Grading the Playoff Performances of LeBron James and the Top MVP Candidates

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IMay 11, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MAY 09:  Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts against the against the New York Knicks in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs  on May 9, 2012 at the American Airines Arena in Miami, Florida. Miami defeated the Knicks 106-94 to advance to the next round four games to one.  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 Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

It's one thing to have a good regular season, but as we've throughout the course of time, it's something altogether different to carry that success into the postseason as Miami heat star LeBron James found out first hand in the 2011 NBA Finals.

Several stars have fallen on their faces in the playoffs in the past, not just LeBron, but that hasn't been the case during the 2012 Playoffs.

So far the leading MVP candidates in the league have raised their games to an even higher level as the NBA fan has been treated to some fantastic individual performances.

How good have these guys been? Let's take a look as I grade each MVP candidates' postseason to date.

LeBron James, Miami Heat

LeBron has had something to prove this postseason and he's done that and much more while leading the Heat to a first round series victory over the New York Knicks.

His numbers are fantastic, averaging 27.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game, while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 35 percent from behind the arc.

It's not just the numbers for James, but the chip on his shoulder he's playing with. He's always had that, but this postseason seems personal. There was the way James silenced a vocal Madison Square Garden crowd with a 17-point fourth quarter.

Then there was the Game 5 performance when LeBron served primarily as a facilitator in the first half before taking over as a scorer in the third quarter.

James is playing as good this post season as he ever has.

Grade: A+

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

SALT LAKE CITY, UT  - MAY 5: Enes Kanter #0 of the Utah Jazz reaches in on Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at EnergySolutions Arena on May 05,
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Parker put together an MVP-type of regular season, but has been even better this postseason leading the Spurs to an easy sweep of the Utah Jazz.

The 29-year old Frenchman has the San Antonio offense running like a well-oiled machine, averaging a solid 21.0 points and 6.5 assists through four postseason games. Parker's playing at such a high level that it may be very tough for anyone to slow the Spurs offense down.

Grade: A+

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Bryant tried to put on his best Michael Jordan performance in Game 6, scoring 31 points despite being severely under the weather.

He’s been outstanding from a scorer’s standpoint, averaging 31.5 points per game through the first six games in the series. His rebounding and assists numbers are also where they were during the regular season, averaging 5.2 RPG and 4.5 APG.

Kobe’s shooting during the regular season was a black mark on a solid season, but he’s upped his field goal percentage from .430 to .449 and is shooting it better from behind the arc, up to .325 from .303.

The Denver Nuggets have forced this series to a seventh game, but it’s certainly not due to Kobe’s performance as he’s left everything on the court.

Grade: A

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 09:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 9, 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Grizzlie
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Paul is the reason the Clippers hold a 3-2 series lead over the Memphis Grizzlies as he’s proven to be everything the Clippers hoped for when they acquired him before the season began.

He played a key role in the 27-point comeback in Game 1 and scored 8 huge points in overtime in a Game 4 Clippers victory.

Paul’s numbers are outstanding, averaging 22.6 points, 7.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game, shooting very well from everywhere on the floor. His assists numbers are a bit down and his assist-to-turnover ratio only sits at 2.3, but other than that he’s been outstanding.

Grade: B+

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Durant was very good for the Thunder in their sweep of the Dallas Mavericks, averaging 26.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and was very good late in those games.

But despite his success, Durant shot the ball very poorly in the first two games of the series, making only 15-of-44 shots from the floor. He rebounded very nicely though in the final two games, making 20-of-33 attempts, finishing the series shooting .455 from the floor and .346 from behind the arc.

For the Thunder to go on a lengthy postseason run, Durant can’t afford to have any shooting slumps the rest of the way.

Grade: B