The NBA MVP race continues to be neck-and-neck and will be for the rest of the season. This week, it's James Harden narrowly taking the top spot ahead of Stephen Curry after Curry led last week. Anthony Davis isn't far behind, but a familiar face has charged back into the conversation.
1. James Harden (Last week: 2)
If you want to argue for Curry because the Rockets lost all four games to the Warriors this season by double-digits, go ahead. Curry vs. Harden is splitting hairs, so I'd have no problem with Curry winning the award. He's been No. 1 on these rankings the majority of the year.
But Harden is having an otherworldly season and it wasn't his fault Houston lost to Golden State in the fourth and final meeting of the year last week. The Rockets' shooting guard poured in 33 points in 32 minutes, but he got little help in an ugly loss. In the last two games combined after the loss to the Warriors, Harden put up 70 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds. He also did this:
Harden is putting up career-best numbers in points, assists and rebounds, and his efficiency has picked up in a big way after a slow start. In January, he's shooting better than 49 percent overall and nearly 44 percent from three.
The Rockets are a disaster offensively when Harden sits, and Houston is 31-14 despite a slew of key injuries. Mix all this together, and I like Harden at No. 1 for now.
2. Stephen Curry (Last week: 1)
It feels blasphemous to drop Curry here, because he's the stud point guard of the best team in the league. He's one of the NBA's most dangerous shooters who is also handing out over eight assists per game. He makes the Warriors go.
But one could argue Curry hasn't even been the best player on his team this month. That honor goes to Klay Thompson, who's having an outrageous January. It's true that playing with Curry helps Thompson a great deal, but Thompson and the rest of the talented Warriors also help Curry. Harden doesn't have the same depth of talent around him in Houston and he has been far and away the best player on the Rockets this season.
3. Anthony Davis (Last week: 3)
Hey look! The Pelicans have won four games in a row and are 24-21, which is just 1.5 games behind the Suns for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Sure, three of those wins came against the 76ers, Timberwolves and Lakers, but there was also an impressive victory over the Mavericks in which Davis had 28 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. New Orleans is 15-5 at home on the season, which is good for the fourth-best home record in the West.
Davis continues to put up monster numbers, as his PER is a tick below 32. If the Pelicans keep playing well and sneak into the playoff picture, he has a chance to move up in these rankings.
4. LeBron James (Last week: 7)
James returned to the top 10 of the MVP Rankings last week, but now he's really back in the thick of things. Since a loss to the Suns in James's first game back in the lineup, the Cavaliers have won six straight games. That includes victories over the Clippers, Bulls and Thunder.
James has averaged 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists in January while shooting more than 51 percent from the field, and as long as he stays healthy, Cleveland is a contender in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers are 24-12 when he's in the lineup and just 1-8 when he sits. Yeah, I'd say he's quite valuable.
5. John Wall (Last week: 4)
Wall played well over the last week, notching two double-doubles and putting up 25 points and nine assists in a third game. However, the Wizards lost two out of those three games and Wall went just 6-of-17 in an overtime loss to the Thunder.
Still, Wall is shooting over 46 percent on the year, which would be a career high. He also continues to be a wizard (pun intended) passing the ball, as his 10.2 assists lead the league.
6. Marc Gasol (Last week: 5)
Gasol was quiet in the Grizzlies' last two games, but he delivered an MVP-type performance in a victory over the Raptors last Wednesday. The big man had 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the win, and he helped anchor a stellar defensive performance in which Memphis held Toronto to just 86 points.
And while it's clear Gasol has a nice career going in this basketball business, perhaps he could have a future in soccer as well:
7. Klay Thompson (Last week: 8)
There are no words for this:
Thompson's 37-point third-quarter against the Kings over the weekend was historic and is the highlight of what has been the best month of his career. The shooting guard is putting up more than 27 points per game in January while shooting nearly 55 percent overall and over 53 percent from three.
For the season, Thompson is at nearly 23 points per game on 48 percent shooting overall and nearly 46 percent from deep. One has to wonder if there's some regression coming, but this has been a fun ride.
8. Jeff Teague (Last week: 9)
The Hawks keep winning and Teague keeps playing well. The point guard didn't have any standout games last week, but he stayed remarkably consistent in three more victories. He had games of 17 points and 11 assists; 17 points and nine assists; and 15 points and seven assists.
Teague also had the dagger steal and slam in a victory over the Thunder:
9. LaMarcus Aldridge (Last week: 13)
Things looked bleak for Aldridge and the Trail Blazers last week. Aldridge was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his left thumb, and surgery was set to sideline him for six-to-eight weeks. Meanwhile, Portland lost games to Phoenix and Boston with Aldridge out of the lineup. The Blazers were already dealing with an injury to Robin Lopez, and making matters worse was the fact that Nicolas Batum re-aggravated a wrist injury. With Aldridge about to hit the pine as well, Portland may have been in some trouble.
But instead of opting for the recommended surgery, Aldridge decided to try and play through the pain. In his first game playing with the injury, the big man had 26 points and nine rebounds in a big win over the Washington. Whether Aldridge can keep up that type of play with his injury remains to be seen, but for now, he gets a spot in the top 10.
10. Blake Griffin (Last week: 11)
Griffin has helped the Clippers quietly become the most efficient offensive team in the NBA. Los Angeles is putting up 111 points per 100 possessions this season, which is two-tenths of a point better than Dallas, per NBA.com.
Griffin's scoring is a big part of this, and he's averaging more than 23 points on nearly 55 percent shooting in January. But more impressive than his scoring is his playmaking. The 25-year-old has always been a plus passer for a big man, but he has taken it to a whole new level this season. He's handing out over five assists per game on the year, including exactly six assists per game in December.
Next five: Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Al Horford, Chris Paul