Breaking Down the NBA MVP Race at the All-Star Break

Varun RavishankerContributor IIIFebruary 14, 2013

Breaking Down the NBA MVP Race at the All-Star Break

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    The NBA season is in full swing and as we hit the All-Star Break, several candidates are separating themselves from the field in the MVP race.

    It's been one of the tighter MVP contests we've seen in recent years, with the front-runner for the award seemingly changing every week. 

    Kevin Durant seemed to have a lock on the title after leading the Thunder to the top of the West, but LeBron James has stormed into the conversation with one of the greatest six-game stretches we've ever seen. 

    With players like Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker and Stephen Curry also in the mix, the MVP race is anyone's game at this point in the season. 

5. Stephen Curry

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    Stephen Curry has been back to full health this season and has certainly been playing like it. Curry is putting up 21 points and 6.6 assists a game, all while shooting almost 45 percent from three. 

    Curry's game is a major reason why the revitalized Golden State Warriors find themselves in the six spot in the West, as he and David Lee have evolved into leaders on the team. 

    Curry has struggled a bit as of late, which has only emphasized how important it is to the team that he plays well. Since he shot the lights out in Phoenix, Curry has struggled from the floor—the Warriors have lost five straight as a result.

    His MVP chances may have taken a hit from his recent struggles, but Curry looks to be getting back on track after 27 points and 6 assists against Houston. If Curry can regain his shooting touch and steady these Warriors, he's a dark horse candidate to sneak away with the MVP trophy. 

4. Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo Anthony has led the charge for a resurgent Knicks team this season, averaging 28.6 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. 

    Anthony, often seen as a bad clubhouse guy in his time with Denver, has evolved into a strong teammate and the clear-cut leader of the Knicks team that sits atop the Atlantic division. 

    Anthony is very motivated and said to Fred Kerber of the New York Post that despite LeBron's current historic run, he's nowhere near out of this MVP race. 

    He has a bicep injury that may keep him out of the All-Star Game and hamper him as the season progresses, so that will certainly be something to look out for going forward. 

    If Anthony can play through this injury and still shoot at a high level, he's got a shot to lead his team in a push to overtake the Heat in the standings—if Melo's Knicks win the East, he'll have a strong case to take home the MVP. 

3. Tony Parker

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    The seemingly ageless San Antonio Spurs somehow find themselves once again at the top of the standings in the West.

    This time though, the key has not been future Hall of Fame lock Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili, who have both been plagued by injuries at times this season, but floor general Tony Parker. 

    Parker has done a masterful job integrating a new group of youngsters into the offense with the veteran core and has made it seem at times like the Spurs do not even need Duncan and Ginobili to win games. 

    Parker's averaging his highest points per game total in the last five years, and he has managed to keep his assist numbers high—even in the absence of reliable veterans consistently around him on offense.

    He has really put the team on his back this season, warranting not just discussion for MVP of his own team, but MVP of the league

2. Kevin Durant

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    Following an NBA finals campaign last season, Durant has led the Thunder to the second-best record in the West and has made sure that they have not lost a step despite the loss of key scorer James Harden.

    His 29 points a game leads the NBA, and he has upped his assist numbers by almost a full assist per game while maintaining his rebounding numbers from last season. 

    Beyond the numbers, Durant has evolved into a leader both on and off the court, and some think his improvement is so staggering that he should even be considered for Most Improved Player. 

    Durant has lost a step in the MVP race after being the front-runner through January, but that's largely due to the absolutely staggering performance of LeBron James this past week.

    There's no way LeBron can keep this pace up for the rest of the season, and if Durant gets on a little run of his own, the MVP could easily be in his hands. 

1. LeBron James

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    In a week where we celebrated Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, there were countless conversations and comparisons made between King James and MJ. 

    LeBron answered the critics as well as he could, going on an unrivaled run of shooting performances in the past six games. It can't be stated enough how impressive he's been in shooting 75 percent from the field while still scoring over 30 points a game in six straight games. 

    Couple that with his season numbers of 27 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists a game and there's no way James isn't in the lead for the second consecutive, and fourth MVP award of his career, a feat only rivaled by Hall of Famers Bill Russell (4), Wilt Chamberlain (4), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6) and Jordan himself (5).

    LeBron has been doing it all for a Heat team that looks to have found its stride as it pushes towards defending its NBA title. James currently has the Heat in first place in the East and the odds-on favorite to take home the title. 

    If LeBron can keep the Heat in their position and continue playing at even close to the level he's maintained for the past week, the MVP award is his to lose.