The lock out condensed 2011-2012 NBA season is winding down, just as the Most Valuable Player race is starting to heat up. The playoffs are under a month away, and most teams have fewer than 20 games left on their schedule. The next few weeks will go a long way in deciding a winner in this years wide open MVP race. Here are the top candidates and cases for and against their MVP campaign (in no particular order).
Lebron James: PPG: 27.2, RPG: 8.5, APG: 6.6, BLKPG: 0.9 STLPG: 1.9, FG%: .541. FT%: .762, PER: 31.69 (Heat Record: 34-11)
Why he should win: Lebron is quietly having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history. I am not a believer that statistics are the end all be all when judging a player, but his numbers are hard to ignore. Lebron does more for his team than any other player in the NBA. His rebound, assist and steals production are almost mind boggling and he is doing it all while shoot 51.4 percent from the field.
Why he shouldn’t: Lebron is probably a dream case for any sports psychologist. He is unequivocally the most talented player in the game but is quickly building a reputation as a player that cracks under pressure. His issues with late game free throws and unwillingness to take game winning shots are beginning to haunt him at the end of games.
It’s difficult to make a case for Lebron as the league MVP when his is so willing to defer and is probably not even the best player on his team (that distinction goes to Dwyane Wade in many peoples eyes).
Kobe Bryant: PPG: 28.7, RPG: 5.6, APG: 4.7, BLKPG: 0.4, STLPG: 1.3, FG%: .431 FT%: .844, PER: 23.00 (Lakers Record: 29-18)
Why he should win: Kobe Bryant’s season seems to be the exact opposite of Lebron’s. While Bryant’s is not having a statistically great season, he continues to be the driving force behind a resurging Lakers team. Bryant continues to play through every injury imaginable and does so with a shrug and a grin. It’s hard to imaging Bryant deferring to anyone in a late game situation. His attitude and work ethic are exactly the qualities that MVP players should have.
Why he shouldn’t: Kobe’s strongest qualities are also his worst. He shooting .43 percent from the field, and has recently produced some of the most horrendous shooting performances of his career. There are games when Bryant’s tenacity and unwillingness to back down are detriments to the Lakers. Bryant should learn how to ride his work horse (Andrew Bynum) a little more.
Kevin Durant: PPG: 27.6, RPG: 7.9, APG: 3.4, BLKPG: 1.2, STLPG: 1.4, FG%: .496, FT%: .850 PER: 26.45 (Thunder Record: 35-12)
Why he should win: Kevin Durant used this year’s All-Star game to announce that he was ready to start winning awards. He has led the Thunder to the best record in the Western Conference and favorite to make the Finals, two short years after making it to the playoffs as an eight seed. Durant may be the ‘surest’ two points in the league, and has all the talent and skills to be a mainstay on the MVP list for years to come.
Why shouldn’t: Two words: Russell Westbrook. Durant has been too willing to let Westbrook take over the team during key moments in games. Durant is only averaging 0.4 more shot attempts per game than point guard Westbrook is. Durant needs to figure out the leadership pecking order in Oklahoma before he can be considered as a serious MVP candidate.
Kevin Love: PPG: 25.7, RPG: 13.7, APG: 1.9, BLKPG: 0.4, STLPG: 0.9, FG%: .447, FT%: .815, PER: 24.62 (Timberwolves Record: 23-25)
Chris Paul: PPG: 19.4, RPG: 3.5, APG: 8.5, BLKPG: 0.1, STLPG: 2.4, FG%: .484, FT%: .857, PER: 26.35 (Clippers Record: 26-21)