The 2012 NBA Playoffs are less than a week old, yet a number of players have already filled the stat sheets with excellent performances.
The postseason is when the true superstars come out to shine, and many of the best and the brightest in the Association didn't waste any time dazzling us with jaw-dropping displays of their talent.
While there's no official award given to the player who has the best playoff performance, that doesn't prevent us from acknowledging those who stand out from the rest. So before the second season heads into its second week, let's rank the MVPs of the playoffs so far.
Notable stats: 28.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG
The Dallas Mavericks are down 2-0 in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, despite the best efforts of power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Whenever times got tough for the Mavericks during their title run last season, there was Nowitzki knocking down his patented one-legged, fall-away jumper to stem the opposing team's momentum. The jump shot is still falling this year, but the crafty Nowitzki just hasn't gotten enough from his supporting cast to lead his team to victory.
The Mavericks may go down in the first round this year, but rest assured, their leader won't allow them to bow out without a fight.
Notable stats: 18.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 6.0 BPG
The 27 points and nine rebounds Lakers center Andrew Bynum tallied on Tuesday is impressive, but the story of his postseason so far revolves entirely around his performance in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets.
Bynum is the best center in the playoffs—by far—and he proved that last Sunday when he racked up a triple-double (10 points, 13 rebounds, 10 blocks). Not only did the ten rejections tie a postseason record, but it was only the third time in the history of the NBA that a player finished with a triple-double in a playoff game that included blocked shots.
Kobe Bryant's presence on the Lakers all but guarantees that Bynum won't win any sort of postseason accolades. Even so, the 24-year-old center has used the last couple of games to stake his claim as one of the best big men in the NBA.
Notable statistics: 28.5 PPG, 52.3% FG
With all due respect to Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd, he is a bit over-matched when asked to defend Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.
And as the quality floor general that he is, Westbrook has exploited his advantage much to his—and his team's—benefit through the first two games of playoffs. The Thunder point guard has been the best player on the floor against the Mavs, and has been the primary catalyst in both Oklahoma City victories. With Kevin Durant struggling to find his shooting stroke, the 6'3" Westbrook has been aggressive on both ends of the court, and is finally settling into the complementary role that he failed to fully embrace last season.
Notable statistics: 25.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.0 APG, 56.3% FG
Barring Florida-style ballot shenanigans, Miami's LeBron James will be named the league's Most Valuable Player at some point over the next couple of weeks. But while the votes are still being tallied, James is making a very strong case for the mythical playoff MVP award as well.
While his most recent performance was rather pedestrian by his lofty standards (19 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), the 6'8" James put on an absolute show in Game 1 against the New York Knicks. "King James" was nearly unstoppable in the 100-67 Heat blowout, outscoring the Knicks' starting lineup all by his lonesome (32 points to 30).
Simply put, the Knicks don't have an answer for James. Neither do 28 other teams. And if James continues to play at this level, Miami should roll through the postseason with little difficulty.
Notable statistics: 34.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.0 APG
It's a very small sample size to be sure, but if the Kobe Bryant that we've seen against the Denver Nuggets is the player we'll see for the rest of the playoffs, the Lakers have a very good chance of winning a title this season.
The offense will always be there for Bryant. But he's shown a renewed intensity on the defensive end as well: chasing down loose balls, blocking shots and locking down opposing wings.
He appears to be fully recovered from the knee and shin injuries that have plagued him recently; however, it may take a while for the Nuggets to recover from what Bryant will do to them in this series.