We’re coming down to the wire, and while the offseason couldn’t come fast enough for about half of the league, there are certain races still unsettled. The 2014 MVP race, however, should no longer be a mystery as one player has effectively separated himself from the rest of a very talented pack.
#10 – DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
2013-14 Averages: 22.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 43.1 percent FG
DeRozan’s play may have gone unnoticed by many, but that didn’t stop him from having a career year in what turned into a very successful season for his (currently) third-seeded Raptors. Like several others, it will be nice to see what the 24-year-old has in store for us in his first trip to the postseason.
#9 – Paul George – Indiana Pacers
2013-14 Averages: 21.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 42.5 percent FG
Had the season ended at the All-Star break, George would have easily been in the discussion as top-three player in the league. He didn’t completely fall off the map, but there was a noticeable decline in both productivity and efficiency over the second half, and his Pacers are on a 7-12 stretch at the worst possible time.
#8 – Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
2013-14 Averages: 23.5 points, 8.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 46.8 percent FG
Curry’s continued development as a player has been evident, but the most impressive aspect of his progress could have been in the leadership he provides for the Warriors. Golden State overcame injuries and a surprisingly slow start, not to mention rumors of turmoil amongst the coaching staff running rampant, all while battling some tough competition out West.
#7 – LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland Trail Blazers
2013-14 Averages: 23.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 45.8 percent FG
Aldridge has been nothing short of phenomenal for a young Blazers squad that was desperately in need of depth at the deadline. He missed bit of action down the stretch, but has since returned and is closing out the season on a strong note.
#6 – Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
2013-14 Averages: 19.0 points, 10.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 46.3 percent FG
Paul is still arguably the game’s best point guard when healthy, but he finally appears to have enough weapons at his disposal to do some damage in the postseason. He was slowed by injuries at times, but should also be commended for encouraging Blake Griffin’s continued metamorphosis even upon returning to (relative) full health.
#5 – Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
2013-14 Averages: 12.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 48.0 percent FG
Noah’s name may come as a surprise to some of you, but rest assured he absolutely deserves to be acknowledged. The 29-year-old center has truly come into his own, continuing to develop (out of necessity) in the absence of Derrick Rose for the better part of the past three seasons. He defends, rebounds, and may just be the best passing big man in the game.
#4 – James Harden – Houston Rockets
2013-14 Averages: 25.4 points, 5.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 45.8 percent FG
Dwight Howard may have been the big offseason acquisition for the Rockets, but Harden has remained their best player. He provides scoring, is a willing playmaker for others, and rebounds well for his position. He’s criticized for his on-ball defense at times, but does play the passing lanes and provide superior weakside support.
#3 – Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers
2013-14 Averages: 24.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 52.8 percent FG
As crazy as it may sound, had Griffin not already been a very good player to begin with, the leap he took in 2013-14 would realistically be worthy of being in the “most improved” conversation. Beyond the numbers, Griffin finally appears to have shed the “highlight player” label, among those paying attention. He actually deserves to be in any discussion about the top-ten players.
#2 – LeBron James – Miami HEAT
2013-14 Averages: 26.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 56.8 percent FG
His numbers may be slightly off the MVP-worthy effort he gave in 2012-13, but don’t take that to mean he isn’t still every bit as spectacular. Whether they have been pacing themselves along the way, his HEAT will still likely finish with 55+ wins and lock down the top seed. The conference may have struggled, but the accomplishment remains every bit as impressive when you factor in team fatigue, and the fact that Dwyane Wade has missed about 30 percent of their games.
#1 – Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
2013-14 Averages: 32.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 50.7 percent FG
Not only does he lead the league in scoring, but he’s efficient while doing it. We tend to focus on the offensive prowess, but he’s actually an above average defender and playmaker as well. James may still be the most physically gifted athlete in the NBA, but Kevin Durant has been the best player in the league this season. Period.
John Wall, Washington Wizards: Wall was electric at points this season. Time for him to do it on the larger stage, as his Wizards have qualified for the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: A healthy Tony Parker is the best player on the Spurs, but Duncan is still their rock. At 37, he remains their most consistent player.
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats: Jefferson’s contract was questioned by some, but he ended up arguably being one of the best acquisitions (league-wide) from last summer’s blitz.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: His Knicks may not qualify for the postseason after all, but that wasn’t for lack of effort from Anthony.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves: Count Love’s fantastic season in the same category as Anthony’s, as it is a shame such productivity goes wasted.
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