With the NBA season hovering around 10% completion, we've had some interesting switches in the power rankings, and now, its time to focus on the running of the league's Most Valuable Player Award. The first edition starts off today:
1] DeMar DeRozan - Toronto Raptors DeMar has been having a spectacular season, well, beyond spectacular to be fully honest. The Raptors are sitting pretty at 7-2, currently tied for second in the Eastern Conference with the Atlanta Hawks and have only lost on two occasions, by three to the Cleveland Cavaliers and an upset loss to the Sacramento Kings. DeMar is averaging 34 points per night and has only hit three from range all season, making the point total even more impressive. Shooting a notch under 53% (52.8), DeRozan also chips in with 4.8 rebounds and three assists per evening. He's also eclipsed 30 points in every game minus the Sacramento loss. Don't expect the stats to stay high, nor for DeRozan to claim this top slot for long.
2] LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers James has the defending champion Cavaliers sitting at a pretty 9-1, and is doing so with a balanced all around game. The 13-year veteran has taken a step back in scoring, at just 22.9 per night (lowest since his rookie campaign of 20.9), but is chipping in with career highs in rebounds (8.9) and assists (9.1). Allowing Kyrie to take the reigns on offense should pay dividends come seasons end, helping reduce fatigue, but his presence is will felt as the Cavaliers are +97 when LeBron is on the court (-30 without him).
3] Chris Paul - Los Angeles Clippers Just looking at raw statistics, Chris Paul shouldn't be in this discussion, as he's averaging just 19.2 points, 8.5 assists 4th in the league) , 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 steals (1st in the league) per game. However, when you look at the fact that Paul is playing just 29.3 minutes a night and turning it over just 1.7 times a game (nearly averaging 5 assists per turnover, and 1.7 steals per turnover), it's quite impressive. Toss in the fact that Paul is hitting 48.5% of his field goal attempts and 47.3% from behind the arc on 5 attempts per game, it's even more eye popping. The Clippers are +186 with Paul on the court (-3 without him), showing how valuable Paul is to the 10-1 Clippers that have four wins by over 25 (including in San Antonio and against Portland/Detroit).
4] James Harden - Houston Rockets Mike D'Antoni's living up to his offensive focused offense, as the Houston Rockets are scoring 107.8 points per night while giving up 104.8 on the other end, en route to a 6-4 start. James Harden has been a key catalyst with his eye-popping numbers in the run-n-gun system. Harden is averaging 30 points per evening, with 13 assists and eight rebounds, all of which are career highs for the two-guard out of Arizona State. He's also shooting just under 50% from the field and 38.6% from range with 9.6 trips to the line on average. However, he is playing 37.9 minutes a night and is averaging 5.7 turnovers. Rockets are +87 with him on the hardwood and -57 when he sits.
5] Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder A four-game skid really hurts Westbrook this early in the MVP Ladder, but there is very little denying the impact he has made thus far, having the Thunder at 6-1 was incredible, while they are still the lone team to defeat the 10-1 Clippers. Averaging 31.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 10.1 assists is on another level, though he does turn it over 5.1 times a ball game. The Thunder are +72 with Westbrook on the court and -68 with him resting.