The NBA's best and brightest stars will converge on the Toyota Center in Houston this week to celebrate the annual All-Star Weekend, which will be highlighted by the 62nd annual All-Star Game on Sunday night.
In addition to the seven first-time selections set to make their All-Star Game debuts, many of the usual suspects—including Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant—will be present and gunning for the coveted MVP honors.
Below we'll project how each of the top MVP favorites will fare this weekend in Clutch City.
Kevin Durant, Western Conference
Last year's All-Star Game MVP and the league's leading scorer this season, Kevin Durant is putting up close to 30 points per game in 2012-13 and doing it in a variety of ways.
The Oklahoma City Thunder star is a favorite of many to win All-Star Game MVP honors for the second straight year this weekend in Houston, and for good reason. Not only is the 6'9" forward hitting nearly 52 percent of his shots from the field, but he's connecting on more than 43 percent of his three-point shots.
Plus, Durant is one of the best free-throw shooters in the league, which means he could significantly add to his stat line from the charity stripe on Sunday night. He's hit a combined 13 of 15 foul shots in the past two All-Star Games.
Durant scored 36 points in last year's All-Star Game en route to claiming MVP honors for the first time in his career. I don't think he'll put up 36 again, but he'll come awfully close.
Projection: 30 points, six rebounds, four assists
LeBron James, Eastern Conference
LeBron James has won two All-Star Game MVPs in the past. In 2013, he will play for the first time as an NBA champion, with a monumental weight off his shoulders.
James is playing some of the best basketball of his career at the moment, averaging 27 points per game on better than 56 percent shooting from the field. With defense sure to go missing for long stretches during Sunday's All-Star clash, James could be headed for a third career All-Star Game MVP. He last won in 2008 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With 18 rebounds and 17 combined assists in the last two All-Star Games alone, James must be considered the favorite to take home MVP honors if the Eastern Conference comes away with the win for the first time since 2010.
Projection: 28 points, eight rebounds, nine assists
Kobe Bryant, Western Conference
Kobe Bryant enters this weekend's All-Star Game in Houston as a four-time ASG MVP, having won three times since 2007.
One of the most dynamic scorers in NBA history, Kobe is capable of exploding at any point in time, which always makes him a favorite to win MVP honors at the All-Star Game. Unlike LeBron James, who usually plays the role of creator in the star-studded matchup, Bryant prefers to get up plenty of shots.
Still, at age 34, it's hard to see Bryant outshining studs like LeBron James and Kevin Durant over the course of 48 minutes on Sunday night.
I look for a more down-to-earth stat line from the Black Mamba this weekend.
Projection: 25 points, two rebounds, four assists
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