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NBA MVP Watch 11/22/14

Jabari Davis continues his season-long discussion about the league’s Most Valuable Player race.

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For the first time in ages, LeBron James is not currently a part of any legitimate MVP discussion. That isn’t to say he isn’t still one of – if not the – best basketball players on the planet, but James, while playing phenomenally by just about anyone else’s standards, simply hasn’t reached the level we’ve all grown accustomed to expect from him. More importantly – especially when discussing the MVP award – his Cavaliers have yet to figure out how to maximize all of the talent on that roster.

It’s still very early and while players like James, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin among others will undoubtedly receive all the praise they are due at some point, for now it is admittedly as refreshing as it is surprising to have some new names entering the conversation alongside a few familiar ones.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

18 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.3 APG

Gasol continues to lead this ensemble cast of tough-nosed grinders on a nightly basis. His Grizzlies continue to play some of the best basketball in the league, and Gasol continues to go about his business as an high-impact player on both sides of the court. Beyond being a highly-skilled offensive player, Gasol also plays some of the best on-ball and help defense at the position.

Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors

24.8 PPG, 7.7 APG, 5.5 RPG

Curry’s Warriors had a rare four days off – especially for the early season – but the last time we saw Curry on the court vs. the Lakers, he was absolutely filthy. Not only did Curry score 30 points on 10-19 from the floor (including 5-9 from deep), he tossed in 15 assists, four rebounds and a steal for good measure. We’re interested in seeing whether he can maintain such a hot start with a five-game road trip (over seven days) coming up.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

25.5 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 3.9 BPG

Davis continues to litter the stat sheet with crooked numbers in just about every category, as the third-year power forward still leads the league in blocks (3.9) and steals (2.3). Davis is also ninth in field goal percentage and tied for fourth with seven double-doubles in the early season. You can’t fault some of us for already peeking ahead in the schedule in anticipation of next Tuesday’s rematch with DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings.

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

18.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 4.6 RPG

Lowry and his Raptors continue to play well, but we can’t wait to see how they fare over the next couple weeks with a bit more of a balanced schedule. The Raptors have played eight home games to just three trips away from Air Canada Centre. Lowry will be facing Brandon Knight (Bucks), Kyrie Irving (Cavs), Goran Dragic et al. (Suns), Jeff Teague (Hawks) and Monta Ellis (Mavs) all within the next week and each matchup should be fantastic.

James Harden, Houston Rockets

23.8 PPG, 6.9 APG, 6.3 RPG

Harden rebounded from a rough night (1-8 from the field, 0-4 from deep) in a loss in Memphis with a highly-efficient 24-point, seven-assist performance in yet another losing effort against the visiting Lakers this week. With Howard listed as “day-to-day” due to knee soreness, the Rockets will need to lean upon Harden’s production and leadership even more than usual. Look for Harden to really assert himself offensively if Howard ends up needing to rest for another game or two.

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

20.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, 5.1 RPG

Lillard simply continues to improve in just about every facet of the game. He’s both a willing and improving defender, continues to develop as a playmaker and floor general, and leads the league in made three-pointers (35). Did we mention the fact that he’s also currently fourth in free throw percentage (94.2) and shooting 44.9 percent on his 7.1 three-point attempts per contest? After tonight’s game against the visiting Bulls, Lillard and his Blazers play nine of their next 12 games on the road.

Next Up

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings: His Kings may have lost a few tough games over the last 10 days, but that hasn’t stopped Cousins from posting impressive double-doubles in his last five outings.

John Wall, Washington Wizards: Wall may have recently welcomed his partner-in-crime (SG Bradley Beal) back to action, but that probably won’t stop him from continuing to take out his frustrations over perceived slights and doubts out on the league this year.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: Sir Diggler may not play as many minutes (27.5 MPG) or carry quite the load he once needed to, but Nowitzki is still just as difficult a matchup as a stretch-four as ever. He’s currently on pace for what would be a career-high 46.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: The Bulls may have one of the deepest rosters and a superstar in the banged up Derrick Rose, but outside of Pau Gasol’s resurgent offensive productivity, Butler has been Chicago’s best and most consistent player thus far.

Be sure to keep up with our rookie rankings throughout the season as well!

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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