8 Players Who Will Battle for the NBA MVP This Season

Aaron Jacobs@@AaronAJacobsContributor IIIDecember 21, 2011

8 Players Who Will Battle for the NBA MVP This Season

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    The NBA season tips off this weekend, and it is going to be an interesting season to watch with all of the new moves that have happened, as well as a shortened preseason and training camp. 

    Every team comes into this season with the same concerns as well. A shortened season with a very condensed schedule means that every team will have to play back-to-back-to-back sets of games at some point in the season.

    Here are some of the preseason MVP hopefuls who will look to lead their teams to the NBA championship this season.

    I added more to this article so that we can take a look at more candidates, but just to specify the dark horses are guys who would have to put up unbelievable numbers and bring their teams to playoff berths and title contention.

Derrick Rose

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    Derrick Rose is the reigning NBA MVP, and there was no question why Rose took home the award last season.

    The Chicago-born point guard averaged 25.0 points per game last season and also averaged 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. He ranked in the top 10 in both points per game and assists per game.

    The 22-year-old was the youngest player to ever win the MVP award. 

    Rose led the Chicago Bulls to a 62-20 record last season, which gave them the No. 1 seed in the East and the playoffs. Although the Bulls were defeated in the conference finals by the Miami Heat, Rose led the Bulls past the Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks despite having an injured ankle. 

    Despite his injury, Rose put the Bulls on his back and almost led them to an NBA championship. Many would argue that the reason for the Bulls' loss in the playoffs was the lack of help Rose received from teammates.

    Without Rose, the Bulls would not be a top-five team in the East, and that is what makes an MVP.

Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant has been the NBA's scoring leader the past two seasons, and some would argue for him being a contender for the NBA MVP last season. Those same people say this season the trophy will be Durant's to lose.

    In 2011, Durant averaged 27.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder were another team that was defeated in the conference finals last season, falling to the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder will be a favorite in the Western Conference this season because the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers have both lost pieces and aren't getting any younger. The Thunder have one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and a 66-game schedule favors a young team with a deep bench.

    Kevin Durant is the player whom many experts are saying will be the NBA MVP this season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are also a favorite to win the NBA title this season.

Dwyane Wade

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    Dwyane Wade is the best overall player in the NBA today, hands down. Wade has the talent to win the MVP, and that is obvious because, back in 2005-2006, he was the NBA Finals MVP.

    During the 2010-2011 season, Wade was joined by back-to-back MVP LeBron James and All-Star Chris Bosh. Despite all of the superstars on the Miami Heat, Wade still averaged 25.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game last season.

    The "Big Three" will be together for the second season after a season filled with growing pains. The Miami Heat still made the NBA Finals last season, falling short to the Dallas Mavericks.

    Wade is the leader on this team. Expect similar numbers, perhaps even slightly better, to last season and Wade to be in the thick of things in the MVP race this season.

LeBron James

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    LeBron James is the most talented player in the MVP race and has physical tools unlike anyone in the NBA today.

    LeBron's biggest problem is that he can't seem to have an impact when it matters most, when his team is backed against the wall or when he needs to make the final shot.

    The numbers for LeBron are impressive: 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. LeBron is a ferocious defender and has a great overall game. There has been much talk about LeBron working with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon on his post-up game, which he has showed off this preseason.

    LeBron will not have to lead his team in scoring because he plays with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but he should average close to a triple-double (not literally, but have a well-rounded season) again this upcoming season and will be in consideration for his third MVP title.

Chris Paul

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    Chris Paul is considered the best point guard in the NBA today. This is because if you break down the point guard position, prototypical point guards are supposed to be facilitators and make everyone around them better.

    With this trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Paul will have a better team around him, and his numbers could skyrocket.

    As a member of the New Orleans Hornets, Paul averaged 15.9 points, 9.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game last season. When you read into these numbers, you must take into consideration the fact that Paul had little to no talent around him in New Orleans except David West.

    With the Clippers, Paul will probably average 15.5 alley-oops per game considering he will be setting up Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Also, the Clippers acquired Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups to play alongside Paul.

    Chris Paul will probably not have to score much this season, but his assist numbers could improve from last season, and if the Clippers can play as well as they look on paper, then Paul will be in contention for NBA MVP this upcoming season.

Dark Horse No. 1: Dwight Howard

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    I'm going to put Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard as a dark horse for the MVP only because we don't know how long he is going to be the the Orlando Magic.

    If Howard got his wish, he would be traded to another team, like the New Jersey Nets or the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Could anyone else imagine the combination of Deron Williams and Dwight Howard? That would be as deadly a duo as there is in all of the NBA.

    Howard's numbers speak volumes about the type of player he is: He averaged 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Howard is the top center and top defensive player in the NBA today.

    After much consideration I felt he needed to be added to the list because he is one of the best players in the NBA, and if he gets traded his chances of an MVP award will skyrocket.

Dark Horse No. 2: Carmelo Anthony

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    New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony is another sleeper who could make his way into the MVP discussion this season.

    Last year with the Denver Nuggets/New York Knicks, 'Melo averaged 25.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

    Anthony is one of the best scorers in the NBA today, but that's it—he is a scorer. Carmelo needs to pick up his defense in order to be a legitimate contender for the NBA MVP award.

    Another part of Anthony's game that needs to improve is his passing. Carmelo needs to come away from the isolation game just a little bit and become a better teammate by making everyone else better. He doesn't need to put up double-digit assists, but he should look to improve that number to around five to six assists per game—then he will be in elite company.

    Considering Anthony will play "point-forward" for the Knicks this season, the assist total should improve this year. But that is easier said than done, because watching Anthony you can tell he still favors that isolation game. If he can get away from that, though, and become a true leader for the Knicks, he could be in contention for an MVP award.

Dark Horse No. 3: Blake Griffin

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    Blake Griffin played his first NBA season last year and played like a stud for a losing team.

    Griffin's numbers for the season: 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game. He won Rookie of the Year in what was supposed to be his sophomore season; regardless, those numbers are mind-boggling.

    Griffin was dunking over everything and everyone in his path last season, and he will continue to improve, as he is only 22 years old. Being on a team with a true center in DeAndre Jordan and now Chris Paul running the point, Griffin's stats could soar from a season ago.

    He will be a dark horse for MVP, but watch out—he will be in the hunt.