NBA MVP Odds 2013-14: Are Kevin Love, CP3 Real Competition for LeBron James?
Apparently, LeBron James was tired of all the talk about how this season's MVP race was going to be more contentious than most.
The King played brilliant ball over the past week, but a couple of new challengers to his throne emerged nonetheless. Kevin Love's statistical dominance made him the biggest mover of the week, while Chris Paul continued his remarkable double-double streak, solidifying his position in the top three spots.
Meanwhile, the chaos reigning in the Big Apple was finally enough to cost Carmelo Anthony a position in the top 10. The New York Knicks' ongoing disaster isn't entirely his fault, but as the resident superstar, a big portion of the blame belongs to 'Melo.
A high-flying forward from the opposite coast makes his first appearance in the top 10 as a result of Anthony's demotion.
The MVP race remains nip and tuck, but a few candidates look like they're ready to give James a run for his money this year. We'll see how much longer LBJ allows them to cling to those hopes.
*Stats accurate through games played Nov. 17
10. Blake Griffin
2013-14 Stats: 22.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.1 steals
Last Week: Unranked
Blake Griffin takes more heat than almost any NBA star. Criticisms generally cover everything from his shaky free-throw stroke to his lack of a post game. And there'll always be plenty of eye-rolls whenever he—ahem—exaggerates contact a bit too demonstratively.
For all that, though, Griffin has put together his best season as a pro this year. And his terrific play over the past week has only firmed up his position as a fringe MVP candidate.
Chris Paul's favorite target dropped 22 points, 12 boards and seven assists against the Oklahoma City Thunder last Wednesday. He then followed up with 30 points and 12 more rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets.
Overall, the Los Angeles Clippers have won four straight and have continued to boast the best offensive rating in the Western Conference, per NBA.com.
Griffin's sure to receive plenty of flak as the season progresses, but it'll probably be easier to absorb the barbs from media and fans as he continues to help the Clips produce highlights and wins.
MVP Odds: 30-1
9. Tony Parker
2013-14 Stats: 18.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals
Last Week: 25-1
For a while there, it didn't seem like Tony Parker was going to have a good enough week to hang onto his No. 9 spot in the MVP rankings. Back-to-back contests against the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards led to easy wins but relatively few minutes for Parker.
Fortunately, the Utah Jazz put up a fight, which gave Parker a chance to flash his MVP credentials.
The San Antonio Spurs point guard scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as he led his team to a 31-15 advantage in the period, icing a nine-point win on Friday.
When you're as established and confident as Parker is, sometimes it takes a little extra motivation to get the juices flowing. Against the Jazz, Parker flipped the switch after getting stripped by Diante Garrett in the third quarter.
Per the Associated Press (via ESPN), Parker said after the game: "I was super mad, but I was very happy Coach put me in to start the fourth quarter. Sitting on the bench after that play, I could not wait to come back in. It really got me going."
If D-League call-ups could only piss off Parker on a more frequent basis, maybe he'd have a chance to make a run up these rankings. As it is, he holds steady at No. 9.
MVP Odds: 25-1
8. Derrick Rose
2013-14 Stats: 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.3 steals
Last Week: 12-1
Derrick Rose's continuous descent in the rankings showed no signs of reversing course this past week. The shooting woes persist, his assist numbers remain disconcertingly low, and a bum hamstring even cost him a chance to fatten up his statistical profile against the Toronto Raptors on Friday.
As has been the case all season long, Rose retains a spot here because, unlike Carmelo Anthony, there are signs that he and his team are going to enjoy a serious run of success in the near future.
The Chicago Bulls are still defending at an elite level, and Rose is actually hitting threes more efficiently than he has at any point in his career.
His poor conversion rate at the rim should improve once he gains more confidence in his body's ability to hold up to contact, and his free-throw attempts should see a spike as well.
There's no getting around it: The numbers have been ugly for D-Rose so far. But the Bulls are winning games, and Rose should soon round into form.
He'd better hurry up, though—this is the third straight week he's dropped in the rankings.
MVP Odds: 20-1
7. Anthony Davis
2013-14 Stats: 20.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 3.6 blocks, 2.1 steals
Last Week: 20-1
Anthony Davis' stat lines are starting to get a little ridiculous.
Against the Jazz last week, he went off for 29 points and 15 boards. Then, he backed that effort up by flirting with a triple-double in a very unusual way. Davis' 13 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks in a 135-98 spanking of the Sixers over the weekend were a real eye-opener.
In fact, if the 76ers put up a little more of a fight, Davis would have played more than 29 minutes in the contest. Thanks a lot, Sixers, your ineptitude cost The Brow his first triple-double.
At any rate, Davis continues to be a two-way monster deserving of legitimate MVP consideration. His 29.7 PER is second in the league, per Basketball-Reference, and he's making life miserable for opponents with his length and quickness.
A poor team record hurts his chances at actually winning the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. But at just 20 years old, he's got plenty of time left to contend.
MVP Odds: 18-1
6. Stephen Curry
2013-14 Stats: 19.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.6 steals
Last Week: 20-1
Shaky ball security was just about the only disappointing part of Stephen Curry's first few games this season, with his 11-giveaway effort against the Clippers marking the low point.
Recently, he's been much more careful with the rock, turning it over twice against the Detroit Pistons, twice against the Thunder, and zero times against the Jazz over the past week's tilts. Thanks to an offensive scheme that allows Mark Jackson to use Curry off the ball, the turnover issue has been easy to correct.
Unfortunately for the rest of the league, there doesn't seem to be an easy solution for the Warriors' early-season dominance. The Dubs have been unbeatable at home, and their elite defensive play has made them a threat on the road as well.
Curry is the franchise's most recognizable face, which means he'll continue to get plenty of MVP buzz as long as the Warriors are winning.
MVP Odds: 15-1
5. Kevin Durant
2013-14 Stats: 28.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.4 steals
Last Week: 4-1
It's a real testament to the players ahead of him that Kevin Durant has slipped a couple of spots in the rankings this week.
Of course, OKC's 2-2 record last week hasn't helped much either.
Russell Westbrook's reintegration into the lineup has predictably resulted in fewer shots for Durant. But more importantly, the preseason narrative that had KD piling up out-of-this-world stats without his running mate has disappeared. With his superstar teammate returning sooner than expected, KD's chance to inflate his MVP resume may now be gone.
He'll still score with the best of them, and the Thunder are certain to win plenty of games, but it looks like Durant's no longer the default No. 2 behind James in every MVP discussion.
MVP Odds: 10-1
4. Paul George
2013-14 Stats: 23.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals
Last Week: 3-1
Paul George has already learned the first lesson about MVP rankings: It takes a lot to stay in the hunt.
After climbing all the way to No. 2 last week, the Indiana Pacers' superstar wing takes a small dip this time around.
In three games over the past week, George amassed more turnovers (six) than assists (four). Plus, he finally ended his streak of 20-point games in a 110-94 loss to the Bulls, scoring just 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting in the Pacers' first defeat of the season.
Defensively, George remains a menace. But his shooting percentages are starting to regress and his team finally left the ranks of the undefeated. So it's only fair that his MVP chances take a small hit.
Don't worry, though; George looks like he'll be a fixture in the top five all season long.
MVP Odds: 8-1
3. Chris Paul
2013-14 Stats: 19.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 12.8 assists, 0.1 blocks, 2.9 steals
Last Week: 5-1
We'll get this out of the way right off the bat: Paul has had a hard time shooting the ball this year.
At just 43 percent from the field and 25 percent from long range, CP3 has left a lot to be desired in the accuracy department. Lately, he's been even shakier.
After making just eight of his last 27 shots overall, Paul might start to see a bigger cushion from opposing defenders.
But the Clippers just keep beating good teams, and Paul is the main reason why. In the past week alone, they notched victories over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Nets. How's that for a solid three-game stretch?
Paul has had at least 10 points and 10 assists in every game this season, and without him, L.A.'s offense simply ceases to function.
His shooting percentages could stand some improvement, but based on his track record, an upswing is on the way.
MVP Odds: 4-1
2. Kevin Love
2013-14 Stats: 26.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.8 steals
Last Week: 10-1
It's official: The numbers have become too impressive to ignore. Kevin Love made a three-spot jump this week on the strength of his historically astounding statistics.
According to Basketball-Reference, he's currently third in the league in PER and has posted the most win shares of any player in the league. If Love can maintain his current averages, he'll become the only player in NBA history to amass figures that high while also hitting more than two long-range bombs per game.
CBS Sports' Royce Young had this to say about Love last week:
I'm just going to keep repeating it until everyone else starts agreeing with me: Kevin Love is the best power forward in basketball, and really, it's not even all that close right now unless you want to convince me LeBron James is really a 4 now.
There's bound to be some anti-Love backlash in the next few weeks. Whenever a player takes a major step toward superstardom, the next phase always focuses on his shortcomings. James Harden's defense has become a hot-button issue, and Love's is likely next on the list.
It's true that Love could play better on D, but his offensive contributions are so significant that any criticism of his work on the other end just seems a little petty. He has played well enough to deserve the No. 2 spot.
Keep that in mind as critics inevitably attempt to take the big man down a peg.
MVP Odds: 3-1
1. LeBron James
2013-14 Stats: 27.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.7 steals
Last Week: 2-1
James is doing it again, you guys.
Last year, LBJ waited until February to unleash a string of hyper-efficient performances the likes of which the NBA had never seen. This time around, he's getting to work even earlier.
In his three games last week, James converted an absurd 40-of-57 shots from the field. That's over 70 percent, folks. He also knocked down five of eight triples and 17 of 21 foul shots (not great, but pretty good for him).
As you'd expect, his scoring average has picked up and his PER is, once again, the best in the league.
Defensively, James is still coasting. But that seems to be the Miami Heat's team-wide approach in the early going. We've seen James and his boys turn up the defensive intensity before, so there's no reason to assume things will be different this time around.
King James' throne is secure.
MVP Odds: 3-2