We continue our season-long MVP discussion with a look at the current crop of players not only playing the best individually, but also making the largest impact upon their respective team’s overall success. As always, we remind you this is a fluid discussion and will continue to fluctuate as we move forward throughout the 2014-15 regular season.
Here are our top candidates at this point:
James Harden – Houston Rockets – 27.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 6.2 RPG
Harden simply continues to disprove any remaining doubt of his leadership capabilities as he has been nothing short of dominant thus far this season. He’s currently above his previous career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks (1.0) and steals (2.0) as well as free throw percentage (88.7 percent). Beyond the impressive production, he also led these Rockets to an 8-3 record when Dwight Howard was out of the lineup.
Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors – 23.1 PPG, 7.7 APG, 5.2 RPG
Aside from recently enduring a bit of a shooting slump from beyond the arc – 10/37 (27.0 percent) – Curry has been absolutely lights-out for the Warriors this season. Remember the days where he was almost exclusively seen as a “shooter” that happened to play the point guard position? Well, those days are over, as Curry has actually become one of the league’s more complete players now that he provides a consistent effort on the defensive end, on the backboards and in a playmaker’s role.
Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies – 19.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.6 BPG
Gasol has done everything in his power to pick up some of the recent slack with frontcourt mate Zach Randolph out of the lineup for his Grizzlies. As with everything regarding Memphis, while leadership continues to be a group or united effort, Gasol is the glue that holds things together on both ends of the court more often than not. Always the willing passer, look for Gasol to assert himself on the offensive end a bit more in the event the team is without Randolph for any extended period of time.
Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors – 20.0 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.7 RPG
As a point guard, any time you are still able to maintain a 9-5 record without the services of your main wing scoring threat, you must be doing something right. Lowry, to be clear, has been doing ALL types of things the right way for his Raptors. Leading the team in points, assists, steals and minutes played, Lowry has been shouldering quite the load for the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors.
John Wall – Washington Wizards – 18.0 PPG, 10.5 APG, 4.7 RPG
Some have attributed it to being passed over by Team USA’s selection committee this summer, but that almost feels (in some way) like it diminishes how spectacular of a season Wall has enjoyed so far. Gone are the days of the unfair “he shouldn’t be dancing” criticism that seemed to surround the early stages of his career, as the (still just) 24-year-old Wall has clearly developed as both a player and a leader over the past few seasons.
Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers – 18.3 PPG, 9.5 APG, 4.6 RPG
After a slow start to the year, Paul’s Clippers (20-10) are still right in the middle of the playoff pack in a ridiculously loaded Western Conference. Although he now has legitimate company when the discussion over the league’s top point guard takes place, Paul doesn’t seem intent upon relinquishing the unofficial crown just yet. Unlike Curry’s recent three-point trend, Paul continues to shoot the lights out from beyond the arc in what has been his best season from deep (39.5 percent) since 2009-10.
Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers – 21.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.0 APG
While there may not necessarily be a stat to measure whether a player is a “stone cold killer” on the court, we may just have to recruit John Hollinger (or one of his disciples) to “create” a new advanced stat for Lillard. Beyond being highly productive and continuing to develop from a leadership standpoint, Lillard has quickly developed a reputation for being a player you simply cannot lose sight of when the game is on the line. Whether looking to create for a teammate or deciding to assert himself on a given possession, positive things tend to take place when the ball is in Lillard’s hands.
Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls – 21.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.4 APG
Butler truly has transitioned his game from being seen as a defensive-oriented, high-energy player to legitimately establishing himself as his team’s most dependable player on both sides of the court. He’s leading the Bulls in scoring, steals and minutes played (league leader) even though Chicago boasts one of the deeper rosters in the league. Derrick Rose may still be considered the team’s franchise player, but Butler is truly at the center of most of what they do at this point. Perfect timing, by the way, for a player in search of a well-earned contract extension.
LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers – 25.4 PPG, 7.6 APG, 5.1 RPG
James’ Cavaliers may still be a work in progress, but that hasn’t stopped him from providing what has become his customarily impressive statistical output. With Anderson Varejao reportedly out for the season and his Cavs already all the way down to 25th in the league in rebounding (40.7 RPG), perhaps we’ll see James focus upon that aspect a bit more moving forward. His 5.1 RPG are actually the lowest he’s averaged throughout his career.
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