The trio of Durant, James and Bryant has earned at least a share of the MVP honors six of the last seven years. While Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers are struggling to stay afloat in the West, Durant and James are having two of the best seasons we’ll ever see, and each is poised to ultimately lead the league-MVP race.
Still, there are several players who have the potential to put on shows Sunday evening. As the Rising Stars Game and skills challenges proved, plenty of talented players are on the precipice of stardom in the NBA.
Let’s take a look at some players who have chances to dethrone the NBA’s best en route to MVP honors on Sunday.
Kyrie Irving: PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Irving’s pursuit of the king’s crown in Houston this weekend is apropos. He’s already cemented himself as the new face of the Cavs, and after a dominant performance in both the Rising Stars Game and the Three-Point Shootout, Irving has proven he is worthy of all the hype.
Irving has already entrenched himself in the superstar discussion. He’s averaging 23.5 points, 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game this season, and with a three-point percentage into the 40s, he has the potential to put up even bigger numbers in Houston on Sunday.
The All-Star Game is all about offense, and no one will be surprised if Irving puts on a show. He’ll have to overtake LBJ in the process, but he’s the most likely dark horse to win the game’s MVP honors.
James Harden: SG, Houston Rockets
The hometown crowd is going to love watching Harden put up gobs of points on Sunday.
Harden is averaging 26.1 points per game this season—good for fifth in the league behind Bryant, James, Durant and Carmelo Anthony. He’s been a scoring machine in Houston, and fans shouldn’t expect to see anything resembling defense to slow him down.
The only thing that could potentially slow Harden in the game is his shooting from behind the arc. He’s making three-pointers at a 34.7-percent clip this season, but he’ll have to knock down more than a few to stay on pace with the elite shooters in the league on Sunday.
Carmelo Anthony: SF, New York Knicks
Anthony is having a ridiculously good year at the offensive end of the floor. He trails only Durant in the race for the scoring title, but don’t be surprised if he puts on an even better show when they face off in the All-Star Game.
The most impressive part of Anthony’s game this season has been his sniping ability from behind the arc. A career 33.5-percent three-point shooter, Anthony is knocking down 40.5 percent of his threes this season and has shown multiple times how dangerous he can be from long range when he’s hot.
With so many talented perimeter players on both rosters, the game’s MVP race will come down to who can make the most of limited playing time.
Anthony can score gobs of points in a short period of time, so don’t be surprised if he lights up the scoreboard en route to his first MVP performance.
Russell Westbrook: PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant may have the better odds of winning the award, but Westbrook has proven he has the ability to take over games and rival his teammate’s scoring ability. Oklahoma City has a pretty good chance of producing this game’s MVP.
In a game usually dominated by fantastic guard play, don’t be surprised to see Westbrook post a double-double on Sunday. He’s a terrific passer with elite scorers all around him, and a 20-plus-point, 10-plus-assist game isn’t out of the question.
As is the case with Harden, Westbrook isn’t an elite shooter from behind the arc, and he’ll likely have to get hot—and stay hot—to really threaten for MVP honors.