The NBA season is already past the midpoint and the All-Star Game is a little more than a week away. Now is a good time to consider which players are worthy of MVP consideration for the 2012-13 season.
There's been no shortage of outstanding performances this year that's for sure. Some familiar faces have taken their games to new levels while others are having a big impact for the first time.
A few just keep doing what they do every year.
The regular-season league MVP is the highest accolade an individual player can get, and here are the top candidates for the award this year.
*All stats courtesy of ESPN
Before any of you write a nasty response below, let me preface my selection of Paul Pierce.
I realize his numbers pale in comparison to the other MVP candidates that follow, so consider this a projection.
Pierce will emerge as a candidate the last half of the season as he steps up his game to account for the loss of Rajon Rondo. He's already done so over the past five games since Rondo went down.
During those five games Pierce's scoring average dipped slightly, but his rebounding and assist numbers have increased significantly. More importantly the Celtics keep on winning, and if that trend continues, as I believe it will, Pierce will be the man responsible.
His scoring average will start to creep up, too.
When they get to the Eastern Conference Finals again, without their starting point guard, Pierce will be the man to credit, and he'll earn MVP consideration.
For the past three seasons the Houston Rockets have been on the cusp of playoff basketball, narrowly missing the cut each year.
James Harden has them poised to finally break that streak, and he's done it by proving he's more than just a sixth man. He's slammed the door on that myth.
Harden has emerged as one of the top scorers in the NBA. He's currently ranked fifth at 25.8 points per game, and he has transformed Houston into the second-highest scoring team in the Western Conference, trailing only Oklahoma City.
If only Houston learned to play defense. They give up the fourth-most points per game in the NBA as well.
Regardless, Harden has proven to be the catalyst in Houston and the go-to guy for a team that could make some serious noise in the West the rest of the way.
For his impact in Houston, he deserves MVP consideration.
Even if Carmelo Anthony hadn't improved his defense, his typical offensive performance usually puts him in the MVP discussion.
Yet there's always been the opinion that Anthony is nothing more than a very good scorer who takes a lot of shots but who does little else to improve his team. His play this season might be changing that opinion, though.
It would seem that he finally got sick of hearing the criticism and decided to play some defense.
How many talking heads have marveled about Anthony's new-found dedication to defense? Marc J. Spears from Yahoo! Sports is just one example but the feeling is nearly universal. The talking heads aren't wrong; in 2013 Anthony is proving to be the complete player his doubters said he'd never be.
His focus on defense certainly hasn't hurt his offensive production. His 28.5 points per game is his highest average in seven years.
The result of Anthony's transformation is that the Knicks finally look like legitimate challengers to the Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. They're in second place now but only one game off the lead.
Anthony's play has the Knicks in title contention, and this time, unlike last year, they actually have a chance of getting to the NBA Finals.
If it's possible for LeBron James and the Miami Heat to fly under the radar, they've done it this season.
Maybe it's because three other teams have better records than the Heat right now: the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers. Or maybe it's the Heat's penchant for losing to Eastern Conference rivals.
They've lost two in a row to the Knicks and Pacers and their last matchup with the Celtics.
Unfortunately for their competition, those trends mean little when it comes to the domination of James. It's really no surprise that he's having another MVP-type season. His baseline production is MVP worthy.
Once again he's ranked among the top five scorers in the NBA. However he averages more rebounds, assists and steals per game than any of those players. Actually James Harden averages more steals per game, but you get my point.
With James it's his efficiency that really catches the eye. He's shooting .556 percent from the floor, which is amazing considering how many perimeter shots he takes.
Even if the Heat haven't been the talk of the NBA thus far, James still has them where they need to be. They're atop the Eastern Conference and poised for another run to the NBA Finals, and he'll be in the MVP discussion when it's all said and done.
As he is every year.
If not for the surprising San Antonio Spurs, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the big story of the NBA season.
They've suffered no Finals hangover and are rolling over their competition once again. They have the second-best record (37-12) and are the highest-scoring team in the NBA.
Durant is the main reason why.
He continues to show that he's the most dangerous scorer in the league—with all due respect to LeBron James. That fact is explained better than I ever could in this Grantland article by Kirk Goldsberry.
I can say this, though: Durant will kill you from anywhere on the court, and his league-leading 29.3 points per game proves it.
Considering the volume with which he shoots, his efficiency is truly staggering. Here are his percentages: FG: .517, 3PT: .422, FT: .902.
He's no one-trick pony, though, as he puts up significant numbers in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.
He's the MVP of arguably the best team in the NBA, and therefore is a shoe in to be considered for the league's MVP award, as well.
What? The San Antonio Spurs are in first place again?
The fact that Gregg Popovich continues get wins with this team is a surprise every year. It's a testament to his status as one of the great coaches in NBA history. After all, this team was supposed to be on the decline years ago.
Tim Duncan is 36 years old, and he was well past his prime three seasons ago—allegedly. Yet he's having his best year since the 2009-2010 season.
While Duncan has been rejuvenated, it's Tony Parker who has truly impressed. He is the leader of the Spurs now, and he's on the verge of having the best season of his career.
His 20.3 points per game average is only two points shy of his career best, and only one other time has he shot better than his current .532 percent from the field (.548 in 05-06).
He might not be ranked among the NBA's top-10 scorers, but he is the scoring leader and the primary distributor on the team with the best record (39-11) in the NBA.
For that he's the current MVP favorite.