We're barreling through the NBA season at a quick pace -- All-Star ballots are already out, most teams are 9-10 games in -- so it's time to begin taking stock of the MVP race with SBNation.com's NBA MVP Power Rankings. This week's edition is made up of the personal opinion of yours truly, whose judgment on such matters is infallible. See Dwight Howard's win in 2011, Chris Paul's win in 2008 and Shaq's win in 2004 for evidence.
Let's dig in. All stats are through Monday's action.
|1.||LeBron James||Heat||30.1 points on .659 TS%, 7.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists||--|
|His late foibles against the Warriors on Tuesday aside, LeBron has been bar none the league's best player this season. He's scoring more and doing so more efficiently while providing the world class defense, playmaking and rebounding we've become accustomed to. He's working out of the post more frequently, taking fewer threes and generally doing everything the majority has wished he do. That's paying off: if voting was held right now, there's no chance LeBron would fail to win the MVP award.|
|2.||Kevin Durant||Thunder||25.7 points on .595 TS%, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists||--|
|Durant is playing as well as he ever has, which is saying something. The scorer's points are down as he attempts to play a more complete floor game -- that's where the 3.5 assists, up 30 percent over last season, come from -- but he remains the efficient leader for a great Oklahoma City attack.|
|3.||Dwight Howard||Magic||18.6 points on .572 TS%, 14.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks||--|
|Howard's scoring is also down, but the Magic center is doing what he's always done: defending the paint better than anyone else in the NBA. Orlando is No. 9 in defense despite, per usual, a supporting cast around Howard known much, much more for their offense. Barring injury, Howard should win his fourth straight Defensive Player of the Year award, because no one is stepping up to take it from him.|
|4.||Kevin Love||Wolves||24.0 points on .568 TS%, 14.9 rebounds||--|
|Love plays for a team that won't sniff the playoffs, but you can't ignore his incredible production. Love has stretched out his impact on offense, taking more three-pointers than ever, while still hitting the offensive glass hard. He'll jockey with Howard for the rebound title, finish top-10 in scoring on efficient shooting and ... still be really, really bad defensively.|
|5.||LaMarcus Aldridge||Blazers||22.6 points on .536 TS%, 7.8 rebounds||--|
|Aldridge, on the other hand, is a strong defender, which helps him make up for underwhelming rebounding (even when you account that he's playing between two glass hellions in Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace) and lower than average efficiency. But LMA is the most powerful force on a Blazers team to be reckoned with, and he's jockeying with Love for the title of next best power forward (once Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol ride off into the sunset, which might be sooner than you think).|
|6.||Kobe Bryant||Lakers||27.6 points on .521 TS%, 6.1 assists, 5.8 rebounds||--|
|Kobe's magical 48-point performance on Tuesday reminds us that, yes, this dude is really something else. His efficiency is problematic for a Lakers offense that should be at the tip-top of the league given the presence of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but Bryant is actually passing well, rebounding and defending hard. Consider that with Derek Fisher and Steve Blake manning the point, Kobe is basically playing point guard and shooting guard out there. In that respect, he's probably not taking enough shots for the two positions!|
|7.||Derrick Rose||Bulls||19.7 points on .562 TS%, 8.4 assists||--|
|The reigning MVP has been more selective with his shot, and it's working for an improved Bulls offense. He'll never produce Nashian assist levels, but sliding above eight per game for the first time in his career means good things for a more balanced Chicago attack. Lowering his shooting load also serves to boost the quality of his shots, which increases his efficiency. This is a nice development for Rose, and the opposite of what usually happens to MVPs.|
|8.||Chris Bosh||Heat||20.1 points on .589 TS%, 8.2 rebounds||--|
|Bosh is quietly having a monster season in Miami, and he's in that clan with Love and Aldridge among the heirs of Dirk and Pau. He's been better than Dwyane Wade this season, and not just because the guard has missed some games due to injury. There's no question Bosh is on the path back to the All-Star Game, and he looks like a strong early candidate for the All-NBA second team over guys like Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.|
|9.||James Harden||Thunder||17.8 points on .663 TS%, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists||--|
|Harden won't likely stay on this list for long, but geez. He's scoring almost 18 points per game on 10 field goal attempts ... plus he's defending, rebounding and making plays for others as a de-facto backup point guard. He is basically a young, healthy Manu Ginobili right now. Just an absolute joy to watch.|
|10.||Josh Smith||Hawks||15.6 points on .505 TS%, 8.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.8 blocks||--|
|The Pacers, Hawks and 76ers all deserve a spot on this list, but balanced attacks and strong team defenses tend to deflate the stocks of all. So we'll give the last spot to Josh Smith, who has been a good Atlanta team's best player to date. He's No. 2 on the team in scoring, No. 1 in rebounding, No. 3 in assists, No. 2 in steals and No. 1 in blocks. Basically, he's being very Josh Smith right now. If only he could improve his shooting percentages ...|
Others receiving consideration: Ty Lawson, Thaddeus Young, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony.