Preseason has started, and the inevitable tension that transpires as the first official tipoff comes into view has begun. Teams are finalizing their rosters, making the necessary additions and cuts to ensure their chances as a successful squad.
However, there are undoubtedly some franchises that will undoubtedly be better than others, with their star players setting them apart from the rest.
Come May, when the 2012-13 league MVP is announced, there will be only one winner. However, each team has a player who provides them with leadership, talent and other qualities that sets himself apart from the rest of the crowd.
Last season, LeBron James was awarded the supreme honor, but players like Kevin Durant, Tony Parker and Kyrie Irving, who maximized their teams' chances at succeeding deserve recognition for their efforts too.
When May rolls around, one player will undoubtedly stand out, but each team will also have a player whose production set himself apart from the rest of the roster. Here's a look at the most valuable player for each NBA team in the upcoming season.
For years, Joe Johnson was the face of the Atlanta Hawks, and as he was one of the best shooting guards in the league, few questioned his rank as the team's top player. However, now that Johnson is a member of the newly formed Brooklyn Nets, the Hawks organization will be forced to find itself a new leader.
Josh Smith is a borderline All-Star and may have the most talent out of any player on the roster. However, Al Horford, the team's All-Star center, is developing into one of the league's most dominant big men.
He was forced to miss the majority of the 2011-12 season due to a shoulder injury, resulting in his first missed All-Star game in three years.
His youth allows him room to grow as a player, and he certainly already has the talent to rise to the task, of being the Hawks' new star.
Smith will be a strong contributor, but his public displeasure with the organization makes his fate in Atlanta unpredictable, whereas Horford does not appear to going anywhere anytime soon.
Though the team won't be a championship contender, you can always count on a playoff appearance, and if it makes a strong run, it will be due to a strong season from Al Horford.
Now that Ray Allen is a member of the Miami Heat, the Big Three era has concluded in Boston, making way for the "Rondo" era to begin. Rajon Rondo has been the team's best player for a while now, but the official start to this chapter in Boston's history has officially begun, following Allen's departure.
Rondo is a top-five point guard in the league, as well as one of the league's overall top players—12 according to ESPN. Despite lacking a consistent jump shot, Rondo is still one of the most difficult players to defend, as his aggressiveness on both ends to supplement his outstanding passing ability compensate for his poor shooting ability.
He's still in the developing stages in his career and has accomplished a lot during his tenure in Boston. He was a member of their 2008 championship team and has kept the Celtics contenders despite the descent of Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
As an unquestioned All-Star, there is no doubt that he deserves the honor as the team's most superior player.
The Brooklyn Nets are an entirely different team—new city, new stadium, new roster. However, despite the influx of unfamiliar faces in Brooklyn, the most important one is familiar—Deron Williams.
Contrary to initial beliefs, Williams elected to re-sign with the Nets, declaring his allegiance to the team, as well as himself as the leader of this newborn squad.
He has been the team's unquestioned star for the past few seasons, and now that he is suddenly surrounded by actual talent, he'll likely play at an even higher level than before.
With Joe Johnson joining the roster, as well as Brook Lopez returning from an injury, the opposition's focus won't be only on Williams, unlike in previous seasons.
The Nets are due for a fantastic season and a complete turnaround from last year's dismal campaign. Williams will lead the attack, and if all of the hype surrounding the team is any indication of things to come, Williams should ready himself for a career season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is far from being the league's most talented rookie, but on such an impotent roster, there is no denying that he'll stand out among the Charlotte Bobcats' other players.
Kidd-Gilchrist is much more of a defensive player than a pure scorer, but the team will rely on him to contribute his fair share to the scoreboard each night while also leading the defense.
The Bobcats are in store for another subpar campaign, and come June, they will likely find themselves in the upper half of the lottery, so it would be foolish to expect Kidd-Gilchrist to lead them to a complete turnaround.
However, they look better than last year, and he is the main reason why. From a statistic standpoint, Gilchrist may not measure up to some of the league's other rookies, but he'll likely be thrown into the fire immediately and utilized more so than any other first year player.
He won't be a superstar, but compared to the rest of the team, Kidd-Gilchrist will certainly seem like one.
In lieu of Darrick Rose's first injury, the team was forced to find themselves a new leader last season, and Luol Deng answered the call.
He was elected to the All-Star team for the first time last year, taking full advantage of Rose's absence to display the talent that he had.
Now that Rose is once again sidelined for the majority if not the entirety of the season, the Bulls will once again turn to Deng to lead the attack.
While he isn't worthy of mention as a potential league MVP, he proved last season that he can be trusted with the reins to the team.
If Deng repeats his success from last year, the Bulls will still be an above average team, and he will likely be awarded with All-Star and perhaps even All-NBA honors. The Bulls may suffer from Rose's injury, but Deng will improve and ensure that Chicago doesn't fall off the map entirely.
The Cleveland Cavaliers lucked out with Kyrie Irving, as the young man proved in his rookie season that he can help to alleviate the pain left from LeBron James' untimely departure.
He displayed enough talent to earn himself a mention among the league's top point guards, and ESPN was quick to include him in the the Top 25 during their annual rankings.
After winning Rookie of the Year last season, many expect similar production in his sophomore campaign, and Irving should not disappoint.
With a full summer's worth of training camp under his belt, Irving will likely surpass his production last season and help provide Cleveland with stability.
They won't be a playoff squad yet, but with Irving controlling the offense, the team won't be one of the worst in the league either.
The Dallas Mavericks failed to repeat their success of 2010-11 last year, and Dirk Nowitzki suffered one of the worst seasons of his career.
The fact that during this "offseason," Nowitzki was elected to the All-Star team as well as awarded the honor of All-NBA Third Team, says a lot about the big man.
This summer, the team reshaped its roster, and while it failed to secure Deron Williams, the additions of OJ Mayo and Chris Kaman mark an improvement for the Mavs.
If Nowitzki is able to bounce back from last season's slump, he'll likely regain his spot as one of the league's most pure players, and even if his production stays equal to that of last year, he can still be expected to be a quality player.
The Mavericks have ridden Nowitzki for years now, and as long as he remains on the team, he will likely be their best player. Age is catching up to the big man, but there is no denying that he is still a talented and productive player.
The Denver Nuggets seem to be everybody's sleeper team this year, and looking at their roster, it's easy to see why.
Despite lacking a superstar, the team is well-rounded with a very solid starting unit, as well as one of the NBA's top ranked benches.
While Ty Lawson is slowly transforming into an elite point guard, and Javale McGee is improving rapidly, neither will measure up to the success of Andre Iguodala this season.
The athletic forward switched conferences this summer, migrating from Philly to Denver as a part of the Dwight Howard trade. Thus far into the preseason, he has taken complete control of the squad, and there is no doubt that his talent level is high enough to be the team's top player.
The Nuggets have a chance to make a legitimate run this season, and a large amount of their success will be dictated by the play of Iguodala.
The Detroit Pistons are certainly in rebuilding mode, and their current roster doesn't boast too many standout players.
The one name that catches the eye, more so than others, is Greg Monroe, the young power forward who has shown remarkable talent is his first few seasons in the NBA.
Monroe has the chance to be a real stud in the league, and while he is far from being a superstar right now, there is no denying his place in the upper echelon of big men in the league.
The Pistons will turn to him for offensive help as well as defensive stability, and while he may not be the ideal superstar, Monroe definitely boasts enough talent to legitimize his spot on this list.
The Pistons are far from becoming a playoff-worthy team, but whatever success they do achieve this year will likely be credited to Monroe.
The Golden State Warriors definitely have one of the most interesting rosters in the league, because at first look their is no apparent weakness. Stephen Curry has proven himself to be a franchise player, Klay Thompson can hold his own at the shooting guard, Harrison Barnes will likely be a more than sufficient three, and Andrew Bogut and David Lee form one of the more complete big-man tandems in the league.
However, despite their well-rounded starting unit, only one name pops out as a potential superstar—Stephen Curry.
The young guard is in the earlier stages of his career, yet has already established himself as an elite talent. His talent is top notch, and his only flaw—though it is a big one—is his constant health issues.
When healthy, the Warriors can count on Curry to produce at a high rate. However, whether he can stay healthy remains a major issue.
If he can avoid injury, Curry is undoubtedly the team's most valuable player, so for the Warrior's sake, let's hope he remains healthy.
I am anything but a Jeremy Lin fan, and while I believe that the "Linsanity" was only a product of Mike D'Antoni's system, looking at Houston's roster, there simply are no other candidates to steal this title away from him.
Kevin Martin is without question more talented than Lin, but a future in Houston is unlikely, and the team will presumably attempt to trade him, as to not let him walk for nothing. The drafting of Jeremy Lamb makes Martin even more expendable, so calling him the team's MVP is unwise.
Lin, on the other hand, just signed a monster deal and will be given the keys to the offense from day one. He isn't a superstar, and I'm not even convinced that he is a legitimate starting point guard, but after amnestying Luis Scola, there simply aren't any other options.
One of the rookies could surpass him, but they are all very raw, and it's hard to predict how their first years will play out.
Houston will be a bottom-caliber team, but their only visible long-term "star" would be Lin, so it would be difficult to place somebody else above him.
The term's most talented and most valuable are entirely different, and had this list involved each team's best player, Danny Granger's name would be up there.
However, the emergence of Paul George has lessened Granger's value slightly, and power forward David West's shooting ability also decreases Granger's value as a shooter. However, the team relies on Roy Hibbert to lead their defense attack, and the All-Star center is its lone option in the post.
He certainly doesn't lack talent, which he proved last year after being selected to the All-Star team, and without him, the team would be in a lot more trouble than it would be should Granger be forced to miss time.
He definitely does boast his fair share of talent, so his placement isn't based solely off his value to the team, but you cannot deny that the team relies on his post play far more than it does Granger's scoring.
The Los Angeles Clippers have a handful of star players, with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul being the most prominent. However, while Griffin is certainly an elite power forward, Chris Paul is a top-five player in the entire league, so his spot as the Clippers' best player should be unquestioned.
The offense is run through him, and he is responsible for the majority of the points each night, whether it be via assists or his own scoring.
On the defensive end, Paul also leads the attack, as he is widely recognized as one of the most tenacious perimeter defenders in the league.
Now that he has had a full season to mold into the Clippers offense, Paul will likely be as productive as ever, which should be shown through numerous Clipper victories.
Not only does Paul receive the honor as his team's MVP, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he makes a strong run for the league-wide honor as well.
The Los Angeles Lakers are certainly not in any need for talent, as their roster features multiple superstars who are each deserving of the honor.
Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash will all be league-MVP candidates, and even Pau Gasol is a top-20 player in the league.
However, while Nash may be the floor general and Dwight Howard will anchor the defense, the Lakers are still Kobe's team, and he'll be their prime contributor on most nights.
He'll do his fair share of controlling the ball and will likely lead the team in scoring, if not the entire league. The Lakers also will make a heavy title run, but whether they can complete the deal will all depend on how Kobe plays.
Until he hangs his uniform up for a final time, Bryant will be the Lakers' most valuable player, and that statement stands true even on such a star-studded roster.
Rudy Gay is rarely considered when debating the NBA's top tier of players, but seeing the talent he exhibits as well as his leadership and intelligence, he definitely deserves at least a mention.
Though he is yet to make an All-Star team, he remains in contention every year, and his contributions to the team go unmatched by any other Grizzly.
His above-average shooting ability as well as his superb penetrating skills make him one of the league's more versatile scorer, and he doesn't disappear on the defensive end either.
He is yet to receive the "superstar" status, but he provides the Grizzlies with unmatched talent and will be a major contributor to the team's success going forward.
Did you expect to see anybody else up here?
If so, I seriously question your sanity. LeBron James is not only the best player on the Miami Heat, but the best player in he NBA—and there really is no debate.
His supporting cast is far from weak, and Dwyane Wade is one of the best sidekicks any NBA star could ask for. However, as good as Wade is, he cannot compete with James, and any argument stating otherwise was clearly dissolved following last year's NBA Finals.
The same goes for Chris Bosh who is a talented player in his own right; however, the gap between him and James is a wide one, and little discussion can be made there.
James' championship further solidified his case as the league's best player, which was already recognized after he won the league MVP award.
This season, I would be surprised if anyone else takes home the league-MVP award, much less the honor of being the Miami Heat's most valuable player.
Both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis propose interesting arguments as to who is more valuable to the Milwaukee Bucks, and picking between the two was difficult to say the least.
Ultimately, Ellis has a much bigger upside, and with the Bucks being a borderline playoff team, his play could either make or break their season. While Jennings may be the reason they are in the playoff contention in the first place, whether they make it will depend on how well Ellis plays.
When he is on, Ellis is one of the best scorers in the league, and one of the NBA's top shooting guards. However, his IQ isn't top notch, and like Jennings, consistency has been a major issue.
Still, his play will determine Milwaukee's fate as a lottery team or a playoff team, so he edges out Jennings, but just barely.
Kevin Love is one of the most unique players in the league, as his versatile style of play makes him a huge threat on offense. Rarely will you come across a player who is so dominant from inside, while also being very effective from beyond the perimeter.
Love has the ability to score from wherever, while also being one of the league's most fierce competitors on the glass.
He is finally starting to be recognized as the league's best power forward, a title which he so distinctly deserves. Due to a shortage of talent outside Love, last season's record wasn't outstanding, but with a revamped roster as well as a returning Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves will likely be a playoff team.
Love is undoubtedly the best player, and without him, the team would still be searching for an identity and a way out of the lottery. However, he single-handedly has brought the Timberwolves back into contention, and with a little bit of help, they will likely make a postseason competitor.
As one of the top-10 players in the league, Love not only is the team's MVP, but also a candidate to receive the more renowned, league-wide honor as well.
In a few years, Anthony Davis' name may headline this slide, but unlike fellow rookie, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis will be entering an organization with an already established star—Eric Gordon.
Gordon, who was the Hornets' centerpiece last summer in the Chris Paul deal, is only a four years into his NBA career, has already established himself as one of the best shooting guards in the league.
The young guard has expressed a remarkable talent for shooting the ball, both from long range and short, and has also exhibit an ease when it comes to penetrating.
He was the Hornets' top player last season, and despite wavering over his decision to re-sign with the organization, he ultimately opted to rejoin the team, allowing him to once again take command of the leadership role.
He'll be the team's primary offensive threat and will undoubtedly end up controlling the offense from time to time.
Davis will make an impact as a rookie, but Gordon is simply too talented to be passed on for a player who is yet to play a regular-season game.
From my point of view, Carmelo Anthony is not a superstar. He is an above average player, and you can't deny his spot as one of the league's best scorers; but from where I sit, "superstar" is hardly a term to call a player who plays little defense and makes others around him worse.
That said, I'm not going to try to convince myself that Anthony isn't the Knicks' best player, because doing so would just be foolish.
The Knicks are not a top-tier team, but if Melo suddenly has a career season, the Knicks are immediately thrown into contender talks.
That's how good Carmelo Anthony is—when he's motivated.
On the contrary, when he abandons the rest of the team and loses sight of the task at hand, the team completely crumbles.
Whether he decides to bring his A-game, next season is a different story, but when a player's individual success determines that of the team's to such a great extent, it's hard to overlook his value to the squad.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the most star-studded rosters in the league, with multiple stars who could carry a team with ease.
Unfortunately, for Russell Westbrook and James Harden, no matter how impressive they play, they'll still remain in the shadow of Kevin Durant.
Durant is extensively known as the league's second best player, behind only LeBron James. He is arguably the league's best scorer, and his leadership has never been questioned.
He knows what to do in order to achieve success and will work his hardest on a daily basis until the Thunder are in a favorable situation.
He led his team to the Finals last year, and while the Heat managed to end up the superior team, the Thunder's streak was impressive to say the least.
The Thunder will once again be one of the top contending teams, and whether their fate this season differs to that of the previous one will largely be decided by how dominant Durant plays.
It's hard not to feel bad for the Orlando Magic.
After all of the Dwight drama, their consolation prize to missing out on him was Aaron Afflalo—a solid player, but not a star in any sense.
Afflalo is a defensively-minded player, whose scoring ability is average at best. Though he showed flashes of potential in Denver, he is going to find it hard to mature when he is every opposing defense's primary focus, whereas he was able to develop as a role player in Denver.
Although he has been thrust into an unkind situation, Afflalo is still the team's best player—with the only competitor being Jameer Nelson, whose leadership is important, but he provides no stability to the roster on the floor.
Without Afflalo, the Magic would be entirely lost, so whether he likes it, Afflalo will need to assume the leadership role for Orlando and make the best of the situation.
Andrew Bynum is another player who switched teams this offseason; however, he may have walked into the best situation possible for himself.
While Philadelphia isn't quite as competitive as Los Angeles, Bynum was constantly performing in the shadows while Kobe Bryant received the limelight.
Now that he has found himself a new home that is in search of a star, Bynum can finally take advantage of the opportunity that was not available with the Lakers. Andre Iguodala, the team's long-time leader, was shipped away, making room for Bynum to take control.
As the league's second-best center, his array of post moves will help guide the offense, while also providing the team with a strong foundation on defense.
The team needs Bynum to step up and command the leading role, and if his play last season is any indication of what is to come, the Sixers are in for a real treat.
Steve Nash has officially left Phoenix, marking the end of an era for the Suns organization. Now, the team is left searching for a new candidate to fill his role as the team's supreme player.
Goran Dragic could possibly be the next franchise player, but he is yet to officially start consistently for a team, so labeling him as the team's most valuable player prematurely would not be wise.
Instead, Marcin Gortat will continue his dominance and step into the team's vacant role. He has already established himself within the Suns organization, and although Nash won't be there to feed him the ball, either Dragic or rookie Kendall Marshall should be an adequate replacement.
He's growing as a player, and the vast improvement from 2010 shows how much potential the Polish center has. In what will likely be a transitional season for the Suns, expect Gortat to step into the leading role and help guide the Suns this year.
LaMarcus Aldridge might be the most underrated star in the entire league, because he'll never get the respect he deserves playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.
In all honesty, Aldridge is the only player who can challenge Love as the best power forward in the league, and even behind him, he still remains a valuable asset to the team.
However, the team itself as suffered poor luck, as constant injury has kept them from reaching their true potential. However, with the addition of Damian Lillard, the Blazers are in store for a bounce back season, following last year's poor campaign.
Lillard might win a few games for the team, but if you're looking for the player who will keep the Blazers relevant all season, then LaMarcus Aldridge is your guy.
DeMarcus Cousins is on the rise, as is the entire Sacramento Kings team.
Just as Cousins began his career as an immature rookie and soon progressed, the Kings' new chapter in history started off with little hope, only to watch the squad grow into one of the most potential-filled teams in the league.
The Kings have valuable assets on their team, ranging from Tyreke Evans, to Marcus Thornton to Cousins. However, the team is yet to jell completely, but once they mature and grow, the Kings will slowly become relevant.
Cousins, too, is just a few steps aways from becoming one of the league's most dominant big men. Once he manages to keep himself in the game psychologically, success will come easier, and the team as a whole should play at a higher level.
The Kings have little chance of escaping the lottery this season and will likely fall in the bottom half. However, if Cousins learns his role, then he might improve into one of the league's most dominant big men, giving Sacramento a chance people thought it never had.
The San Antonio Spurs emerged as one of the leagues best teams last year, yet again. They made a strong postseason run, involving two sweeps and a 20-game win streak that wasn't snapped until the Western Conference Finals.
But what allowed for the Spurs to remain contenders? The answer is quite simple—Tony Parker.
With Tim Duncan is evidently slowing down, and Manu Ginobili is also fading as the seasons progress, the team turned to the other member of the Big Three, Parker to fearlessly lead the squad.
He proved that not only was he full capable of rallying the team, but doing so while having a career season, and he received MVP consideration as a result.
Now, in this upcoming season, the Spurs' roster is practically identical to the one of last season, and the team will turn to Parker to lead them to success. Their other stars may be slowing down, but Parker has stepped up to the challenge and will undoubtedly be the Spurs' MVP, just as he was last year.
The Toronto Raptors are an interesting team, in 2012-13. They have quite a plethora of talented role players—i.e. DeMar Derozan, Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry—but no player who is an established star.
However, despite their lack of a leader, they might find one very soon, in 2011 draft pick, Jonas Valanciunas.
Valanciunas was a top-five pick in the draft and was unable to come from overseas last season, so he will be making his debut with the class of 2012, instead.
The hype surrounding Valanciunas has grown immensely, to the point where some predict the young man to win the Rookie of the Year accolades.
And in all honesty, it's entirely understandable. Valanciunas was a top-five pick, so his talent was known even last year before a few seasons playing in Europe helped him mature. Granted, the NBA is a big transition from Euroleague ball, but the Raptors have an outside chance to make the playoffs this year, and if they do, it will be due to a monster rookie campaign from Jonas Valanciunas.
The Utah Jazz have so many big men that they honestly don't know how to utilize them all at once. With Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter rounding out the team's core, it has one of the most powerful collection of big men in the entire league.
Millsap and Jefferson are currently in contract years, and due to the emergence of Favors, there is a high probability that Millsap finds himself on the block around the trading deadline.
Jefferson, on the other hand, has proved to be such a dominant center that it would be surprising to see Utah let him go this season. Many consider him a top-five center in the league, and some are willing to recognize him as third, behind only Bynum and Howard.
Utah barely made the playoffs last season, and its run was stopped short after a four-game sweep by the San Antonio Spurs. In such a deep Western Conference, the Jazz may find themselves struggling to maintain a playoff position.
If they do, it will be credited to Jefferson, who is in store for another monster year, especially in his contract season.
The Washington Wizards were originally predicted to be one of the East's most surprising squads, and many considered them potential candidates to make a run at the eighth seed.
When he does return, many project Wall to finally break out, something that people have been waiting for since he was drafted in 2011.
Last season, it was hard to break out, as the team was still searching for an identity and Wall received little help from his supporting cast.
Now, with Nene on the roster for the entire season, as well as Bradley Beal—the Wizard's first-round draft pick, opponent's attention may be a bit more spread out, instead of being entirely on Wall.
He has shown flashes of stardom and is on the brink of breaking out. This very well could be the season, and while their slow start without him may be too big to recover from, he will likely lead a dramatic turnaround once he makes his return.