There have already been some incredible performances already in the season – LeBron’s 57 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists against the Wizards, James Harden’s 56 points on 19-25 shooting against the Jazz, Boogie Cousins’ 41-point and 23-rebound effort over his former team – we could go on. But the point is, the stars have not disappointed so far. Here’s our list for Early MVP Favorites:
- James Harden
James Harden has been in serious consideration for the MVP for quite some time now, is this the year he finally wins it?
The Rockets are tied atop the Western Conference with a 13-4 record and “The Beard” is putting up NBA2K stats, averaging 31.8 points, 10.1 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game on 45% FG and 39.8% 3PT.
He just recently scored 48 against the Phoenix Suns, 33 of which were in the first half (the Rockets put up 90!). Not to mention he only took 22 shots – check out the full highlights here:
It’s valid to wonder exactly how much the return of Chris Paul will affect his overall numbers, but it won’t be significant enough to downgrade him from being the favorite for MVP as the season progresses. He’s literally leading the NBA in PPG, APG, 3PT, FT, BPM, RPM, WS, WS/48, and shares the best record in the West. And has the best no-shave November beard in the league.
- LeBron James:
For someone who considered himself to be out of shape at the beginning of the regular season, one has to wonder what those standards really were. LeBron has been carrying the load even more-so than usual for Cleveland, who has been struggling with injuries and cohesiveness with so many new players.
So far, he’s been averaging 28.9 points, 8.6 assists, and 7.8 rebounds on an extremely efficient 58.5% FG and uncharacteristic 40% 3PT. He’s also scored 30+ points in 7 games already.
The main factor keeping him from being in serious consideration with Harden right now is the Cavs’ 9-7 record.
There are some that suggest these numbers aren’t good for LeBron – he’s in his 15th season and is playing 38.6 minutes per game so far. The type of minutes he plays matters too, as someone that consistently has a usage-percentage in the 30’s. He may rest more when the team doesn’t need him as badly, but for now it has been extremely fun, yet somewhat unnerving to watch this early in the season.
- Giannis Antetokuonmpo
The Greek Freak is quickly rising up the ladder in terms of where he belongs in the best current players discussion. And he’s about to turn 23!?? Personally, this has been my favorite player to watch so far. He is the definition of a transcendent player.
He’s averaging 30.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists on an astounding 57.8% FG; and he has the highest PER in the league at 31.75.
The Bucks are quietly underperforming as a team, with just an 8-7 record, which is keeping him from being any higher on our list. The trade for Eric Bledsoe should also help that record, as we expect them to be around a 4 or 5 seed by the end of the season.
People love asking the question, “if you had to start a franchise right now, who would you pick to build a team around?” And the answer for us is Giannis. He could be in the running for MVP for about a decade.
- Kevin Durant:
By his absurd standards, Durantula has been relatively quiet at this point in the season; but, he still comes in at 4th on our list.
The two biggest factors that stick out to us are 1.) His team success – the Warriors are tied with the Rockets with the best record in the West at 13-4 and 2.) His efficiency – Although he’s only averaging 24.9 points, he’s shooting 53.3% FG and 42.2% 3PT. His true shooting percentage comes in at 65%, which is a rate shared by only LeBron, big-men, and a handful of outliers that either have a small sample size or we don’t expect to sustain it over the course of a season.
KD is contributing in many ways other than scoring as well, which was a point that Jerry West mentioned to him when first deciding to leave OKC. He’s averaging 7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.2 blocks.
The scary thing is, the eye test and history suggests he’s not playing his best basketball yet.
- Demarcus Cousins
It’s been exciting to watch a true center dominate the league again, especially as someone who drafted Boogie in Fantasy Basketball!
He’s been on a tear so far – 5th in points per game (27.1), 3rd in rebounds per game (13.2) and first in double-doubles per game (13). He’s been getting it done on the defensive end as well, with 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks.
The 8-8 record obviously isn’t great and we don’t expect the Pelicans to deviate too far away from the .500 line as the seasons goes on. But, as long as he keeps putting up these kind of numbers (and subsequently winning me fantasy matchups), he will remain as at least a contender for the MVP.
This is also the final year on his contract, so it will be interesting to see if he re-signs or decides to test free-agency.
Here’s a recap of his 41 points and 23 rebounds against the Kings:
- Kyrie Irving
We couldn’t leave out Kyrie, so we’re just going to arbitrarily make it a list of 6 players.
One could make the case that Kyrie has been just as valuable to his team success as just about any of these other players mentioned. After all, he’s far and away the best player on what is right now (record-wise, at least) the best team.
The Celtics are in the midst of a 15 game win-streak, which wouldn’t be at all possible if it weren’t for Kyrie’s clutch-gene that he’s proven time and time again in his young career. At it’s core, the Celtics seem to have a working recipe consisting of: Brad Stevens’ brilliant game-management, a plethora of defensive-minded, interchangeable players, and Kyrie Irving closing out games.
The only drawback here are Kyrie’s stats – he’s averaging 20.9 points and 5.3 assists on 44.7% FG. 44.7% is actually fairly solid for a guard, but we’d like to see him score and distribute more.
There are certainly different definitions and criteria of what people factor into their own personal MVP voting and we can understand why some may have him higher. But, for us, 6th seems just about right.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment with your own MVP rankings so far. Also be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter for some “fire” posts (links are in the top-right of the home page).
Other than that, have a good Thanksgiving and always remember to trust the process.
By: Reese Kunz