As the NBA season reaches its halfway point, there’s no shortage of candidates for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Defending MVP LeBron James is having another sensational season, but he’s far from a sure thing to take home the trophy this year.
These five players are making the best cases for MVP honors in 2012-13:
5. Tim Duncan, Spurs
At the ripe old age of 36, Tim Duncan just keeps rolling along as one of the top big men in the league. He’s 12th in the NBA with 9.8 rebounds per game, not to mention third with 2.8 blocks a night.
Add in Duncan’s 17.5 points per game, and there’s little question about how much he’s doing for the Spurs. Considering that San Antonio holds the league’s best record at 36-11, even Duncan’s lack of flair shouldn’t keep him from earning serious MVP consideration.
4. Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
Although they’ve cooled off considerably since an improbably fast start, the Knicks are still one of the leading contenders in the Eastern Conference. Without Carmelo Anthony, though, New York (10th of 30 teams in the NBA in scoring) would barely have any offense at all.
Melo is pouring in 29.4 points per game, the second-best mark in the NBA at this writing and nearly double the next-best Knick (J.R. Smith). His other numbers aren’t terribly impressive, and his defense can be downright bad, but an unstoppable scorer for a division leader is hard to ignore in the MVP voting.
3. LeBron James, Heat
Even by LeBron James’ high standards, he’s having a remarkable season in 2012-13. He’s on pace for a career high in rebounds (8.3 per game), a Miami career high in assists (7.1 a night) and he’s still fourth in the league in scoring (26.6 points per contest).
The obstacles to James’ candidacy are two-fold. First, the fact that he already has three MVP awards works against him, as his two toughest competitors have never received that prize. Second, Miami (even as the best team in the East) only stands fifth in the NBA with a 28-13 record.
2. Chris Paul, Clippers
The L.A. Clippers have been one of the NBA’s most exciting teams since the moment Blake Griffin arrived, and now they’re one of its most successful teams, too. At 33-13, Los Angeles is the third-best team in the league, and both its winning performance and its offensive fireworks owe a great deal to Chris Paul.
L.A.’s point guard ranks second in the NBA with 9.7 assists a night, and he leads the league in steals (2.6 per game) to boot. He’s a formidable scorer, too, averaging 16.6 points per contest.
1. Kevin Durant, Thunder
Scoring titles are old news for Kevin Durant, who’s well on his way to winning his fourth straight with 29.6 points per game. His status as MVP favorite, though, has a lot more to do with the numbers his team has put up in the win column.
The defending Western Conference champs are 34-11, the second-best record in basketball, in spite of the preseason trade that cost them super-sub James Harden. Durant is not only leading that effort, he’s making his teammates better, handing out a career-high 4.4 assists per game.