We're past the quarter pole of the 2011-12 season, but the NBA MVP race seems set on a static path with former winners and a couple young contenders fighting for momentum. Our top three remains static while an injury knocks out No. 4.
We also have a rookie in our NBA MVP Power Rankings for the first time, with Kyrie Irving debuting at No. 9. Kyle Lowry has become more than a nice story as Houston has improved, and his rising rank reflects that.
All stats are through Tuesday's action and via Basketball-Reference.com.
|1.||LeBron James||Heat||28.9 points on .614 TS%, 8.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists||1|
|In Tuesday night's win over Cleveland, James had more field goal attempts than points for the first time all season. impressive for someone who shoots as much as he does. (For the record, Kevin Durant has done the same twice this season, and Kobe Bryant three times.) The Heat offense continues to cook most nights, even without Dwyane Wade, and the defense is elite as well.|
|2.||Kevin Durant||Thunder||25.7 points on .598 TS%, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists||2|
|Oklahoma City is still great, and Russell Westbrook is knocking on the door of the MVP Rankings, which makes Durant more potent, more of a threat. To actually capture the trophy over LeBron, the Thunder need to become the far-and-away best team in the league. There's a lot of season left for that to happen.|
|3.||Kobe Bryant||Lakers||30.5 points on .538 TS%, 5.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists||3|
|Kobe might deserve the MVP more this season than he did in 2008 when he actually won it. (That's not a terribly high threshold.) The Lakers should be the West's No. 2 team given Kobe's stellar play and the performance of Andrew Bynum, but a supporting cast made bad by the Lamar Odom trade is holding them back.|
|4.||Dwight Howard||Magic||19.7 points on .546 TS%, 15.6 rebounds, 2.2 blocks||5|
|Dwight is now the Magic's all-time leading scorer, which sadly removes Nick Anderson from one of his last strongholds in Trivia Land.|
|5.||Kevin Love||Timberwolves||24.9 points on .559 TS%, 13.9 rebounds||6|
|Love is falling off of his Kareem pace (25-15), but 25-14 or 25-13 will do the trick. Something to keep in mind when considering Love's value: the Timberwolves are actually an average team these days! That's no small matter for a club that went 32-132 the past two seasons. Without Love, the Wolves would be back on that sort of pace ... or worse.|
|6.||Derrick Rose||Bulls||20.9 points on .561 TS%, 8.6 assists||7|
|Should the Bulls be forced to play without Luol Deng for a stretch (which isn't obvious thanks to Chicago's Belichickian secrecy on injuries), Rose will become even more important as his offense will be needed to counteract certain defensive slippage. Thankfully, Rose has shown a wonderful ability to step up from his already mammoth production when needed.|
|7.||Kyle Lowry||Rockets||16.5 points on .564 TS%, 8.7 assists, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals||10|
|The Rockets are now reflecting Lowry's genius, riding a hot streak into the playoff seeds. If Lowry and Kevin Martin can carry Houston all of the way into the postseason in Kevin McHale's first full season as a head coach, a whole lot of crow will be eaten around the league.|
|8.||LaMarcus Aldridge||Blazers||22.7 points on .542 TS%, 9.1 rebounds||Unranked|
|The Blazers are stellar at home (8-1) and mediocre on the road (3-6), but it appears that is becoming a more pronounced leaguewide trend this season. For his part, Aldridge has been just fine on the road (23.8 points on 49 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds).|
|9.||Kyrie Irving||Cavaliers||17.4 points on .589 TS%, 4.8 assists||Unranked|
|Let's give the rookie some love: the Cavs look much better than last year's version (which had decent players at point guard in Mo Williams, Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions), and much of that is due to Irving's excellent offensive contributions. The last rookie to score at least 17 points with a True Shooting percentage of .575 or better was Tim Duncan. The last rookie guard to do it? Michael Jordan.|
|10.||Chris Paul||Clippers||17.5 points on .599 TS%, 8.4 assists||4|
|CP3's injury clearly took a toll on L.A., but there are two obvious indicators of the point guard's value in addition to his own stats: the Clippers' record and the Hornets' record. New Orleans could finish with the league's worst mark a year after making the playoffs with CP3 (including playing the stretch run without David West) and the Clips look like a top-4 team in the West.|
Others receiving consideration: Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Greg Monroe, J.J. Hickson.