NBA Predictions: Top 5 MVP Candidates from Each Conference

Chris Madden@@christomaddenAnalyst IIMarch 9, 2012

NBA Predictions: Top 5 MVP Candidates from Each Conference

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    There's less than two months left in the 2012 NBA regular season and that makes it a good time to start narrowing down the candidates for the MVP award.

    These days, you might say the MVP race has as much suspense and intrigue as a Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy. Most people think it's essentially a two horse race.

    It's certainly hard to argue with that logic; but I'm going to try. There's no shortage of great performances this year and some have flown under the radar.

    I will say this, my considerations for MVP might differ from others. Here's what I look at when considering who should get the award:

    1. Individual performance

    2. Comparison with other players at the same position.

    3. The player's Impact on their team. I try to imagine what the team would be like without them. Their impact does not necessarily have to result in a winning record either, to be considered.

     Here are my favorites to win the NBA's MVP award this year. I've selected five candidates from each conference.

    * All stats are from ESPN.com

5. Eastern Conference: Greg Monroe

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    I can hear the laughter and guffaws already. I realize that Greg Monroe stands as much chance of winning the MVP award than I do of landing a date with the aforementioned Ms. Lopez, but hear me out.

    As far as impact on his team, there are few players more important to the overall success of their team than Monroe. Without him, the Detroit Pistons wouldn't win a single game. That I can guarantee.

    He's the unquestioned leader of the team despite being in only his second year. He's shown maturity and development well beyond his 21 years.

    Drafted to play power forward, Monroe's been forced to play center out of necessity. The Pistons don't have anyone else. He's accepted it and excelled.

     He's not dominant night-in and night-out yet, but his number are impressive nonetheless. I think he should've made the All-Star roster over Roy Hibbert and Luol Deng.

    In fact, statistically he's the second best center in the Eastern Conference behind Dwight Howard. Monroe's 16.4 points and 10.3 rebounds a game—he's a double-double machine—are better than Hibbert, JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler.

    Like I said, I know Monroe doesn't have a realistic chance at the award but I feel he deserves consideration at least.

     

4. Eastern Conference: Andre Iguodala

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    Led by Doug Collins, the Philadelphia 76ers have exceeded just about everyone's expectations this year on their way to a 23-17 record. Andre Iguodala is the heart and soul of that team and arguably it's best player.

    He's the engine that makes the Sixers go. His numbers aren't particularly gaudy, but he's sacrificed numbers for the sake of the team. His career average of 15 points a game has shrunken to 12 but the team's offense has been working at optimum efficiency because of it.

    His impact is felt in other areas as well. His three point percentage and per game rebounds and assists are all up and he made his first All-Star Game appearance this year.

    He's Philadelphia's best defender and is routinely matched up against his opponent's best player. He made the NBA's All-Defensive second team in 2011 and will likely be there again this year.

    Like Monroe, Iguodala deserves mention because of the impact he has on his team and where they'd be without him.

     

     

3. Eastern Conference: Dwight Howard

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    He's a beast and hands down the best center in the Eastern Conference. He automatically makes the Orlando Magic, or any other team he plays for, a contender. Yes, Dwight Howard is a perennial lock for MVP consideration. Yet, he's never won it.

    I guess you could say he's an MVP tweener. He's a dominant player but he's never had they type of season that pushed him over the edge.

    This season is no different. He's arguably the best center in the NBA. He leads the league in rebounding with 15 a game, he's fourth in blocks with two per game and he scores 20 points a game which is tops for centers.

    The Magic certainly would be worse off without him but he does have weaknesses.

    He's a horrible free throw shooter and he still hasn't developed much of an offensive repertoire down low. I also don't believe he's a good leader; this year especially. His attitude and actions regarding free agency really detracted from team morale and negatively impacted their performance. 

    You could argue that Orlando's record doesn't reflect that. They're 26-15 which is good enough for third place in the east. Records can be deceiving though. It's not as impressive when you look a bit closer.

    Howard and the Magic are 8-12 against teams with winning records and they've lost two games each to Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Boston

    Their record is a product of a weak Eastern Conference with only two elite level teams.

    With that said, there is no denying that Howard is a great individual player and for that reason he deserves consideration.

2. Eastern Conference: Lebron James

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    LeBron will be looking to join Moses Malone, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as a three time MVP winner. He's certainly putting together a season worthy of serious consideration. But isn't every one of LeBron's seasons MVP-worthy?

    Here's his per game averages: 27.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists. He's also shooting .390 from three-point range and a ridiculous .555 from the field.

    That shooting percentage is better than most centers!

    This season is proving that LeBron is clearly the best all-around basketball player in the NBA today, but that doesn't mean he's the MVP.

    You can obviously say that he makes the Miami Heat better, but he plays with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh who are also perennial All-Stars. As far as the MVP goes, they all cancel each other out.

    If you remove Wade from the team, they'd likely still make the playoffs. If you removed LeBron you could say the same thing.

    This is the sacrifice he made when he joined the Heat. He gave up individual awards for championships. That's his goal. If he were still playing for the Cleveland Cavs he would probably already have his third MVP.

1. Eastern Conference: Derrick Rose

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    Derrick Rose is simply the most electric player in the NBA today. He's exciting to watch, he's a leader and he has the heart of former Chicago Bulls GOAT Michael Jordan.

    You could say his numbers are a bit down from last year: 22.7 points, 7.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds a game. That would be accurate.

    Despite his slightly shrinking stat line his team is playing their best basketball since he was drafted. As the alpha dog on his team, he deserves the most credit for it. He's led them to the best record in the NBA this season at 33-9

    Rose is the unquestioned leader of his team. Everything runs through him and like every other elite player, he gets the ball when the game is on the line.

    As he showed on opening night against the Lakers and against Milwaukee earlier this week, he usually comes through in the clutch.

5. Western Conference: Kevin Love

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    You might say Kevin Love has been underrated his entire career. When he was drafted he had his share of detractors who loved to recite all his weaknesses. Maybe that's what has driven Love to become the player he is today.

    Like Monroe, he's a double-double machine. There's only been three games which he didn't have one this year.

    He's averaging 25.5 points a game—a career best—and nearly 14 rebounds a game. That puts him in the NBA's top-five for each category.

    He's the best player on an improving Minnesota Timberwolves team that's 21-19 and pushing for their first playoff appearance since 2004.

    He's Minnesota's best player, but the team's turn around can't simply be attributed to him. The addition of Ricky Rubio is perhaps the biggest reason for the turn around.

    He'll get MVP consideration, but there are others that are more deserving.

4. Western Conference: Chris Paul

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    While the acquisition of Chris Paul garnered plenty of attention, Blake Griffin is the face of the franchise. For that reason, Chris Paul's performance this season has flown under the radar.

    Statistically he's putting together another superb season. His scoring (19.8), three-point percentage (.423) and field goal percentage (.490) are all up from last year. He's also fourth in the NBA in assists (8.4) and second in steals (2.25).

    His presence in Los Angeles has finally brought respectability to Lob City, and that's what gets him into the MVP discussion.

    With Griffin the Clippers were 29-53—third in their division—and failed to make the playoffs.

     Griffin's aerial assaults and Kia commercials could only take the team so far.

    With Paul, the Clippers are 22-15, first in their division and on their way to the playoffs. Unless Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan all go down with knee injuries that is.

    It's the Clippers, it could happen.

    Paul's affect on his team is huge and the their new-found success shows how important he is. That's what makes him a potential MVP.

     

3. Western Conference: Kobe Bryant

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    He's referred to as the "Masked Mamba" these days. The moniker might have changed but his game hasn't. Kobe Bryant continues to be the alpha dog for the Los Angeles Lakers, and he's putting together another great year.

    People keep talking about Kobe getting too old and losing a step. I sure don't see it. He's having a rebirth this year. His 28.7 points a game lead the NBA and is his highest average since 2007. His 5.8 rebounds a game is his best since 2008.

    Kobe suffers from an unfortunate side effect of having been the best player in the NBA for such a long time. People start expecting certain things from him. In Kobe's case, they expect him to carry the Lakers on his back and make them an elite team every year.

    He's certainly doing that again, but his critics are going to find something to complain about. With a record of 23-16 the Lakers are sitting at fifth place in the NBA and that's not up to standards.

    Keep in mind, he's essentially playing without a point guard.

    No matter, the Lakers will make the playoffs again and Kobe will be in the discussion for MVP.

2. Western Conference: Tony Parker

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    Tony Parker has been an elite point guard in the NBA for a long time. He's made All-Star teams and he's won NBA Championships. Yet he's never been the best player on his team. That label always went to future hall of famer Tim Duncan.

    Duncan is hitting the twilight of his career. He's slowing down and he's not the dominating presence he once was and Parker's becoming the go-to guy for the San Antonio Spurs. His 19.7 points a game is his highest average since 2009, and he's handing out nearly eight assists a game—a personal best.

    More importantly, he's kept the Spurs in the playoff hunt. In fact, at 26-12, they're the fourth best team in the NBA trailing only Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City.

    It remains to be seen if Parker can be "the man" for the Spurs and lead his team to victory in a playoff series. As far as the MVP race goes, he is clearly a front-runner.

1. Western Conference: Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant continues to prove that he's one of the most talented scorers in the NBA. This year he's proving that he can be a complete player. He's improved his rebounding (7.9), assists (3.3) and shooting percentage (.499) while leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the second best record in the NBA at 31-8.

    His scoring is right where it should be too. He's averaging 28.1 points a game which is second in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant.

    His team is in first place in the West and he's the main reason why. That's enough for a place in the top two MVP candidates.

And the Winner Is......Derrick Rose

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    I think it all comes down to Durant and Rose this year and I pick Rose. It really shouldn't be a huge surprise that he will win his second straight MVP award. He's the best point guard in the NBA right now and he is hands down the most important player on his team. Without him the Chicago Bulls would be strategizing for the lottery right now.

    As for Durant, he might have better numbers than Rose, but he also has a better team in my opinion. Russell Westbrook and James Harden are better players than anyone else on the Bulls roster.

    Rose has less to work with yet has the best record in the NBA.

    He will join LeBron, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem and a list of other Hall of Famers that have won multiple MVP titles.

    There is one other title that Rose would likely trade his MVP for though. Only time will tell if he gets his hands on one.