After a week off, we're back to business here at the NBA MVP 2012 Power Rankings. Not too much has changed in that time, as Lebron James has been on a tear lately as he's lead the Heat to double-digit wins against their past seven opponents. Meanwhile, as strong as Kobe's play on the court has been he's been moved a few spots down for unnecessarily disrupting an already fragile Lakers locker room in the midst of a turbulent season. The strength of the point guard position across the league has likely never been stronger as four of our top ten ranked players are manning the point for their teams.
Over at SB Nation NBA, Tom Ziller released his 2012 NBA MVP Power Rankings, where he had the Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard locked into sixth, and Lebron James still leading the pack.
Lebron James Miami Heat 26-7 27.6 Points, .626 TS%, 8.1 Rebounds, 6.8 Assists
In a season where nothing Lebron or the Heat do until the post-season is supposed to impress us, it's tough to ignore how dominant James and the Heat have been lately. As Ziller points out in his NBA MVP 2012 Power Rankings, James is taking less three-pointers this year but he's making over 40% of them, addressing yet another of the supposed weaknesses in his games.
Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder 26-7 27.7 Points, .612 TS%, 8.2 Rebounds, 3.3 Assists
Despite Lebron's excellence, Kevin Durant's commitment to hitting the boards and uncanny shooting ability coupled with MVP voters reluctance to anoint Lebron MVP could bring KD the hardware. That's not to say he wouldn't be a worthy candidate. Durant has the Thunder poised to be the top seed in the West and the favorites to reach the Finals. His 51-point outburst against Denver was just another example of his growing resume.
The Bulls have managed to weather the storm with Derrick Rose sitting out for injuries, but there's no question that they are a far better team with the 2011 MVP on the court. Hopefully sitting the past few days has allowed Rose's back to fully heal, because it seems uncertain if Luol Deng can continue to keep the Bulls afloat.
Kobe's still leading the league in scoring but he's also taken more than four shots per game than anyone else in the league, and in a season where most of the other top scorers are putting up their numbers much more efficiently it's unsure how much weight MVP voters will place on the scoring title. But even more than that Kobe dropped a spot in these rankings primarily because of the comments he made last Monday demanding that the Lakers either trade Gasol or let him know he's staying. Although Kobe ostensibly meant for the statement to be taken as a show of support for his beleaguered teammate, the comments created a split between players and management that could exacerbate the problems in the Lakers' already troubled locker room.
Dwight Howard Orlando Magic 22-12 20.3 Points, .553 TS%, 15.3 Rebounds, 2.1 Blocks
Dwight Howard's been more dominant than any point yet this season and as a result the Magic have worked their way up to a top three seed in the East. But with All-Star Weekend and the March 15th trade deadline coming up, he might continue to be a 2012 NBA MVP candidate for a team other than the Magic soon.
Chris Paul continues to keep the Clippers rolling even with the loss of Chauncey Billups. But his two weak fourth quarters this week against the Spurs and the Warriors allowed the Clippers to slide into a two game losing streak- their longest this season.
Love's undoubtedly one of the premier power forwards in the game given the deadly combination of his deep jumper and proficiency at tipping-in offensive rebounds, but he's still got to get more efficient with his post game if he wants to move up higher in the 2012 NBA MVP rankings.
Given the Spurs streak of 11 straight wins when Tony Parker and Tim Duncan play (neither played in Tuesday's blowout loss to the Trailblazers) there are many who would argue that Parker deserves to be higher in the NBA 2012 MVP rankings. Not to belittle Parker's excellent play lately, but even without Ginobli the Spurs still have a legitimate post presence in Duncan, one of the game's best coaches in Gregg Poppovich, and as much quality depth as any team other than Denver, even if their bevy of young role players features relatively few household names.
Lin's per game numbers are still deceivingly low because of how little production he had in his early low-minute games with the Knicks. But make no mistake, there's no doubt that Lin's been one of the best performers in the NBA since he burst onto the scene. Even in his first loss to the lowly Hornets and while being eviscerated by Deron Williams, Lin was clearly amongst the best players on the floor each moment he stepped on to the court. Also, by eviscerating the Maverick's top-five defense in front of a national TV audience on Sunday, Lin may have finally quieted those who feel his play was unsustainable.
Deron Williams (Tie) New Jersey Nets 10-25 22.2 Points, .539 TS%, 8.2 Assists
Russell Westbrook (Tie) Oklahoma City Thunder 26-7 23.4 Points, .546 TS%, 5.5 Assists, 4.8 Rebounds
Although I believe that 2012 NBA MVP voters will be extremely hesitant to vote Williams for MVP with the Nets record being as awful as it is no matter how terrible his teammates are, there was also no way I could keep him off this list after the way he dropped 38 in the Garden, embarrassed Jeremy Lin, and reminded New York who the best point guard in the city was on Monday. But I certainly couldn't keep Westbrook off the power rankings in the same week he and Durant combined for 94 points either.