Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard leaps over Chris Paul in this week’s “NBA MVP Watch” here at TSJ after leading the Magic to eight wins in their last nine while posting his usual monster numbers. The Hornets are struggling mightily at the moment and, just as New Orleans has tumbled in the rankings, so too does Paul himself. Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose have risen near the top with outstanding performance as their team’s surge forward while Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant sit this one out. Yes, you too LeBron.
My top eight MVP candidates are brought to you today by former Celtics forward and newly minted D-Leaguer Antoine Walker. You wore #8 with pride, my friend!
Here we go….
1. Dwight Howard – Magic (21.8 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg)
Howard has simply been a man among boys this season and his newly-added offensive skills are sure helping round out an already dominant game. Before last night’s nine-point dud in a win over the Pistons Dwight had recorded eight consecutive double-doubles and has swatted two or more shots in twelve of seventeen games this season. Orlando sits at 13-4, has won four in a row, and Howard helped them avenge their early-season loss to the Heat by posting 24 points and eighteen boards.
Rose has been phenomenal this season but has taken his game to a new level recently, averaging a whopping 28.6 points during the past eight games. The Bulls have won an impressive seven of nine with Rose in the lineup (he missed the loss vs. Denver) with their two losses coming at the hands of the Spurs and Lakers. His defense has improved drastically and the Bulls are currently 9-6 while Boozer continues to recover.
3. Deron Williams – Jazz (21.9 ppg, 9.9 apg, 4.2 rpg)
Williams has proven his worth, folks. With Mehmet Okur still out and a relatively new lineup to work with Williams has led the Jazz to seven wins in their previous eight games, including wins over the Lakers and Hornets. Want to know part of the reason Paul Millsap is busting loose this year? Watch Williams deliver pinpoint passes and you’ll see a big part of it. Deron has been particularly beastly in his last three – how do 25.7 points on a scorching .650 from the floor while adding 10.3 dimes sound? They sound MVP worthy, right?
4. Dirk Nowitzki – Mavericks (25.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, .545 fg%)
The Mavericks have been on a rampage lately and Dirk’s reliability on offense and new commitment to defense have been a major reason why. The Mavs have won six straight including victories over the Heat, Spurs, and Thunder and Nowitzki has averaged 27.5 points on efficient percentages, including nailing twelve of fourteen shots in Dallas’ win over San Antonio.
5. Russell Westbrook – Thunder (23.8 ppg, 8.6 apg, 2.2 spg)
Westbrook continues to defy expectations with his MVP-caliber season and has righted Oklahoma City’s season as the Thunder have won seven of nine, including wins over Boston, New Orleans, and Utah. In those three games Russell posted 26.0 points, 8.0 assists, and 2.7 steals and has proven himself to be just as important to the Thunder’s success as Durant so far.
UPDATE: Westbrook’s 38 point, fifteen rebound, nine assist performance in last night’s 3OT win over the Net’s was quite extraordinary, huh?
6. Chris Paul – Hornets (16.5 ppg, 10.3 apg, 2.9 spg)
Paul has sort of struggled lately, posting several games below his typical shooting percentages and racking up the turnovers in bunches as the Hornets have fallen in four of their past five. The good news? I highly doubt these struggles will continue – even in their recent close-loss to the Thunder he posted 17 points, 14 assists, and five steals, so a less-than-stellar Paul is still a worthy MVP candidate so far.
7. Manu Ginobili – Spurs (21.9 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.0 spg)
Where have you been all my life, Manu? Seriously, if there was any doubt as to how devastatingly good a healthy Ginobili could be hopefully they have been crushed by his torrid start to the season. Manu has racked up 26.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per night in his last five games and has been at his game-altering best this year.
8. Amare Stoudemire – Knicks (24.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, .513 fg%)
Stoudemire has been an absolute force recently, leading the Knicks to seven wins in their past eight with averages of 28.1 points and 9.6 boards while shooting well over fifty-percent in six of those eight contests. While the Knicks competition hasn’t exactly been 95-96 Bulls’ caliber they should be encouraged by their progress and Amare is finally looking comfortable (and dominant) without Nash as his sidekick.
ALMOST THERE, FOLKS!
Pau Gasol – You really needed to keep playing lights-out to maintain a spot with Kobe on your squad. There’s still hope for you, though!
Rajon Rondo – I really wanted to place you up here but goodness, your team is so incredibly stacked that you fall into the same category as Gasol. Sorry!
Kevin Durant – I love your game and am certain you will rise soon enough but you and I both know that Russell deserves the love right now.
Kobe Bryant – Yes, you are still Kobe Bean Bryant and always will be – I am aware of your greatness. Keep on doing what you do!
LeBron James – The whole world will be watching you this Thursday, Mr. James. I suggest you take it all in stride – fans are passionate folks, after all.
Until next time….