With just six weeks left of the NBA regular season, it is time to start breaking down the MVP candidates.
Perhaps this season even more so than in previous years, the NBA is loaded with stars.
Some of the NBA teams with a lot of depth, like San Antonio and Boston, are at somewhat of a disadvantage here because the MVP is an individual honor. However, players like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan would take an NBA championship over an individual award in a heartbeat.
Here are the top 10 NBA MVP candidates to date.
Injuries to star player Brandon Roy and center Greg Oden have left Portland without two of their best players for most of the season
However, Aldridge has stepped up his game and has been more physical, almost single-handedly keeping Portland in contention.
A big, athletic power forward, Aldridge is averaging career-highs with 22.3 points and nine rebounds per game. Playing over 39 minutes per game, Aldridge is tops in that category of any player on this list.
Now in his first season in New York, Stoudemire has clearly been very valuable to the Knicks, who have already won more games this season than they won all of last season.
This season, Stoudemire is averaging a career-high 26.0 points, third most in the NBA, to go along with 8.5 rebounds.
However, the Knicks are still just three games above .500, and when you combine that with the fact that Stoudemire is not much of a defender, it makes sense that he is not higher on this list.
Durant is the NBA leader in points per game for the second consecutive season, more than two points ahead of LeBron James, who is second.
This season, Durant is averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, an impressive total from the small forward position, and he is also the league leader in free throws made..
Still just 22 years old, Durant is still getting better and he is a major reason that Oklahoma City is 36-22 and a sleeper to make it to the NBA Finals this season.
Chris Paul suffered a knee injury in the middle of last season, which required season-ending surgery and the sixth-year point guard still appears to be recovering.
No longer possessing a quick first step that was so important to New Orleans' offense for years, Paul has transformed his game into more of a shooter and a distributor, which has been nearly as effective.
While Paul's points and assists are each slightly down, his three-point shooting and free throw percentage have improved. With 9.7 assists per game, Paul is still fourth in the NBA in that category and he has been able to avoid turning the ball over at a remarkable rate.
Paul is clearly one of the more valuable players in the league, as New Orleans has remained in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture, despite a mediocre roster.
Now in his 13th year in the NBA, Nowitzki is having one of his best seasons.
Nowitzki is averaging 22.8 points per game on a career-high 52.6 percent shooting. Dallas, 44-16 on the season, showed how valuable Nowitzki is to the team, as the Mavericks went just 2-7 when the German power forward missed time due to a sprained right knee.
Wade may be just the second-best player on his team, but he is absolutely one of the top players in the entire NBA.
This season, Wade is averaging 25.5 points per game and 6.5 assists on a career-high 50 percent shooting. Wade has also played great defense, and he has teamed up with LeBron James to provide arguably the best fast-break combination since Magic and Worthy.
While Miami had extremely high expectations coming into the season, the Heat still deserve credit for being 43-17 with no bench and a combination of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Brendan Haywood starting at center.
Now 32 years old, Bryant is having another great season for the Lakers, who are 43-19 and attempting to win their third consecutive championship.
In reduced minutes this season, Bryant has seen his points decrease slightly, but he is still the NBA leader in points per 48 minutes and continues to play great defense.
Most importantly, Bryant has been at his best in crunch time. We have seen Bryant frequently get off to slow starts prior to turning it on in the fourth quarter and leading several Laker comebacks.
One of the toughest players around, Bryant has not missed a game this season despite injuries to his right pinky and his left ankle.
By just about any other player's standards, LeBron James is having an otherworldly season, currently averaging 26.2 points per game, to go along with 7.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists.
However, the two-time defending MVP, has actually seen his numbers and team winning percentage decline from last season, despite playing with All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
While you can make the argument that James is not one of the most valuable players because his team has other stars besides him, consider that Wade, whose Heat are on pace to win 59 games this season, has never been on a 50-win team other than the two full seasons he played with Shaquille O'Neal in the mid-2000s.
Whereas Boston and Miami combined for seven All-Stars this season, the Bulls had just one: point guard Derrick Rose.
Despite injuries to Boozer and Noah, the Bulls have played consistently well all season long and have a chance to be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Rose, who is the only player in the league this season among the top 10 leaders in points and assists, will likely win the MVP award,
However, Rose's field goal percentage is just 44.5 percent on the season, which ranks him 11th in the league among the 21 point guards that have made at least 3.7 field goals made per team game, which should be considered when MVP votes are casted.
The combination of Howard's size and athleticism makes him nearly unstoppable.
Opponents consistently double- and triple-team Howard in an attempt to prevent him from scoring easily on a given play. When Howard has multiple defenders on him, perimeter shooters are able to get wide open looks on a regular basis.
As a result, the Magic rank first among NBA teams in three-pointers made for the fourth consecutive season.
This season, Howard is averaging a career-high 23.3 points on 59.7 shooting from the floor for the current No. 4 seeded Orlando Magic. It is difficult to fathom the Magic being better than a borderline playoff team without the star center.
Howard is also among the leaders in rebounds and blocks.