Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
In alphabetical order:
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
It physically pains me to not have Stephen Curry as a top-10 MVP candidate. He ranks third in the league in three-point shooting percentage (.449) and leads all players in three-point field goals attempted (555), making him the most terrifying sharpshooter in the NBA.
Curry's defense is the main thing that prevents him from ascending into the top 10. Opposing point guards have managed a better-than-league-average PER of 16.6 against him this season, according to 82games.com.
If he tightens up on the defensive end, Curry will emerge as a viable MVP candidate for years to come.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Like with Curry, I feel pangs of guilt for not including Marc Gasol as a top-10 MVP candidate this season. He's been one of the league's most dominant defenders and has only taken upon a larger offensive role since the Memphis Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay back in February.
Gasol's per-game averages of 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks simply don't jump off the page like those of other top MVP candidates, though. With a little more consistency on the offensive end, Gasol should be recognized as one of the top two-way players in the league.
In all likelihood, that will have to wait until the 2013-14 season.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin may not immediately jump out as someone who deserves an Honorable Mention in the MVP race, but consider this: He ranks eighth in the league in win shares (10.4) and 12th in PER (22.8).
Only six other players rank in the top 12 in both categories: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook. Spoiler alert: You'll be seeing every one of those players listed here as a top-10 MVP candidate.
Griffin may be averaging a career-low in terms of minutes per game, but he warrants a fringe MVP nod for his improvement on both ends of the court this season.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
I've been unfair to Brook Lopez by not including him in these MVP rankings this year. Just because he doesn't post the rebounding numbers that you'd expect from a typical big man (only 6.4 boards per game in 2012-13), that doesn't mean that he hasn't made his impact on the Brooklyn Nets.
He's struggled on defense at times this season—especially guarding the pick-and-roll—but he's made significant strides on both ends of the court, too. The Nets were almost universally mocked for signing Lopez to a four-year max deal in the summer of 2012, but he's gone out and justified that contract with his inspired play this year.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Deron Williams doesn't deserve a top-10 MVP nod due to his pre-All-Star break mediocrity, but he's been the superstar the Nets desperately need since mid-February.
His pre- and post-All-Star Game splits—16.7 points and 7.6 assists on 41.3 percent shooting pre-All-Star break compared to 22.8 points and 7.9 assists on 48.1 percent shooting since the All-Star Game—almost look like they belong to two different players entirely.
If the mid-February Williams sticks around for all of next season, expect D-Will to find himself firmly in the MVP conversation in 2013-14.
Just missed the cut: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Dropped from rankings: Paul George, Indiana Pacers