As the NBA regular season gets past Christmas, only a handful of players have cemented themselves as legitimate MVP contenders. Most of the names are familiar, but the historic numbers being put up by Russell Westbrook and James Harden have created an interesting duel between two players trying to win the award for the first time in their respective careers. Here's how the MVP race is shaping up so far this season:
5) Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs
Once again, the Spurs have been sneaky good this season, posting a 25-6 record so far this season. Leonard has been the driving force behind that start, averaging career-high 24.4 points per game, along with 6.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.0 steals. Kawhi's offensive game is starting to match his defense greatness.
4) Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors
Durant has replaced Stephen Curry - the reigning two-time MVP - as the leading candidate on Golden State's roster. Not only are his stats excellent (26.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.5 apg), but he's also extremely efficient. He is shooting an amazing 53.8 percent from the field, and more impressively, leads the NBA in field goal percentage DEFENSE around the rim - an area of weakness for this Golden State team. He's doing it all right now for the Warriors, spearheading their NBA-best 27-5 record.
3) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland still leads the Eastern Conference, and even though they have lost a few games due to resting players, the Cavs have shown that at their best, they're as good as anyone. LeBron is playing a big role as usual, but he is currently averaging what would be a career-high in assists (8.6 per game). And he's doing all of that on 53.6 percent shooting. Don't sleep on the King if the Cavs get hot and reel off a massive win streak.
2) James Harden, PG/SG, Houston Rockets
There is a clear line between the top two players on this list and rest of the pack, and Harden's play is a huge reason why. The Rockets are a VERY surprising 23-9 on the year as Harden has flourished as the point guard in head coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system, ranking first in the league in assists (11.9 per game) and fourth in points (27.5). If Houston continues to be a contender throughout the entire season, Harden will be in position to claim the MVP if Westbrook falters.
1) Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook spoiled us with his triple-double streak to the point now where it feels like he didn't have a great game if he doesn't have one - and that is absolutely not the case. Westbrook already has 14 triple-doubles on the season and is still averaging a triple-double per game (31.7 points, 10.7 assists, 10.3 rebounds). He has stepped up in a huge way since Kevin Durant left in the offseason, and this team would be downright awful without him.
You can make a very real case with Harden because of his assist numbers and how much better the Rockets are this year, but as long as Westbrook is accomplishing the historic feat of averaging a triple-double, no one can top him.Back to the NBA Newsfeed