2010-2011 NBA MVP Award: Contenders and Pretenders

Michael CahillCorrespondent IDecember 25, 2010

2010-2011 NBA MVP Award: Contenders and Pretenders

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    Sure, the NBA season is still young, but it’s not too early to start looking at the MVP race.

    By this time every year guys have either made a push for the trophy or they’ve eliminated themselves from the race.

    So let’s take a look at the usual suspects, as well as some new additions to the race, and decide if they are contenders or pretenders for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. 

10. Lebron James PF, Miami Heat

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    PHOENIX - DECEMBER 23:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat throws chalk into the air before the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 23, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Heat defeated the Suns 95-83.  NOTE TO USER: User expressl
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Case:

    Well, he has won it twice and, with the exception of Kobe, he’s the league’s best player.

    While there are those critics out there who thought LBJ’s statistics would suffer playing with the Miami Thrice, he’s posted averages of 24, 6, 7. That is in line with his career averages and they were good enough to get him the Trophy before.

    If the award is given to the “best” player, then there is no reason why James shouldn’t be in the running.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Pretender.

    James won’t win it. Bosh and Wade weaken his case. No one will believe in his true value on a team with such talented wing men.

9. Amar'e Stoudemire C/PF, New York Knicks

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    NEW YORK - DECEMBER 22:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks in action against  the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden on December 22, 2010 in New York, New York.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Case:

    It’s hard to ignore the production the Knicks' have gotten out of Stoudemire.

    There were those that thought he’d suffer now that he wouldn’t have Steve Nash to dish him the ball. However, Amar'e is proving (at this point anyway) that he was worthy of his max contract. Not only has he been the best player on the team by leaps and bounds, but he’s making New York relevant again.

    He’s been the leader to his team and he’s been a finisher, something he never was in Phoenix.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Contender.

    Look, the basketball world loves nothing more than when the Knicks are relevant. Amar'e has been nothing short of sensational. This award is about value and the Knicks would be a joke if it weren’t for Amar'e.

    As long as he keeps playing this well, he’ll stay in the discussion. 

8. Kobe Bryant SG, Los Angeles Lakers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at Staples Center on December 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Bucks defeated the Lakers 98-79. NOTE TO USER: Use
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Case:

    Kobe, in the minds of many, is the best player in the league.

    There is no better closer in a big game than Kobe and he should have much more MVP hardware than he does.  Again he’s right in line with his career averages in points and assists.

    As good as the Lakers' supporting cast is, they aren’t nearly as good without him.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Pretender.

    Kobe has a way of getting lost in the shuffle of the MVP race. He doesn’t play with the same kind of flash he used to and I think that hurts him. Also, his teams are so good that his contributions aren’t looked at with the same importance.

    Ultimately, Kobe won’t care as long as he has a sixth ring when the season ends. 

7. Rajon Rondo PG, Boston Celtics

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 11:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on December 11, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Case:

    He’s averaging 13 assists a game and is the floor general for the Eastern Conference’s best team.

    He’s averaging better than his career numbers in every category. He has turned into the teams most consistent performer and the guy the Celtics are going to build around for the future.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Pretender.

    While Rondo has been impressive, to say the least, he’s only averaging 11 points a game and his great play gets swallowed up on a team with four Hall of Famers. Rondo could win the award someday.

    It just won’t be this season.

6. Steve Nash PG, Phoenix Suns

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    PHOENIX - DECEMBER 15:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at US Airways Center on December 15, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Case:

    He’s averaging better than his career average in assists and points per game. He’s been, far and away, the best player on a rebuilding team. The fact that he’s doing it at 36 says a lot.

    If Phoenix finds a way to make themselves at all relevant in the West, you could make a strong case for him getting the award.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Pretender.

    While Nash is still one of the best point guards in the league today, he’s on a go-nowhere team and that will cost him any chance he’d have at winning another MVP.

5. Dwight Howard C, Orlando Magic

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 18:  Dwight Hoawrd #12 of the Orlando Magic grabs a rebound over Spencer Hawes #00 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the game at Amway Arena on December 18, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Case:

    Howard is the league's best defenders and is a guaranteed double-double every night.

    Teams have no defense for him and he’s pivotal to Orlando's success. That says a lot because, with him, they are a threat to go to the NBA Finals. Without Howard, they would struggle just to get into the playoffs.

    There is no better value to a team than that.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Contender.

    If the Magic continue to struggle this will seem foolish, but if they turn it around, you’ll have to consider him seriously for the award. He spent some time with Hakeen Olajuwon during the off-season to improve his game and it’s paying off in the low post.

    The Magic should make a serious run and Howard will get serious consideration. 

4. Dirk Nowitzki PF, Dallas Mavericks

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    DALLAS - NOVEMBER 27: Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots over Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat on November 27, 2010 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading an
    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    The Case:

    Quick, name me three other Dallas Mavericks.

    You probably said Jason Kidd and then paused for second to think of someone else. That’s because Dirk is the centerpiece of this very good team. Already this season Dallas has quality wins over Boston, Miami, LA, New Orleans and San Antonio.

    Dirk is playing fantastic too.  He’s averaging 24 points and 7 rebounds. He’s been the best player by a mile on the best team. The MVP is usually decided on that criteria.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Both.

    If he continues to play this well, he’ll be deserving of being in the conversation for MVP.

    However, the only time he won the award, Dallas was bounced in the first round of the playoffs with a stunning upset against eighth seed Golden State. Voters remember that and regretted their decision. That will affect their voting. 

3. Derrick Rose, PG Chicago Bulls

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 10: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives against the Los Angeles Lakers at the United Center on December 10, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Lakers 88-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Case:

    Rose has been one of the top players in the NBA since the start of the season.

    The Bulls' point guard has been averaging above his career highs in points, rebounds and assists. At 24-4-8, he has been the best player on a surprisingly good team. With Noah out, expect Rose to carry much of the load.

    If the Bulls can find a way to sneak into the three seed in the Eastern Conference, it’ll be because Rose played like an MVP.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Contender.

    Rose has been ready to take that next step since last year and this year the rest of the world will see that. He may not win it, but expect him to be in the discussion at the end of the season. 

2. Kevin Durant SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    NEW YORK - DECEMBER 22:  Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on December 22, 2010 in New York, New York.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/o
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Case:

    He is leading the league in scoring (again) and his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, is expected to challenge the Lakers for their top spot in the Western Conference.

    His game is as sound as it gets and he’s one of the few guys in the NBA that can carry a team for several games at a time.

    Contender or Pretender:

    Contender.

    There were many who thought he was worthy of it last year (had Lebron James not been playing), so expect him to be in the top two when the voting goes down. 

1. Deron Williams PG, Utah Jazz

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    SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 8:  Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz drives the ball down court during a game against the Miami Heat during the second half of an NBA game December 8, 2010 at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Heat beat th
    George Frey/Getty Images

    The Case:

    22 points and 9 assists per game are great numbers for probably the best point guard in the game.

    While Al Jefferson is a good young player, Williams doesn’t have the help of a great second banana like Rose, Bryant, Rondo, James and Durant do. He makes everyone around him better and his size makes him a match up nightmare for the rest of the league.   

    Contender or Pretender:

    Contender.

    If you had to bet now, he might be the odds on favorite. Williams' play has been other-worldly this season and this could be the year he takes it.