The NBA All-Star weekend will conclude with Sunday night's game between the East and West. The 2013 version of this annual showdown promises to be extremely entertaining on Feb. 17, showcasing yet again the incredible star power pro basketball has to offer in this era.
Of all the marquee names that will take the court in Houston's Toyota Center, though, there are some standout individuals who will be strong contenders for the MVP award.
Here is a breakdown of two players from each squad that have a legitimate chance at taking home the accolade.
East: LeBron James, Miami Heat
LBJ has won the MVP twice but not since 2008. The award tends to go to those who score more than distribute, and James is capable of both but chooses to defer.
Based on his scintillating shooting as of late, though, look for James to be in attack mode and snag that third MVP. In six February games, James is averaging 30.5 points per game on 68.1 percent shooting from the field.
It's really hard to say anyone is playing better all-around basketball than King James right now, and he has drastically improved his three-point shooting to just over 42 percent to boot.
There is no stopping James when he drives to the bucket, but his passing prowess should allow him to easily rack up 10 assists in this one.
If he continues the offensive efficiency he's displayed lately, there's no reason James can't get 20 points on roughly nine to 12 shots. That puts a triple-double within realistic reach, and as a result, the MVP award.
West: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
The reigning All-Star Game MVP put up 36 points in last year's contest, leading the West to a 152-149 triumph. And the scary thing is, Durant has gotten even better since then.
As hot as James has been, this three-time NBA scoring champion has been scorching himself. Durant is shooting 51.6 percent from the field, 42.7 percent from beyond the arc and over 90 percent from the charity stripe.
In a game that figures to be relaxed on defense, there is no reason Durant can't approach the 40-point threshold again. He can already shoot over anyone, and he should be able to take it to the rim early on since the East will start Kevin Garnett at center and Carmelo Anthony at the 4.
The point guard wizardry of Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul will also help Durant away from the ball. He should be the top priority for the East defensively, but again, how much resistance will really be put up?
It wouldn't be shocking at all to see the Durantula hit 40-plus, and he has to be considered the West's favorite to take home the hardware.
East: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
The ACL injury to Boston Celtics PG Rajon Rondo could very well thrust Irving into the starting role.
Irving will also be taking part in the three-point contest and should be considered a favorite there, too. For a player who is on such a lackluster Cavs team, it's amazing that Irving does what he does each evening.
At the age of just 20 with hardly any supporting cast to speak of, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick is averaging nearly 24 points per night with 3.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
Being mentored by former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Byron Scott has to help Irving's development, but what he does with the ball is just spectacular. He displays an ambidextrous ability to finish at the bucket—and may be even better with his left hand, if anything.
Not only that, but he clearly can stroke it from deep range, as evidenced by his participation in the shootout.
He may not get all the publicity the other stars do, but don't be surprised if Irving capitalizes on the opportunity to play significantly more minutes and steal the MVP award in Houston.
West: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
For anyone who has seen the Black Mamba play in 2012-13—his 17th NBA season—it's just been remarkable.
There is no physical indication that Bryant is playing through any sort of pain; no visible sign of the mileage he has accumulated over his illustrious career. And despite the Lakers' struggles, he has remained as upbeat as possible in willing the team into the playoff picture.
Incredibly intense training, a strict diet (nicely broken down by the Healthy Home Economist) and sheer willpower have kept Bryant in premier physical condition even at age 34.
Bryant's current shooting percentage of 46.6 has only been bested once in the past decade, and it has been over five seasons since he averaged better than five assists per contest. Only Durant and the New York Knicks' Anthony have scored more than Bryant this season.
Expect Kobe to put on a show after having a few days to rest and recuperate—if for no other reason than to blow off a bit of steam from the perpetually dramatic situation in L.A.