Updated Midseason NBA MVP Ladder

Sam CooperCorrespondent IIIJanuary 27, 2013

Updated Midseason NBA MVP Ladder

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    The NBA regular season is now half over, and as we near closer to the end of the year, MVP discussion will begin to heat up.

    Right now, the MVP award looks like a two-man race between LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and both players are having extraordinary seasons. LeBron has passed 20,000 points and 5,000 assists already this year, while Durant has had a 52-point performance.

    But although those two lead the way, there are definitely plenty of other MVP candidates out there. Some are experienced veterans, while others are fresh new faces who you would never have expected to see at the beginning of the season. 

    Now, here is an updated look at the NBA's MVP race. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Paul George

    Paul George really isn't a name you would expect to see on this list, but he is having a great season for the Pacers. George is having the best season of his career, averaging 17.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals a game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 39 percent from behind the arc.

    He's a great defensive player too, and with Danny Granger out and Roy Hibbert in a slump, George has done a great job of keeping the Pacers competitive in the East. Still, it would take a real miracle for George to be seriously considered for the MVP award. 

     

    Tony Parker

    Parker is having yet another solid season, and while he may not be considered an elite superstar, he is a huge reason behind San Antonio's success.

    Parker is averaging 20.1 points and 7.5 assists a game, and he is also shooting a fantastic 53 percent from the field. His individual statistics may not be eye-popping, but considering the Spurs are the best team in the league with a 36-11 record, Parker will find his way into MVP discussions. 

     

    James Harden

    Harden has been one of the most surprising breakout players this season, as he has easily adjusted to being a full-time starter in the NBA in Houston. Right now, he's averaging 26 points and 5.5 assists a game, and he will be participating in his first All-Star game in a few weeks.

    Even with a great season, Harden's scoring numbers are a little misleading. Harden is really the only major scoring threat on the Rockets, and because of that he has the green light to shoot at any time, which has led to some inefficient offense. He is shooting 44 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc, both down from last season.

    And with Houston's recent struggles and overall 24-22 record, it's unlikely that Harden will be seriously considered for the award. 

10. Kobe Bryant

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    Stats: 28.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG

    Despite a disastrous season for the Lakers, Kobe Bryant is still one of the best players in the league, which is why he is on this list at all. 

    Kobe is currently third in the league in points per game, and he is also shooting 47 percent from the field, which is tied for his best shooting percentage since the 2000-2001 season.

    Still, it's hard to focus on Bryant's individual numbers with so much dysfunction in the Lakers' locker room. Dwight Howard has been a huge disappointment, Nash was injured for much of the first half of the season, and Pau Gasol's name continues to show up in trade rumors. As a result, the Lakers are just 3-10 in January, and they continue to sink deeper into the Western Conference standings.

    This is starting to affect Kobe as well, who has shot 42 percent from the field and averaged 23.6 points over his last 10 games. Those might still be star numbers, but it's also clear proof that Kobe is in a slump himself.

    Kobe does mean a lot to the Lakers, as their season would be much worse without him. However, if the Lakers fall out of playoff contention completely, Kobe may drop off these rankings as well, no matter what the individual statistics say. Kobe and the Lakers need to find some wins now, and fast. 

9. Zach Randolph

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    Stats: 16.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG

    Zach Randolph may not be a name you normally think of when someone says "MVP candidate", but he certainly deserves a spot on this list.

    Randolph doesn't have an incredible stat line, but he's a double-double machine and consistent player. Randolph leads the NBA in double-doubles, he's second in the league in rebounds per game, and he is also an underrated defender, who is ninth in the NBA in defensive win shares and also has a defensive rating under 100 for the first time in his career.

    Randolph is not the only reason for Memphis' success, but he's been a major contributor to it. Marc Gasol has been having a great season as well, but the Grizzlies would not be close to fourth in the West with a 28-14 record without Randolph playing the way he is. 

    The real question with Randolph is his durability. Excluding this season, he has played an average of just 63 games per season over his career, and he also suffers from back issues. Fatigue may already be catching up with him, as he is averaging just 13.6 points and 9.3 rebounds a game in January. If those poor numbers continue, he's certain to fall off this list soon. 

8. David Lee

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    Stats: 19.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.6 APG

    David Lee is finally being recognized for his great season, and he will head off to Houston for his second career All-Star game. Lee is averaging a double-double and has 27 double-doubles and a triple-double this season, plus he is shooting a very solid 51 percent from the field.

    Lee has slowed down in January after a ridiculous December in which he averaged 22.6 points and 11.3 rebounds, but he is still playing at a very high level, and you can expect that to continue. Since the start of the month, Lee has missed out on a double-double just three times.

    Overall, Lee is having a great season, and Warriors fans should be proud to see him in the All-Star game. He's a huge reason Golden State holds the fifth seed in the West right now. However, there is one player who has been even more valuable to the Warriors this season.

7. Stephen Curry

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    Stats: 21.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 1.6 SPG

    After being snubbed from this season's All-Star game, it has become evident that Curry is one of the league's most underrated players. He may not even be considered an All-Star, but he's the MVP of the Warriors and is also one of the top point guards in the NBA right now. For that, I'm showing him some love.

    After he played just 26 games last season, some people questioned whether Curry could ever live up to his potential. But now, he's proving all of his critics wrong. 

    Curry is one of just three NBA players averaging at least 21 points, six assists and four rebounds a game. The other two players are Russell Westbrook and LeBron James, which is pretty good company to be grouped with. 

    Curry is shooting a career-low 43 percent from the field, but he is also Golden State's go-to perimeter scorer, as he knocks down 45 percent of his long-range shots and makes 3.2 threes a game. He's one of the league's top perimeter shooters and could go down as one of the NBA's all-time great three-point shooters if he continues to knock down threes at his current rate.

    Curry means so much to the Warriors and has been such a huge part of their unexpected success this season. Last week, when Curry was out for two games against the Heat and Spurs, Golden State scored 75 and 88 points for the two games, which is ridiculously low for one of the league's better offenses.

    As great as David Lee has been, there is no question that Curry is their key to success. 

6. Tim Duncan

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    Stats: 17.5 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.7 BPG

    Two years ago, Tim Duncan made it to the 2011 NBA All-Star game while averaging 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. That angered a lot of people, myself included, as Duncan got in over much more deserving players such as Kevin Love, who averaged 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds that season.

    However, I'm now proud to say that Duncan not only deserves his 2013 All-Star selection, but he should be starting over Dwight Howard in the frontcourt.

    The Spurs are having another fantastic season, and although much of the credit goes to Tony Parker, Tim Duncan looks rejuvenated after two seasons of decline.

    Keep in mind, Duncan's stats are only in about 30 minutes of play each night. Per 36 minutes, the 36-year-old forward averages 20.8 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks a game.

    He's also shooting over 50 percent from the field, he's shooting over 80 percent from the free-throw line for the first time in his career, he leads the league in defensive rating, and he is putting up a career-high in blocks per 36 minutes.

    For Duncan to still be setting new career highs and dominating both offensively and defensively at the age of 36 is simply astonishing. Duncan already has two MVP awards, and although it's extremely unlikely that he actually does win another one, he has been playing like the best big man in the NBA.

    With such a great season, it doesn't look like Duncan is ready to retire anytime soon. 

5. Russell Westbrook

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    Stats: 22.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 8.3 APG, 1.9 SPG

    All right, so maybe Russell Westbrook doesn't have the greatest shot selection, and maybe he shoots a little too much. It's true, 42 percent does not define a deadeye shooter. But at the same time, the Thunder benefit when both Westbrook and Durant are threats to score 30-plus on any given night.

    The fact that Westbrook shoots so much only makes the duo more of a dilemma for opposing defenses. And while Durant is still the best player on the Thunder, Westbrook deserves credit for their success as well.

    Right now, Westbrook is averaging almost 23 points a game, which already makes him a greater player than most. But in addition to scoring, Westbrook has a career-high in both rebounds and assists. He's also tied for a career-high in steals.

    His three-point shooting is up, while at the same time he's cut down on turnovers. And, he has a higher offensive rating than last year, in addition to a lower defensive rating. Really, Westbrook has improved in almost all areas.

    It might be strange to see two top-five MVP candidates on one team, but Westbrook deserves credit for his fantastic season. It might be easy to criticize Westbrook whenever he has a bad shooting night, but without him the Thunder would not be anywhere near as successful as they are right now. 

4. Chris Paul

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    Stats: 16.6 PPG, 9.7 APG, 2.6 SPG

    Chris Paul is having another fantastic season, and he is clearly the best point guard in the NBA right now.

    Paul is leading the league in steals, he's second in assists, and he actually averages more steals than turnovers. He also has an amazing offensive rating of 127, and despite his offensive dominance, he still manages to play great defense.

    Paul has everything you want in a point guard, and even though he has a great supporting cast that includes Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, he is the real reason the Clippers have had such a great season.

    Unfortunately, after a perfect December, the Clippers are now just 5-5 in their last 10 games, and they are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. If Paul wants a real shot at winning the MVP, he needs to lead the Clippers back to the top of the West over teams like the Spurs and Thunder. 

3. Carmelo Anthony

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    Stats: 29.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.6 APG

    This season's Carmelo Anthony is so much better, and Knick fans are loving it.

    This year, Anthony has played a much more team-oriented style of basketball, and his game has improved tremendously. He's second in the league in points per game, he is shooting a career-high from behind the arc and has improved his shot selection, and he has put much more effort into defense.

    With Anthony playing this way, he receives MVP chants not just in MSG, but even on road games and in London. 

    The Knicks have slowed down after a very hot start, but with a 26-15 record, Melo is still definitely in this race. His chances of eclipsing Durant and LeBron to take the trophy are slim, but if he can lead the Knicks to the first seed in the East, anything is possible. 

2. Kevin Durant

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    Stats: 29.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.3 BPG

    Kevin Durant is having an outstanding season, but he just isn't ready to take the MVP award yet.

    Look, Durant is definitely improving. He leads the league in scoring, he's cut down on his turnovers, he's developing a post game that he can go to in clutch situations, and he is one of a select few players in NBA history to average at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the charity stripe. 

    So, what gives? Why is Durant still waiting on his first MVP award?

    Well, there's no doubt that Durant is a phenomenal scorer. But when compared to LeBron James, that's really the only place where he has an advantage. He is a better shooter and a better clutch scorer. 

    However, in terms of rebounding, or taking care of the ball or, most importantly, defending, Durant is still trying to play catch up. When his career is over he could be one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, but Durant needs to become a better overall player if he really wants to take the MVP award from James.

    It's obvious that Durant is improving, and he is going to fight to win this award. But whenever he improves, LeBron improves. And right now, it's clear that Durant is still second best. 

1. LeBron James

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    Stats: 26.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.6 SPG

    Sorry, Durant, but your time has not come yet.

    Simply put, LeBron is still the best overall player in the league, and even after three MVP awards, he continues to take his game to new heights.

    Right now, LeBron is shooting 55 percent from the field and 39 percent from behind the arc, which are both career highs. He has also developed a great post game, one which is still much better than Durant's, and he continues to be one of the strongest and fastest players in the game.

    Kevin Durant scores more, he is a much better free-throw shooter, and there's no doubt that he is a fantastic player who may very well win an MVP of his own one day. But the fact of the matter is, LeBron rebounds better, he takes care of the ball, and he is much better as both a perimeter and post defender than Durant is. 

    In addition to that, you can probably say at this point that Durant actually has the better supporting cast. Westbrook is now much better than Wade, Ibaka and Bosh are debatable, and Kevin Martin is having a much better season than Ray Allen. LeBron means more to his team than Durant does, and considering this is the most valuable player award, that needs to be accounted for. 

    In the end, there is no denying that LeBron is still the best that the NBA has to offer. Maybe people will get tired of his dominance and hand over the award to Durant, but that's really Durant's only hope at this point. As long as LeBron continues to produce and the Heat continue to win, nobody can steal the MVP award from this point forward.