The 2013 NBA All-Star Game is loaded with the league’s most talented players, which is why it’s extremely hard to predict which one is going to emerge with the MVP award at the end of the contest.
However, it’s still worth a shot, as there are certainly a few favorites amongst the list of participants for both conferences.
Let’s take a look at five superstars that have the best chance of being honored as the most valuable player come Feb. 17 in Houston.
5. James Harden, BC, Western Conference
The Houston Rockets guard may not be the biggest name in this game, but he’s been lighting it up for a surprisingly talented young team.
The 6’5” former Sixth Man of the Year award winner is averaging a ridiculous 25.8 points, 5.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds in 2012-13, which is even more incredible considering he was traded just before the season tipped off.
Factor in that he will be playing in his home arena with the crowd behind him and a chance to log huge minutes, and we have a legitimate dark horse in the MVP race.
4. Kyrie Irving, BC, Eastern Conference
Irving is another under-the-radar candidate, as he’s evolved into one of the top point guards in the entire league—going relatively unnoticed considering he plays for the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.
Through 38 games this year, the 2012 Rookie of the Year winner is putting up 23.9 points, 5.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds, while making a ton of highlight reel plays.
In this guard-oriented game, the young stud will have plenty of opportunities to set up his teammates with flashy passing, bomb away from long range (Irving will be a participant in the three-point contest) and get to the cup against relatively lax defenses.
One thing that could hold him back is his lack of experience, as the MVP award generally goes to more experienced scorers.
3. Kobe Bryant, BC, Western Conference
The Black Mamba has claimed the All-Star Game MVP honor on four separate occasions, most recently in 2011.
Despite his advanced age (Bryant is 34 years old and playing in his 17th season), the Los Angeles Lakers SG is still one of the best scorers in the NBA and has shown the propensity to dominate in these exhibition games.
In 13 prior All-Star appearances, the veteran has averaged 20.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.7 steals while shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep.
The only reason we have him ranked No. 3 is his newfound role as a facilitator, as Bryant seems much more willing to defer in order to win. While it can be a boon for the Lakers at times, if he chooses to distribute more than score in the ASG, it may cost him the MVP award.
2. Kevin Durant, FC, Western Conference
When it comes to pure scoring ability, there is no better player in the NBA than this Oklahoma City Thunder superstar.
Kevin Durant absolutely fills it up on a nightly basis and is once again leading the league in points per game, averaging 29.3 per contest. He’s claimed the last three scoring titles and looks to be well on his way to a fourth, proving that he’s the premier bucket-getter in the land.
As the reigning MVP, we fully expect KD comes to play in Houston and will be looking to top the 36-point, seven-rebound, three-assist, three-rebound outing he had in last year’s event.
However, with the supreme amount of talent on the stacked Western Conference roster, we fear that Durant simply may not get enough touches to surpass his performance in 2012.
Not living up to those lofty expectations may hurt his candidacy, but if the West wins, we believe KD will have a huge hand in that and should be a lock for MVP.
1. LeBron James, FC, Eastern Conference
King James is a two-time All-Star Game MVP, but he hasn’t earned that honor since the 2008 season, when he was still a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Had the East won in 2012, LBJ would have easily nabbed his third award, but the team narrowly fell, 152-149, denying James of the rare trifecta of All-Star MVP, NBA MVP and Finals MVP in the same season.
The best basketball player on the planet will come out looking to dominate in front of the Toyota Center crowd, helping lead the East to their first victory since 2010.
Considering LeBron is the favorite to win the 2013 NBA MVP award and the Miami Heat look poised to repeat as champs—giving him a chance to claim a second-straight Finals MVP—he would be able to complete that trio of awards he narrowly missed last year.
If the East wins in 2013, pencil in James as your All-Star Game MVP.