The NBA regular season is nearly over with just one week remaining, and Houston Rockets star James Harden has asserted himself as the clear frontrunner in the MVP race - an award he's trying to win for the first time after finishing in second twice. He may have the award locked up but several other players are also capping off great seasons. With that in mind, here are the top five MVP contenders so far this season:
5) DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors
Stats: 23.4 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.9 rpg, 21.42 PER
DeRozan has changed his game this year and is shooting more three-point shots than ever before, and that has played a major role in Toronto emerging as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Given the unexpected success of the Raptors, he deserves a spot on this list - but he's not in the top tier of contenders to Harden.
4) Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers
Stats: 26.7 ppg, 6.6 apg, 4.5 rpg, 25.14 PER
Lillard is having the best statistical season of his career but he has entered the MVP race thanks to Portland grabbing a firm hold on the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. He's the driving force behind one of the biggest surprises in the league and, like DeRozan, has surpassed players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Stephen Curry because of it - but he is also not in the top tier of contenders.
3) Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Stats: 28.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 28.85 PER
Many people wrote the Pelicans off following DeMarcus Cousins' injury. Instead, they've held firm on a playoff spot and are fighting to hold onto a playoff spot. Davis' play is the biggest reason for that as he has led New Orleans to a 12-8 record since the All-Star break and has eight games with at least 30 points during that stretch.
2) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Stats: 27.4 ppg, 9.1 apg, 8.7 rpg, 28.59 PER
LeBron has been rejuvenated after Cleveland's trade deadline moves with five triple-doubles over the past month, and the result is that the Cavs, once again, look like the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. He's still the best player in the sport and is proving that, but his (relative) struggles during Cleveland's rough December/January keep him out of the top spot.
1) James Harden, SG/PG, Houston Rockets
Stats: 30.7 ppg, 8.8 apg, 5.4 rpg, 30.18 PER
You know it is only a matter of time before Harden wins the MVP for the first time, and this year will be that year. The Rockets have the best record in the NBA largely thanks to Harden and is the biggest reason why they're a legitimate threat to knock off the Warriors in the West. He leads the league in scoring and ranks third in assists. I don't think there's any way he loses the award right now.Back to the NBA Newsfeed