Win: DeAndre Jordan (20 percent)
Place: Anthony Davis (19 percent)
Show: John Wall (10 percent), DeMar DeRozan (10 percent), Kyle Lowry (10 percent), Lance Stephenson (10 percent), Serge Ibaka (10 percent), Gerald Green (10 percent), Markieff Morris (1 percent)
The MIP race is just as tough to call as the one for ROY, but for the opposite reason: There are so many worthy candidates for an honor with inherently vague criteria for qualification.
Wall cracked his first All-Star Game by staying healthy, flashing a vastly improved jump shot and posting career-best numbers across the board as a result. The same goes for DeRozan, who, along with should've-been-All-Star teammate Kyle Lowry, propelled the Toronto Raptors into the playoffs by filling the void left behind by Rudy Gay after the early-season trade that sent him to the Sacramento Kings.
Stephenson and Ibaka have both stepped up their respective games as key cogs on championship-caliber clubs. Green and Morris have been revelations for the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns.
Technically, this award should go to Davis. No player in the NBA has improved more from last season to this one than has Davis. He's gone from tantalizingly talented rookie to bona fide superstar for whom the path to "Best Player in Basketball" may be impeded only by LeBron James and Kevin Durant at this point.
Moreover, Davis' unique ability as an all-court terror has made comparisons to past pros nigh on impossible. "He is going to be his own player," Monty Williams, the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, recently told Grantland's Zach Lowe. "People try and think back to re-create another A.D., but he’s not like anyone we’ve ever seen."
But the leap A.D. has made is hardly unexpected. He came into the league as a can't-miss franchise cornerstone atop the 2012 NBA draft. And, historically speaking, young players tend to improve the most between their rookie and sophomore seasons. Davis has overshot expectations, sure, but the fact that his game has grown by leaps and bounds at this point in his career isn't entirely out of the ordinary.
If the idea of the MIP is to recognize a player who's been around for a while but has only just taken the next step, DeAndre Jordan should be the front-runner. He's leading the league in rebounding (13.9 per game) and field-goal percentage (.669) and ranks third in blocks (2.45 per game). He's also anchored a Los Angeles Clippers defense that ranks sixth in defensive efficiency, per NBA.com, despite a dearth of size and depth up front behind him.
Statistics aside, Jordan has matured as a man, eschewing the locker-room drama of yesteryear for a more focused approach, both on and off the court. Doc Rivers deserves some credit for that turnaround, though it'll be up to Jordan to decide whether or not he wants to share the hardware.