Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
In alphabetical order:
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
It feels criminal to not have the player who broke Ray Allen's record for three-pointers made in a single season as a top-10 MVP candidate. Apologies in advance, Stephen Curry.
After being snubbed for a spot on the 2013 All-Star team, Curry responded by averaging 26.0 points, 7.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game after the All-Star break. He finished the season shooting better from three-point range (45.3 percent) than he did from the field (45.1 percent), laying claim to the title of best long-range shooter in the NBA today.
Had Curry been slightly better on defense, I'd see no way around including him as a top-10 MVP candidate this season. As it is, he's right on the brink, but he faces stiff competition from a number of other top backcourt options.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
In 2013-14, don't be surprised if Marc Gasol ends up being a top-10 MVP candidate.
Once the Memphis Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay in February, Gasol stepped up his game considerably. Throughout March, he averaged 17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field.
He's one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year and could very well be the best-passing big man in the league. Had he been a bit more consistent offensively earlier in the season, he'd almost certainly finish among the top 10 MVP candidates.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin sent a message this season to those who think that he's nothing more than a flashy dunker.
Despite playing a career-low 32.5 minutes per game, Griffin still chipped per-game averages of 18.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Alongside Chris Paul, he helped orchestrate the greatest season in franchise history for the Los Angeles Clippers.
He finished 10th in the league in win shares (10.6) and 12th in PER (22.4) this season, putting him right on the edge of being a top-10 MVP candidate. He may not finish with many MVP votes this year, but he absolutely deserves a spot on one of the three All-NBA teams.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
Had you predicted before the start of the 2012-13 season that Brook Lopez would finish the year ranked fifth in PER, you'd be facing a daily dose of mockery.
Lo and behold, 82 games later, that's exactly what happened. Lopez finished with the highest PER (24.7) of any big man in the league, 0.3 points ahead of the resurgent Tim Duncan.
His defensive effort wasn't always stellar, but he made considerable strides on both ends of the court. Suddenly, the four-year, $61 million contract the Brooklyn Nets bestowed upon him before the start of the season doesn't look nearly as ridiculous.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Speaking of presumably overpaid Nets players, how about the second half of Deron Williams' season?
After spending the first few months of 2012-13 looking like the biggest $100 million bust in New York since Amar'e Stoudemire, Williams rocketed out of the All-Star break like an entirely new man. As noted by ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh (subscription required), Williams went from having a PER of 17.2 before the All-Star break to posting a 25.2 PER from mid-February onward.
Despite his sensational post-All-Star break play, he can't merit a top-10 MVP finish this season based on his rocky first few months. If Williams can maintain this late-season excellence next season, however, he'll be right back in the thick of the 2014 MVP race.
Just missed the cut: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks; Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Dropped from rankings: N/A