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NBA MVP 2012: Under-the-Radar Candidates Who Can Unseat Favorites

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 04:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles by Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Eric BallFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2012

The 2012 NBA MVP race is widely regarded to be a two-man race between LeBron James and Kevin Durant, but that doesn’t mean they have locked up anything just yet.

Sure, James is having one of the most incredible statistical seasons in recent memory (26.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 6.3 APG shooting 52 percent), but is he really the most valuable player to his team? Would the Miami Heat fall off the face of the earth without him? Unlikely.

The same can be said about Durant. The best pure scorer in the league doesn’t have as gaudy of stats (27.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, shooting 50 percent), but has one of the top three point guards in the game in Russell Westbrook that would keep Oklahoma City a float.

Here are potential MVP candidates that represent the word “valuable” more so than James and Durant.

 

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 12:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts after hitting a three point shot past Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on March 12, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Timberwolves defeated
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kevin Love - Minnesota Timberwolves

The T-Wolves are 1-4 without Love and I’m pretty sure the team would be rivaling the Charlotte Bobcats in futility if he weren’t in town.

The 23-year-old averages 26 points, 13.3 rebounds as the second-leading rebounder in the league. His scoring average is fourth best.

Considering the lack of talent around him, the double-teams come early and often in the post and he uses incredible vision and anticipation to overcome them.

With the way Love’s career has started off, there is no question he will be a candidate to win the award for the next several years.

 

Chris Paul - Los Angeles Clippers

CP3 is by far the best example of how important one player can be to his team. The Clippers reached last season’s win total in 29 fewer games this year and are on track to register a top-four seed in the rugged Western Conference after finishing 19 games behind the No. 4 seed a year ago.

While his numbers aren’t out of this world (19.5 PPG , nine assists, 3.5 RPG, shooting 48 percent), there is no doubt he dictates everything the offense does and is the undisputed leader of the team.

He has been everything for the Clips in 2012.

 

Tony Parker - San Antonio Spurs

Parker has always been under-appreciated in his career, but this season has taken that sentiment to an entirely different level.

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 27:  Tony Parker #9 and Gary Neal #14 of the San Antonio Spurs talk during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 27, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

San Antonio is currently the second seed in the Western Conference not because of the ancient Tim Duncan, but because of the outstanding play of their point guard.

His numbers are up across the board (18.6 PPG, 7.6 APG, 1.0 SPG) and he has taken more of a leadership role this season.

While it seems like Parker has been in the league forever, Parker is still only 29 years old and seems to be peaking in a season when his team needed him most.

When a defensive-minded team like the Spurs can rank third in points scored (101.8), all of the credit has to be directed toward the point guard. 

 

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