the West. Love would undoubtedly crack the top three in MVP voting -- or at least he should. Fourth in the league in scoring and second in rebounding is very, very difficult to argue against. 25.0 points per game to go along with 13.0 rebounds gets you one of the best players in basketball, period. Love has been a monster in 2013-2014 and still deserves big recognition regardless of playoff positioning.
6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
You know what is ridiculous? Stephen Curry and that other guy atop this list are only 25 years old. The Golden State Warriors point guard is averaging 23.5 points, 9.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game this season. Those numbers should blow you away if you're a voter in this award. Curry very well may be higher on this list come the end of the year, but playing in the same league as Durant in 2014 is just unfair at this point.
5. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have survived without Chris Paul, but if they were to play without him in the postseason for some reason, they'd be done. Paul is having one of the best seasons he's ever had this year, averaging 19.6 points, 11.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Like I said earlier, this race will be extremely close come the end of the season and Paul will be in the debate, no doubt.
4. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Paul George has improved tremendously, especially in his offensive game. He's averaged 23.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game while also consistently locking down the opposing team's best player on any given night. One of the best defenders in the game has become one of the best offensive presences in the game in 2013-2014. George and his Indiana Pacers are looking for much more than the Eastern Conference Finals this season, and they very well could get it.
3. LeBron James, Miami Heat
The Miami Heat may not be the force they are when a healthy Dwyane Wade was in the lineup regularly, but LeBron James is still doing his thing. With all the talk about Durant lately, James is still putting up 26.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game and continues to be one of the best defensive players in the game as well. You won't be able to count this guy out of the race until he puts down the basketball for the last time.
2. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
Even more so than Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge has been that important to Portland this season. Just think, a year ago there were rumors of Aldridge being shipped out of a Blazers uniform. It's safe to say that the organization and fans are happy they didn't make that mistake. Aldridge has been a menace this season, averaging 24.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He's been without a doubt one of the most crucial pieces to any team in recent memory. It'd be tough to imagine the Blazers being anywhere near this point in 2014 without him.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Was there any doubt in your mind who tops this list? At the moment, Durant is the best player on the planet. Having to win without Russell Westbrook is forcing him to score 35-40 points per night -- and he is just fine doing so. Not only that, but he's making it look easy. Durant is sealing games late in the fourth quarter better than I've ever seen him do. Rather than trying to run the clock out and hold onto possession as long as possible, he's draining three pointers just for the mere heck of it -- daggers. Durant has been unstoppable in 2014 and if he keeps it up even at 75 percent of this pace, he'll run away with the MVP this season -- deservingly so.