NBA MVP Power Rankings: LeBron James, Kevin Durant Still On Top, But Kobe Bryant Lurks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 10: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reverse dunks over Grant Hill #33 and Marcin Gortat #4 of the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on January 10, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 99-83. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

In the second edition of the SBNation.com NBA MVP Power Rankings, LeBron James and Kevin Durant keep their positions on top, but Kobe Bryant makes a real push in that direction.

Our second SBNation.com NBA MVP Power Rankings look quite similar to last week's edition at the top, but a certain star scorer with five rings has jumped up the table, and we have three new additions, one of whom debuts at No. 4. While it's a long march to the trophy presentation, we're quite nearly a quarter of the way into the season already. In another month, the season's narratives will be in place ... so get on the train early.

All stats are through Monday's action and via Basketball-Reference.com.

Rk Player Team Stats Prev.
1. LeBron James Heat 29.5 points on .633 TS%, 8.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists 1
Miami cooled off quite a bit on the road, and guess what: LeBron is still the best. His numbers remain out of this universe, and while his team's offense is far from perfect, it's still among the best in the world. If you grade LeBron against his contemporaries, he's an easy leader for MVP at this point. It's only when you grade him against what you think he should be that he looks like a failure based on the season to date.
2. Kevin Durant Thunder 26.0 points on .609 TS%, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists 2
Durant had a strong week for hot Oklahoma City, and would have taken over No. 1 if opposed by a fellow mere mortal. Durant is easily the league's best scorer not named LeBron, and the true Second Coming of George Gervin. If he could raise his free throw shooting to elite level, he'd be the first 50/40/90 (FG%/3P%/FT%) on 30 points guy since Larry Bird. Very few players can do that at the 20-point level.
3. Kobe Bryant Lakers 30.8 points on .538 TS%, 5.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists 6
Kobe had an incredible week, with four straight 40-point games and, once that streak ended, a game-winning assist to Derek Fisher on Monday to beat the defending champs. The point totals are gaudy, and Kobe is rebounding and racking up assists at great rates. He's leading smart men like Chris Sheridan to say things like, "Kobe Bryant is the hands-down MVP of the NBA right now." Sure, Kobe scores one extra point over LeBron on five extra shooting possessions with two fewer rebounds and assists, worse defense for a team with a worse record and a comparable supporting cast given Dwyane Wade's injury. Hands down.
4. Chris Paul Clippers 18.0 points on .599 TS%, 8.4 assists Unranked
CP3's shooting has stabilized, and he's offering the Clippers enough backcourt scoring punch to make this a candidate for the league's best offense by the team the season wraps. The high-flying attack we were promised hasn't quite come through as Paul is much more focused on delivering as few mistakes as possible (2.2 turnovers per game) vs. leading every highlight reel. But the results on the court speak for themselves.
5. Dwight Howard Magic 19.4 points on .559 TS%, 14.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks 3
Howard has been the league's most terrifying post presence on offense -- he draws more double-teams than any big man since Shaq in his heyday -- and is a monster on the boards and in help defense, per usual. But he's also been great at moving the ball quickly to make help defenders pay. What hurts Howard here is that the Orlando defense isn't up to its standard. We'd thought Dwight was so good defensively that he could carry four bad defenders to a top-10 rating. Is Ryan Anderson too porous?
6. Kevin Love Timberwolves 25.6 points on .573 TS%, 14.3 rebounds 4
Love has continued to lead the Wolves to some minor success as Michael Beasley (bless his heart) sits. An interesting wrinkle about Love's brilliant inside-out game: only four players -- Love, Kobe, Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- are taking at least four three-pointers and seven free throws per game. Love's shot sources (two-pointers, threes and FTs) are shockingly similar to those of Durant.
7. Derrick Rose Bulls 20.8 points on .555 TS%, 8.7 assists 7
The MVP shouldn't be awarded based in any part on how teams fare when a great player sits; this is how Stephen Jackson ends up with votes. Teams like the Bulls rely so heavily on Rose on offense that of course their attack would be discombobulated when he sits to nurse an injury. But when Rose has been on the floor, he's been better than last season (no small feat), and Chicago has looked rather unbeatable.
8. Josh Smith Hawks 17.0 points on .518 TS%, 9.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.4 blocks 10
I refuse to apologize for thinking that Josh Smith's all-around game deserves more attention. His shooting remains iffy, but he is giving Atlanta just about everything that it needs and is a big reason the Hawks appear to be staying afloat without Al Horford.
9. Andrew Bynum Lakers 16.5 points on .545 TS%, 13.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks Unranked
Bynum has appeared in enough games now to make this list. He's unquestionably been the West's best center (sorry, Marcin) and while his offense can't match Love in versatility, you can imagine he'd creep up in production if Kobe would defer just a little more. Bynum's defense should stand out more as the season rolls on.
10. Kyle Lowry Rockets 17.6 points on .576 TS%, 9.0 assists, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals Unranked
Lowry is the Josh Smith of point guards, which is amazing as it sounds like it would be. As Houston creeps up the standings, it's largely due to Lowry, who has looked a helluva lot better than Mike Conley (who replaced him in Memphis). But Conley shouldn't feel bad, because Lowry has also looked better than Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Tyreke Evans and often Russell Westbrook. Samuel Dalembert and Kevin Martin deserve some credit for Houston's push, but Lowry gets the lion's share in my book.

Others receiving consideration: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin, Greg Monroe, Kyrie Irving, John Salmons.

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