The stage was set before this season began: this is LeBron’s season. LeBron has the ring so he can play with ease. LeBron quieted the doubters. You get the idea. The best basketball player on the planet had his best season to date and for James it’s only going to continue to get better as he’s in the middle of his prime. There’s no question about it, this season’s MVP trophy is LeBron’s to lose but how much will he have to fight to get it? LeBron is having an excellent season so far statistically (26.4 pts, 6.8 ast, 8.3 reb) with his shooting percentages are also at all time highs but there is an apparent setback. He seems to be in sort of a “cruise control” mode, as silly as that sounds. Just watch the games. I can’t really blame him after the season he had in 2012. Considering all of that, which players around the league can challenge LeBron for the most valuable? No particular order:
Chris Paul: It was only a matter of time before Paul was a serious contender for MVP and this seems to be the season that it finally came to fruition. Paul has led the Clippers to be the best team in LA. Yes, for now, Los Angeles belongs to the Clippers and the western conference seems to be a legitimate toss up between the Clippers and Thunder. I’m very surprised that Paul and Clippers coach Del Negro have been able to adapt to several new role players on the team. The main knock on Paul is that his minutes aren’t heavy enough and he trails Rondo for the league leader in assists. Strong #3 candidate.
Kobe Bryant: I know, I know, the Lakers are in complete disarray right now. 4 games out of the playoffs with a bleak outlook really hurt Kobe’s 2013 resume. Or do they help him? Adrian Peterson factor is in play here. Kobe is probably the only reason the Lakers have a shot at the postseason because of his league-leading 30.2 ppg. Bryan’s Lakers aren’t very good right now but without Black Mamba, they’re probably worse than my Mavericks. Give Kobe the props that he deserves for being such a warrior at his age.
Carmelo Anthony: One of the biggest surprises this season is the Knicks and their ability to keep pace with the Heat for the best record in the eastern conference. It feels like a real team, with real chemistry and the ability to feed off each other. This team’s leader is Anthony and he is having one of his best seasons, especially in terms of scoring, trailing only Kobe by 1 ppg. The issue with Melo can be his health (missed a couple games) but he did bounce back nicely. Also, Melo needs to take his anger out on the basket and not Kevin Garnett (pictured above) after he crosses a line while trash talking. Honey Nut Cheerios anyone?
Kevin Durant: Durant is LeBron’s natural rival and the consensus choice for second best player in the league. He’s also the biggest threat to LeBron’s throne for the MVP. Durant’s Thunder are also the biggest threat to the Heat for the NBA’s crown come postseason time. Durant’s clearly having a jump statistically in his career on the court, finally hitting the elite 50-40-90 percentages from the field club this season. (51.7 FG, 41.4 3pt, 90.3 FT) Add the fact that the Thunder continue to be the top team in the west (or Clips, your choice) after losing James Harden is enough to know that Kevin Durant is giving LeBron his biggest threat for MVP. Going to be great to watch post all-star break.