With the 2011-12 NBA season winding down, it's time to start looking toward which players are going to win regular season awards, like the NBA Most Valuable Player award.
Instead of predicting which player going to win that award, I figured it would be more interesting to pick every NBA teams' real most valuable player.
While most teams have at least one superstar, like LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony to name a few, there are players who fly under-the-radar on their teams that sometimes are more valuable to their team's success.
Ahead is a list of those players, like C.J Watson, Brandon Bass, Al Jefferson and DeJuan Blair to name a few, who are the integral to their team's success, and the real MVP of their respective teams.
Josh Smith is outplaying every player on the Hawks roster, including Joe Johnson, who's getting payed nearly $6.5 million more per year.
Smith is averaging 18.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, with a PER of 20.52, and that production is at the foundation of why the Hawks are still in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
When Al Horford went down just a few games into the 2011-12 season, the Hawks needed someone to step up their game to make up for his lost production, and Smith did just that. The Hawks go as Smith goes this season, and that's what makes him the real MVP on the team.
With names like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce an Rajon Rondo, it's easy to overlook the production and importance of any other player on the roster, including a player by the name of Brandon Bass.
This season Bass has given the Celtics two things they've desperately needed. Firstly, he's given them intense defensive pressure that's helped solidify their defense as one of the best in the league. And secondly, he's given them the offensive spark off the bench at times that they've needed.
With averages of 12.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and .9 blocks per game with a PER of 13.76, Bass has helped the Celtics stay relevant in the East, and he's helped make up for Garnett's decrease in production this season.
The Charlotte Bobcats don't really have much to be excited about regarding the 2011-12 season, but the one thing they can find hope in is the young talent they have, and at the core of that talent is Kemba Walker.
While Walker hasn't helped the Bobcats win many games, he's at least provided them with a foundation to build around, with averages of 12.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Once the Bobcats figure out the disaster that is known as their roster, and they bring in some legitimate talent, Walker will be able to help the Bobcats become a contender in the Eastern Conference, and that's what makes him the real MVP of this underwhelming team.
At the heart of the Bulls' success this year is the efficiency and production from their bench, aka "the bench mob," and the one player who leads that bench production is C.J. Watson.
Not only has Watson helped the solidify the Bulls' bench this season, with averages of 10.5 points, 3.9 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game, he's also helped the Bulls remain successful without last year's MVP, Derrick Rose.
In Rose's absence, Watson's picked up his game, and helped the Bulls remain the top team in the Eastern Conference, if not in the entire NBA. There's no doubt that there are a lot of players who are valuable to the Bulls' success, but Watson is at the top of that list.
This year, the Cleveland Cavaliers have managed to remain somewhat relevant, and the main reason for that is the play of Rookie of the Year candidate, Kyrie Irving.
With averages of 18.9 points, 5.7 assists, four rebounds per game and an impressive rookie PER of 21.65, there's no doubt that Irving is the reason why the Cavaliers have at least a glimmer of hope for the future of their franchise.
While Antawn Jamison could've easily earned this award for the Cavaliers, the fact that Irving plays with more efficiency than Jamison is the reason why he is the real MVP for the Cavaliers. Irving has helped the Cavaliers' fan base start to forget about LeBron James, and that's reason enough to show his incredible value.
Without Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks would be a woefully average team, as he's their leading scorer and most efficient player on the roster.
While other players, like Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, are solid contributors to the Mavs' success, there's no doubt that Nowitzki's averages—of 21.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game—are at the foundation of that success.
Nowitzki is hands down the real MVP for the Mavericks, as he's their most productive and consistent player. What makes him so special, though, is his confidence in the clutch and the fact that he leads the Mavericks night in and night out with a fearless poise that helps him stand out from the crowd.
This spot would hands down go to Danilo Gallinari if he hadn't missed so many games due to injury this game, but instead it goes to Arron Afflalo because he brings the Nuggets the one thing that they seriously lack.
In addition to his consistent production of 14.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, Afflalo brings a toughness and physicality to the defensive side of the ball for the Nuggets that they seriously lack.
Afflalo is a perfect complement to players like Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, in the Nuggets' high-powered offense, and if you take away his production, both offensively and defensively, there's no doubt that the Nuggets wouldn't be the same team.
With the emergent play of sophomore center Greg Monroe, it's easy to overlook other players on the Pistons' roster that are being productive this season, and that includes a player by the name of Rodney Stuckey.
Stuckey has helped give the Pistons much needed production from the guard position, with averages of 16.1 points, 4.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game and a PER of 19.17.
In addition to his increased production this season, Stuckey has also helped the development of rookie guard Brandon Knight, which will prove to be an important aspect of the success of the Pistons' franchise. Stuckey will certainly be a piece of the Pistons' future, and more importantly he is the real MVP on their team today.
With the Warriors' roster lacking consistency this season, there's been really only one player who's performed at a consistent level, and that player is David Lee.
With impressive averages of 19.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and a PER of 19.94, there's no debating the fact that Lee is at the foundation of the Warriors' success this season, and into the future.
Until Andrew Bogut steps foot on the court for the Warriors, they need a player to bring production and consistency to their frontcourt, and Lee has done just that. Lee is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated players in the NBA, but that doesn't mean he's not the real MVP of the Warriors.
If the season ended right now, the Houston Rockets would find themselves as the seventh seed in the Western Conference, and that's in large part due to the offensive production of shooting guard Kevin Martin.
Martin's averages of 17.1 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game are at the foundation of the Rockets' success this season, as he's not only productive, he's also efficient, with the third highest PER on the team, at 16.8.
The Rockets' success in the playoffs this season will go as Martin goes, especially if Kyle Lowry isn't able to return for the rest of the season, and that's what makes him the real MVP for the Rockets this season.
With all of the attention in Indiana being focused on Roy Hibbert this season, it's easy to overlook other players on the team who are producing at impressive levels, and that includes Danny Granger.
While Hibbert is doing a good job solidifying the Pacers' frontcourt, there's no doubt that Granger's averages of 17.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game are at the foundation of the Pacers emergence in the Eastern Conference this season.
Granger brings the Pacers playoff experience and a certain level of leadership that they lack on their relatively young roster. Granger's athleticism and versatility also makes him a handful for opposing defenses, which provides more opportunities for other players on his team, and that's a major reason why he's the real MVP for the Pacers this year.
While Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get all the attention in Lob City—and for good reason—there's no doubt that Randy Foye has stepped up his game in light of Chauncey Billups' torn Achilles tendon, and Mo Williams' recent toe injury.
In the last 10 games, Foye has averaged 12.1 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting, and while that's not ridiculously impressive, it's still been the kind of production the Clippers have needed at the shooting guard position.
Foye will be an integral piece of the Clippers' success throughout the rest of the season and into the 2012 NBA playoffs, as his minutes will increase due to injuries depleting the Clippers' depth at the shooting guard position.
Say what you will about Andrew Bynum's maturity and his lack of self-control, but there's no doubt that his emergent production at the center position this season is at the foundation of the Lakers' success this year.
Bynum's impressive averages of 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds, while managing to shoot 58.1 percent from the field, have helped solidify the Lakers in the Western Conference, and it's also taken some of the offensive pressure off of Kobe Bryant.
Sure, Kobe could be the Lakers' MVP, but the level of efficiency that Bynum brings to the court for the Lakers is the real difference maker for a Lakers team that needs production from any place they can get it.
Bynum is the real MVP for the Lakers, and he'll continue to earn that honor for the foreseeable future.
One of the most under-appreciated players in the NBA is Mike Conley Jr., as he's a consistent and productive point guard for a Memphis Grizzlies team that is always looking for more consistency.
Conley's seasons averages of 12.8 points, 7.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game are an integral piece of the Grizzlies offense, as Conley and his production move the offense into motion.
What's even more impressive about Conley is the fact that he only averages 2.2 turnovers per game. Conley's ability to protect the ball is a major reason why the Grizzlies are still in the Western Conference playoff race, even without Zach Randolph on the court.
It's easy to overlook Chris Bosh's production with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the same team, but there's no doubt that as Bosh goes, so goes the Miami Heat.
The reason why Bosh is the real MVP for the Heat is because he brings a legitimate post-presence to a Heat team that desperately needs one. With other big men on the team, like Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman and Udonis Haslem, the Heat rely on Bosh to produce at a consistent level, and when he does the Heat win games.
Bosh's averages of 18.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, on 49.4 percent shooting, is at the core of the Heat's success this season, and it's foolish to discount his importance to the star-studded team.
A lot of people who aren't Milwaukee Bucks fans don't recognize the name Ersan Ilyasova, but that's not because he isn't a good player. It's solely because he hasn't gotten the respect he deserves this year.
When Andrew Bogut went down early on in the season, before he got traded, the biggest question surrounding the Bucks was who would step up to help solidify their frontcourt. The answer to that question has been the emergent play of Ersan Ilyasova, with averages of 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Ilyasova has helped solidify the Bucks' frontcourt, but he's also brings a level of efficiency to the Bucks' offense, with a shooting percentage of 49.1 percent that they certainly need.
There's no way around the fact that Kevin Love is hands down the MVP of the Minnesota Timberwolves, if not the entire NBA.
Love's ridiculously impressive averages of 26.5 points and 13.8 rebounds per game are the main reason why the Timberwolves are even in the playoff conversation in the Western Conference. With Rubio out with a torn ACL, Love's production is all that more valuable to the T'Wolves success down the stretch.
Without Love, the Timberwolves would be a horribly below average team. With Love, though, the Timberwolves have a bright future, and that's what makes him the undeniable MVP of the T'Wolves team.
The play of Deron Williams this season, with averages of 21.7 points and 8.5 assists per game, and a PER of 21.01, has been incredibly impressive, especially when you consider the talent on the Nets' roster.
There's no doubt that Williams is the MVP of the Nets, as he brings intensity and leadership on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Without Williams, the Nets would probably still be looking for their fourth or fifth win of the season, and while they aren't a playoff contender with him, they are still a much better team with him running the point, and that's why he is the real MVP for the Nets.
The only bright spot for the New Orleans Hornets this season has been the increased production out of point guard Jarrett Jack.
While Jack still has a long way to go to be one of the best point guards in the NBA, he's a solid piece of the Hornets' future, with season averages of 15.6 points, 6.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, and a PER of 17.98.
With a very uncertain future for the Hornets franchise, the one player who they can build around is Jarrett Jack, as he's tough, physical and efficient on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Jack's consistent production is why he's the real MVP for the Hornets.
The New York Knicks have been a completely inconsistent team this season. At times playing like one of the best teams in the NBA, and at other times playing like they don't know what the game of basketball is about.
One of the most consistent, and important players for the Knicks this season, is Steve Novak, as his three-point production off the bench has been a consistent spark off a bench that can be inconsistent at times.
Novak's 8.6 points per game average, on 48.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc, has been a difference maker in a majority of the Knicks' wins this season. His ability to hit consistent shots from the three-point line helps the Knicks stretch the court, and it also makes him the real MVP in the Big Apple.
With guys like James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it's easy to overlook the play of other players on the Oklahoma City Thunder whom are integral to the team's success.
The one aspect of Ibaka's game that is most important to the Thunder's success is the focus that he brings to the defensive side of the ball. Ibaka is an athletic and versatile defender who averages an impressive 3.3 blocks per game.
When Ibaka isn't blocking shots or locking down defenders in the paint, he's producing at an impressive level offensively and on the glass, with averages of nine points and eight rebounds per game. There's no doubt that Ibaka is an integral piece of the Thunder's success as we head into the 2012 playoffs.
While Durant gets all the attention, the real MVP in OKC is none other than Serge Ibaka.
The Dwight Howard saga has overwhelmed the Magic for the past few months, but that hasn't stopped Ryan Anderson from proving that he's ready to be a legitimate power forward in the NBA.
With season averages of 16 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and a PER of 21.99, there's no doubt that Anderson is an integral piece of the Magic's success so far this season, and he will be at the foundation of the Magic's playoff run in the coming months.
Anderson has helped solidify the Magic as the NBA's best perimeter shooting team, and his versatility is part of what makes him such a special player. While D12 gets all the attention, there's no doubt that Anderson is the real MVP of the Magic this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers have certainly cooled off after their scorching-hot start to the 2011-12 season, but Lou Williams definitely hasn't.
Williams has been a picture of consistency for the Sixers, with averages of 15.5 points, 3.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game, and a team-best PER of 20.69. I know it might seem outlandish to pick a bench player as a team's MVP, but there's no doubt that he's the offensive spark the Sixers rely on.
If the Sixers want to make a deep run in the 2012 playoffs, they would be wise to give Williams more than his average of 26.4 minutes per game, as his productivity would undoubtedly help the Sixers become a more consistent team.
Sorry Iguodala, the Sixers' MVP trophy goes to Williams.
The Phoenix Suns are on the outside looking in in the Western Conference Playoff picture, but Steve Nash is sure trying hard to change that.
At the age of 36, Nash is still playing at an MVP level, with averages of 12.9 points and 11.2 assists on 53.4 percent shooting and a PER of 21.15. WIthout Nash, the Suns would be much worse off than they currently are, as he's the foundation of the offense.
It's a shame that since Amar'e Stoudemire left, the Suns haven't been able to build a solid team around Nash, because he certainly has what it takes to lead a team to a deep run in the playoffs. While Marcin Gortat could be the Suns MVP, the nod goes to Nash, as he provides more on-the-court leadership than Gortat.
While the Portland Trailblazers have played themselves right out of the Western Conference playoff race, it's not because of a lack of production out of small forward Nicolas Batum.
Batum has been a bright spot for the Trailblazers all season long, with averages of 13.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, with a PER of 17.51. Even more important than the production that Batum brings to the court, is his athletic ability to lock-down opponents with his size and length.
With LeMarcus Aldridge, J.J HIckson and Nicolas Batum, the Trailblazers have some solid, young pieces to build around, which gives Trailblazers' fans some hope heading into this upcoming offseason and beyond.
Batum is the unsung hero of the Trailblazers team, and he just so happens to be their real MVP, too.
The Sacramento Kings are one of the most inconsistent teams in the NBA. They lack experience and maturity, but they have a bright future with some solid young talent on their roster, including shooting guard Marcus Thornton.
Thornton is a strong and athletic shooting guard, who's able to hit outside jumpers while also taking his game into the paint with ease.
On an inconsistent team, the Kings benefit from Thornton's consistent production of 19.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, with a PER of 17.76. There's no doubt that in a few years, with the right pieces in place, the Kings can be a solid team in the West, and when they get there, it will be in large part due to the player of their real MVP, Marcus Thornton.
Year in and year out, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the top teams in the Western Conference. While that's in large part due to the production of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan, there are other players on the team who are just as important.
One of those players is center DeJuan Blair, who's averaging 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 21.2 minutes of action per game. The consistency that Blair brings to the Spurs' frontcourt undoubtedly helps open up the court for other players like Parker and Duncan.
While Blair isn't the most productive player on the Spurs' roster, there's no doubt that he's one of the most important, as his consistency on defense and offense adds a solid level of depth to the team. Blair will be a solid piece of the Spurs' playoff run this season, and he's undoubtedly the real MVP of the Spurs.
While the Toronto Raptors are toying with obscurity in the Eastern Conference, there's no doubt that they have some solid individual players on their team, including point guard Jose Calderon.
Calderon runs the point in Toronto with efficiency and consistency, with averages of 10.4 points and 8.8 assists per game. While Calderon can do more, including shooting the ball at a higher percentage, to help the Raptors win more games, there's no doubt that his play is an integral part of the Raptors season thus far.
The real MVP of the Raptors is Calderon, because he is able to facilitate the game to other players on the team like DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa, while still producing at a reasonably productive rate.
The Utah Jazz are currently just one game behind the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and the fact that they are even in the conversation of making a playoff appearance is because of the play of Al Jefferson.
Jefferson is one of the most under-appreciated players of all time, as his career averages of 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game have never earned him a single All-Star appearance or any accolade for that matter.
With the Jazz this season, Jefferson is averaging near the best numbers of his career, with averages of 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and an impressive PER of 23.50. If Jefferson continues to improve his production, there's no doubt that the Jazz could sneak into the playoffs, and because of that, he's the real MVP for the Utah Jazz.
This year and last, the one bright spot for the Wizards has consistently been the potential that exists within the play of John Wall.
This year, Wall is leading the team in points and assists per game, with averages of 16.8 points and 7.8 assists. While Wall still has a long way to go before he's considered one of the best point guards in the NBA, there's no doubt that he's the best player on the Wizards' weak roster.
Wall has the potential to be a great point guard in the NBA, but he must improve his shooting percentage and his ability to protect the ball. Until he does that he will have to be satisfied just being the real MVP of the Wizards instead of trying be the MVP of the entire NBA.