2011 is finally here- meaning the overused term "slow start" no longer holds any credence when it comes to the NBA. With almost half of the season already completed, the difference between contender and pretender is starting to form. With that, the MVP list is also starting to become legitimate, as some players have cooled off after hot starts, while others have awoken from the cold November. Here is a break down of the top five current MVP candidates:
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I don't very care much for LeBron either. But the Heat are the hottest team in the NBA, winners of 19 of their last 20, and James is fifth in the league in scoring. On top of that, he's 12th in the league in assists, as he, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh have finally begun to work well together.
Why isn't he higher? Because of Wade and Bosh. Wade is sixth in the league in scoring, and Bosh is 30th, and 22nd in rebounding. When you have two other teammates performing as well as Wade and Bosh have the past month and a half, it's going to rub off on James.
LeBron is 40th in the NBA in rebounds- not exactly wowing- but much more impressive when you realize that he's only a small forward, and he's also doing so well in scoring and assists.
But not all has been perfect for James. He's seen his individual defensive numbers plummet from his career averages, as he's averaging only 1.4 steals/game, and .4 blocks/game- both well below his career averages.
And despite putting up big offensive numbers, LeBrons PPG, APG, RBG, and FG% have all dropped from a year ago, while his turnovers have increased.
Yet we're nitpicking. It's almost impossible for LeBron to continue to put up the numbers he did in Cleveland when he's sharing the ball with Wade and Bosh. It's impossible to exclude him from this list, but his two teammates make it very tough for him to garner many votes for MVP.
How Portland has a winning record is beyond me. No Greg Oden, no Brandon Roy. Their first-round pick Elliot Williams has been out all season. Joel Pryzbilla, their defensive specialist, has been limited to eight games all season. Yet LaMarcus Aldridge has lead the Trailblazers to an 18-17 record, and currently the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Aldridge is 22nd in the league in points, 19th in rebounds, and 22nd in blocks. All very nice ranks, but none dominant. But MVP is an award that means Most Valuable Player, and with all the injuries the Trailblazers have suffered, Aldridge has been thrust to been the main source of offense and defense for the team. Just to show you how valuable he is, the Trailblazers are 3-10 when he scores under 20 points, and 15-7 when he scores more than 20.
He's currently posting career highs in PPG, RBG, steals/game, blocks/game, and FGM. If the Blazers have any chance of holding their tenuous grip on the eighth seed, Aldridge will have to keep carrying them on his back. While everybody keeps talking about the injuries in Portland, Aldridge has quietly put together a career season.
The Bulls have won 14 of 16, and Rose is a big reason why. Averaging career-highs in PPG, APG, RBG, FGM, 3PT, 3PT FG%, FTM, steals/game, and blocks/game, Rose has made the jump from good point guard to elite point guard this season. And he's done it despite lengthy injuries to teammates Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
Rose is currently ninth in the league in PPG, and seventh in APG- the only player in the NBA in the top ten in both categories. Rose has lead the Bulls to a scorching December, and their 23-10 record has them sitting firmly atop the Central Division, where they enjoy an 8.5 game lead over second-place Indiana.
Rose's assists can be attributed to the newly acquired Carlos Boozer and the ever-improving Joakim Noah. With both players sidelined by injuries at different points this season, Rose has benefitted from the improved play of Taj Gibson.
His biggest improvement though has been from downtown. In his first two seasons, Rose was a total non-factor from behind the arc, hitting only a combined 32 three-pointers, while shooting an appalling 24.4% from behind the arc. This year, Rose has already nailed 54 three-pointers, while shooting 39.4% from downtown. His ability to knock down the longball has forced defenses to play up on him, allowing him to use his quickness to drive to the hoop for a lay-up or kick out to Boozer or Noah. While all the attention may be on Miami, Boston, and Orlando in the East, you can't count out Chicago, especially with the way Rose is playing.
As a Knicks fan, it's tough to not put Amar'e first. He's second in the league in scoring, fifteenth in rebounding, fourth in blocked shots, and ninth in FTM.
But the two most important stats? Amar'e leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, and the Knicks are 20-14, and no longer a laughingstock. After tonight's double-digit win at home against the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs, the Knicks now own victories over the Nuggets, Thunder, Bulls (twice), Hornets, and Spurs. They're currently 6th in the Eastern Conference, with a firm 6-game lead over the 7th place Pacers (who they beat on Sunday).
He set a Knicks record with a nine-game streak of games where he scored 30+ points. He has had games where he's seemingly single-handedly willed the Knicks to victory. He- along with Raymond Felton- has breathed new life into a once-proud franchise. He's constantly serenaded with "M-V-P" chants wherever he goes, and has been a main catalyst to the Knicks not only leading the NBA in scoring, but being the only team in the league to be in the top-10 in FG%, FT%, and 3PT%.
Amar'e has benefitted from a break-out season from PG Raymond Felton, a big year from SF Wilson Chandler, and unexpected contributions from back-to-back Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Landry Fields. Still, Amar'e has had a fantastic first season so far in New York.
Simply, Parker is the best player on the best team in the NBA. He's second on the team in points, first in assists, and has quietly put together another fantastic season.
Despite Tim Duncan finally beginning to show signs of aging, Parker is averaging a career-high 7.1 APG, to go along with 17.7 PPG. He's also shooting 51.8% from the field, his highest since 2006. His improved play on defense has been noticeable, as he's also averaging a career-high 1.4 steals/game.
Parker doesn't boast the stats of some of the other players on the list. But none of the other players can boast the same record Parker has. The Spurs have been the NBA's most impressive team all season, and Parker's remarkable consistency has been a big reason why.
Parker and the Spurs aren't flashy or even all that exciting. But night in and night out they play hard, play right, and usually win. Their 29-5 record is 2.5 games better than Boston (second-best record in the NBA), and despite a rare loss tonight to the upstart Knicks, are still in firm grasp of grabbing a top seed in the league.
While the Spurs success has been a team effort, Parker's consistency has been the main drive behind the team's record-setting start, and has earned him MVP consideration.
Michael Perchick is the writer/editor of TheJockosphere, a sports/Twitter site, reporting the top tweets and news directly from athletes. Follow him on Twitter @TheREALPerchick and at http://thejockosphere.com/.