Updated 2013 NBA MVP Odds Entering the All-Star Break

Bryan ToporekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2013

Updated 2013 NBA MVP Odds Entering the All-Star Break

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    It didn't seem possible, but many of the top 2013 NBA MVP candidates have only elevated their play since the start of February.

    LeBron James, in particular, has been intent on proving that he's not from this planet.

    In Miami's five games from Feb. 3-10, James knocked down an unreal 55 of his 77 field-goal attempts. That type of efficiency is unheard of from a superstar who commands the attention of defenses like James.

    A few of James' fellow MVP candidates, particularly Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Tony Parker, have also been extra hot as of late.

    All of the players featured here are either their team's undisputed best, most talented player; one of the league leaders in a major statistical category; and/or on one of the teams with the best records in the NBA.

    Can James hold off the challengers to his MVP throne? Find out where everyone stands heading into the All-Star break.

     

    Note: Statistics and records are current through games played on Feb. 10, except where otherwise noted. Last week's rankings here.

Honorable Mention

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    Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks

    Tyson Chandler isn't a conventional MVP candidate, as he makes his impact felt defensively more than offensively. He recently tied a New York Knicks franchise record by securing 20 rebounds in three straight games.

    Chandler's .673 shooting percentage leads the NBA, which allows him to average 11.4 points on only 6.4 shots per game. He's also the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and one of the favorites to take home the DPOY award again.

     

    Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

    The Golden State Warriors didn't quite start February on the right foot, going only 1-4 through their first five games. In those five games, Stephen Curry averaged 20 points, eight assists and 5.2 rebounds per game, which would typically portend well for the Dubs.

    However, Curry shot only 39.2 percent from the field despite attempting nearly 20 shots per game during that five-game span. Curry may have been robbed of an All-Star berth this season, but he's only on the periphery of the MVP race.

     

    Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

    Tim Duncan was one of the leading MVP candidates in the first part of the 2012-13 season, but injuries have brought his MVP candidacy back to Earth.

    Since Jan. 19, Duncan has only played 48 total minutes for the San Antonio Spurs. The team has only dropped one game in his absence largely thanks to Tony Parker, which will likely reduce the urgency the team feels to rush Duncan back into the lineup.

     

    David Lee, Golden State Warriors

    Like Stephen Curry, David Lee finds himself in this position because of the Golden State Warriors' mini-slump over the first few games of February.

    Lee leads the league with 32 double-doubles in 50 games, but he only managed one over the Warriors' four-game losing streak. With Andrew Bogut still working his way into the lineup, the Warriors need somewhere around a 20-10 from Lee each night to remain a contender in the Western Conference.

     

    Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

    Somewhat lost in the recent efficiency of LeBron James has been the phenomenal play of his teammate, Dwyane Wade. In Miami's five games from Feb. 3-10, Wade shot 51.7 percent from the field and averaged 24.8 points, six rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

    If Wade and James can maintain the one-two punch they've established since the start of February, the Heat will steamroll the rest of the Eastern Conference.

     

    Just missed the cut: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

    Dropped from rankings: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

10. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Last week's ranking: N/A

    I've been heaping plenty of credit for the Portland Trail Blazers' surprising season upon Damian Lillard, but LaMarcus Aldridge is just as deserving.

    Aldridge's field-goal percentage (.481) is lower than it's been in recent seasons, but he's compensating by averaging career highs in rebounds (9.0) and assists (2.6) per game. He's also currently tying his career high with 1.2 blocks per game.

    Aldridge is only growing more dominant for Portland as the season progresses. He's one of only five players averaging at least 18 points and eight rebounds per game, according to Basketball-Reference, and he averaged 23.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in the Blazers' first six games of February.

    Advanced metrics don't make much of an MVP case for Aldridge, however. He's tied with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap for 16th in the league in win shares (5.2), and he's tied for 24th with DeMarcus Cousins in PER (20.2), according to Basketball-Reference.

    Portland, at 25-26, sits two games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, meaning that Aldridge's time as a top-10 MVP candidate could be short-lived. For the time being, though, he deserves to be acknowledged as being on the fringe of the MVP race.

    Odds of winning MVP: 0.5 percent

9. Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    Last week's ranking: Honorable Mention

    Paul George's first All-Star berth in 2013 may have come as a surprise to those not keeping a watchful eye on the Indiana Pacers this year.

    It shouldn't have, though. George is quickly emerging as one of the most talented forwards in the league.

    With Danny Granger out for Indiana, George has only grown more dominant each month. He went from averaging 18.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in December to 21.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game through the Pacers' first five games in February.

    His PER (17.4) is just above league average, but he does rank 13th in the league in terms of win shares (5.9), according to Basketball-Reference.

    George's evolution into a more complete, consistent player is the main reason the Pacers hold a slight lead over the Chicago Bulls in the Central Division for the time being.

    Odds of winning MVP: 0.5 percent

8. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Last week's ranking: 8

    Russell Westbrook likely won't ever win the league MVP award so long as he's teammates with Kevin Durant, but he's just as valuable to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Westbrook's explosiveness opens offensive opportunities for the rest of his teammates, especially Durant. Defenders can't forget about the cantankerous Thunder point guard, lest they enjoy being dunked upon repeatedly.

    Over the Thunder's first five games in February, Westbrook shot 51.2 percent from the floor while averaging 23 points and 5.8 assists in only 29.5 minutes per game. On the season, however, he's only shooting 42.5 percent from the field on almost 19 field-goal attempts per game.

    He ranks eighth in the league in win shares (7.0) and 10th in PER (23.2), according to Basketball-Reference.

    That's the resume of someone on the fringes of the MVP race at best, no matter how excellent the Thunder's 39-12 record may be.

    Odds of winning MVP: 1 percent

7. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Last week's ranking: 9

    While the Los Angeles Lakers continue to struggle, it's tough to place blame upon Kobe Bryant.

    In the Lakers' 10-game span from Jan. 25 through Feb. 10, Bryant had only two games with fewer than five assists. Los Angeles went 7-3 in those 10 games.

    Bryant won't be mistaken for Magic Johnson any time soon, but the length at which he's redefining his game is somewhat astounding. He's scoring less and passing more, all for the sake of getting the Lakers' season back on track.

    The Black Mamba ranks seventh in the league in terms of win shares (7.3) and is tied with Kyrie Irving for 11th in PER (23.0), according to Basketball-Reference.

    Coupled with the Lakers' paltry 24-28 record, those numbers aren't enough to make Bryant anything more than a fringe MVP candidate at best.

    The Lakers need to get hot after the All-Star break and sneak into the playoffs to give Bryant any chance of finishing as a top-five MVP candidate in 2012-13. 

    Odds of winning MVP: 1 percent

6. James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    Last week's ranking: 7

    Since the calendar turned to February, James Harden has gone thermonuclear for the Houston Rockets.

    In the Rockets' first five games in February, Harden averaged 28 points (on only 14.8 shot attempts!), eight assists, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. He shot a ridiculous 59.5 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three-point range in those five games.

    He nearly single-handedly keyed a comeback against the Miami Heat on Feb. 6, prompting LeBron James to tell ESPN.com after the game that Harden had "made superstar status."

    Harden struggled with his shot early in the season as he adjusted to being a team's No. 1 option on offense, but those days appear long gone. The Beard has grown fully comfortable with the attention being sent his way, as evidenced by his first career triple-double against Charlotte on Feb. 2.

    He ranks third in the league in win shares (8.5) behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant and ninth in the league in terms of PER (23.4), according to Basketball-Reference. As long as Houston stays in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, Harden will remain a dark-horse MVP candidate. 

    Odds of winning MVP: 1 percent


5. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Last week's ranking: 6

    Chris Paul regains his rightful grasp on a top-five MVP spot this week after his masterful performance against the New York Knicks on Feb. 10.

    Paul missed nine games due to a bruised kneecap in late January and early February before returning on Feb. 8 against the Miami Heat. He scored three points on 1-of-5 shooting in 20 minutes that night, looking like a shell of the MVP candidate he was earlier in the season.

    What Paul did against the Knicks two days later, however, vaulted him right back into the MVP conversation. He finished with 25 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals in only 29 minutes, finishing the Knicks off late in the fourth quarter with an array of dazzling shots.

    Despite missing 12 games total in 2012-13, Paul is still tied with Tony Parker for fourth in the league in win shares (8.0), according to Basketball-Reference. Paul's PER of 26.0 trails only LeBron James (30.9) and Kevin Durant (29.0).

    As long as Paul stays healthy and the Los Angeles Clippers get back to their winning ways, he'll be a top-five MVP candidate for the remainder of the season. He's been that good in 2012-13. 

    Odds of winning MVP: 2 percent



4. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    Last week's ranking: 4

    Tony Parker rocketed his way up to being a top-five MVP candidate last week and hasn't looked back.

    He's been the steadying force for the San Antonio Spurs while the team deals with injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Duncan has played all of 48 minutes since Jan. 19, yet the Spurs only dropped one game from then through Feb. 10.

    In the Spurs' 10 games from Jan. 19 through Feb. 10, Parker finished with double-digit assist totals five times. He only scored fewer than 20 points once (Feb. 2 against the Washington Wizards) in those 10 games, too.

    Parker is tied with Chris Paul for fourth in the league in win shares (8.0) and ranks seventh in the league in PER (24.3), according to Basketball-ReferenceHe's also shooting 40 percent from three-point range and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line this season, both career highs.

    His MVP candidacy is only helped by the Spurs' grip on the best record in the league (41-12 through Feb. 11), although Oklahoma City (39-12) remains nipping at the Spurs' heels.

    Odds of winning MVP: 2 percent


3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    Last week's ranking: 3

    Let's establish this right off the bat: In 2012-13, Carmelo Anthony is having the best season of his 10-year career.

    Before 2012-13, he never posted a PER above 22.2. He's managing a PER of 24.5 through Feb. 10, which ranks sixth in the league, according to Basketball-Reference.

    Anthony turned in a clunker during a Feb. 2 blowout of the Sacramento Kings, scoring only nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, but he's been on fire in the four games since.

    He capped it off with a 42-point, eight-rebound performance in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 10. That game marked Melo's fifth 40-point outing in 42 games this season.

    Anthony currently holds the league lead in scoring (29.0 points per game), but Kevin Durant (28.9) is hot on his tail. Unfortunately for Anthony, his best career season happens to be coinciding with the best-ever seasons from Durant and LeBron James, too.

    The New York Knicks won't complain about Melo being better than ever, but James and Durant's transcendence will ultimately prevent Anthony from claiming the 2013 MVP award.

    Odds of winning MVP: 2 percent

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Last week's ranking: 1

    Kevin Durant falls out of the top spot of the MVP rankings this week largely due to what his co-MVP favorite, LeBron James, has been doing since the start of February.

    While James appears intent on shattering NBA records for shooting efficiency, Durant has been keying blowout after blowout for Oklahoma City. It's great for the team, which sits a game behind San Antonio for the best record in the West through Feb. 11, but not so great for Durant's MVP candidacy.

    Through Oklahoma City's first five games in February, Durant only played 31.3 minutes per game. He averaged 23 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in that five-game span after averaging 31.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in January.

    Durant's MVP candidacy mainly relies on his ability to stay within the 50-40-90 Club and maintain the league lead in scoring, only one of which he's continued to do. Carmelo Anthony (29.0 PPG) overtook Durant (28.9 PPG) as the league's top scorer on Feb. 10, after Anthony dropped 42 points in a loss against the Los Angeles Clippers.

    On the season, Durant is shooting 51.6 percent from the field, 42.7 percent from three-point range and 90.4 percent from the charity stripe, all career highs. That free-throw mark is perilously close to slipping under 90 percent, though.

    K.D. still leads the league in win shares (12.6) and ranks second only to James in terms of PER (29.0), according to Basketball-Reference.

    His perilous hold on the 50-40-90 Club, coupled with Anthony overtaking him as the league's scoring leader, were enough to knock Durant out of the top spot of the MVP list this week. 

    And that's before even mentioning what this next guy has been doing since the start of February.

    Odds of winning MVP: 35 percent

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    Last week's ranking: 2

    I've had Kevin Durant ahead of LeBron James in these MVP rankings for a majority of the 2012-13 season.

    James' recent red-hot streak is making me look like a complete idiot, however.

    As mentioned in the introduction, James went 55-of-77 from the field in Miami's five games from Feb. 3-10, which translates to a shooting percentage of .714. He also drilled 60 percent of his three-point attempts (9-of-15) in those five games.

    With Miami's victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 10, James became the third player in NBA history to score 30 points and shoot at least 60 percent in five straight games, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). Moses Malone was the last to put up those type of numbers way back in the 1981-82 season, according to ESPN.com and the Elias Stats Bureau.

    James leads the league with a PER of 30.9 and ranks second to only Durant in terms of win shares (11.5), according to Basketball-Reference. On the season, he's shooting an astronomical 56.2 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from three-point range, which are both career highs (by far) for him.

    Putting James No. 1 in the MVP rankings this week isn't meant to detract from Durant's 2012-13 season, which has been phenomenal in its own right.

    If James maintains his recent efficiency and Miami can keep a chokehold on the Eastern Conference's best record, however, it'll be nearly impossible to stop him from earning his fourth MVP award.

    Odds of winning MVP: 55 percent