1A) James Harden, PG, HOU (31.6 ppg)
The third overall pick in the 2009 draft continues to impress as his team maintains a one game lead over the Warriors for the #1 seed in the West. He’s one of the most gifted scorers in recent memory, and is a good bet to average over 30 ppg for the season, something only KD and Steph Curry have done in the past 8 years. This year, his stellar play is actually turning into more wins and the Rockets look like a legit threat to the Warriors. Rumors have been swirling that LeBron might be interested in joining the Rockets next year. That would make for some great WCFinals in the years to come.
1B) LeBron James, SF, CLE (28.2 ppg)
It was difficult to choose between LeBron and Harden and it didn’t feel right to rank either one as #2. He’s just behind Harden in PPG and ASG, but he has the clear edge in rebounds. Similar to Harden, he’s been missing his co-point guard (Isaiah Thomas), but he’s also been without Tristan Thompson. A lot has been said about his high usage (37.2 minutes per game), and we’ll see if he remains healthy and effective all year. If anyone can withstand the test of a long season, it’s LeBron. If the Cavs are able to catch the Celtics in the East, LeBron will have a good shot at the MVP given how little help he’s had so far.
Kyrie doesn’t crack the top 5 of any major stat category, but as I’ve said before, a lot of what he does won’t appear on the stat sheet. For example, he’s been the most clutch player in basketball this year, consistently keeping the Celtics ahead in late games. His ability to get to the basket, contort his body to avoid getting blocked, and draw contact gets other teams’ key players into foul trouble. He’s shooting 87.6% from the line and he rarely turns the ball over. He’s clearly had a positive impact on his teammates and the Celtics have played enough games to know their early season success was no fluke. It will be tough for him to surpass the two top dogs for MVP, but more clutch shots in big games will keep him in the conversation.
The Greak Freak is having a monster season. It’s clear to me he is the heir-apparent to LeBron James as the best player in the league. He’s only 23, so I expect all his stats to increase in the next few years. Could you imagine a season where he averages 31/11/6? Those are Hall of Fame numbers and they’re absolutely within reach for him. He’ll get a couple MVPs before all is said and done, but to pull one out this year, the Bucks will need to play a lot better. They’re 15-11 right now which is good, but they’re not seen as a legit threat, even in the weak Eastern Conference. If they’re able to heat up and challenge BOS/CLE/TOR for a top 2 seed, then he will have a shot at the MVP.