We are about 20 games into the NBA season, which means we can start to tell which teams are for real and which teams are just pretenders. We’ve also had a big enough sample size to start to composite MVP rankings. Here is our initial edition.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry and his Warriors are winners of 10 straight and currently sit 15-2 on the season, which is tied with Memphis for the best record in the NBA. Entering Wednesday night, Curry is sixth in the league in scoring (23.7), sixth in assists (7.6), and first in three-pointers made (54). He is also right on the cusp of the 50/40/90 club, sitting at .495/.412/.926. If he finishes the season like that, he would be only the seventh player in history to accomplish this feat, and the first since Kevin Durant did so in 2012-13. Curry has always been known simply as a great shooter, but his overall game has since transcended into that of a superstar and he’s currently having the best year of his career. Until the Warriors falter, and there’s a very strong chance they won’t, Curry is the MVP.
2. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Welcome to the new and improved Marc Gasol, ladies and gentlemen. The seven-foot Spaniard went on a strict carb-cutting diet during the offseason and can now barely be recognized. This most certainly has helped improve his play, as he is averaging 20.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.6 blocks on the year. Gasol has the Grizzlies tied for the best record in the league at 15-2 and appears poised to be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation once again. For the first time in his career, Gasol has become the go-to player for his team, and with his newly transformed body and brand new attitude, there is no telling how far Memphis can go this season.
3. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Harden is up to his usual tricks this season, averaging 25.2 points, 6.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds, while also leading the league in free-throws made (148) and attempted (165). The caveat however, is that Harden has been doing all this on his own for the most part. Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley, and Terrance Jones have all missed six games or more this year, yet the Rockets still sit 13-4 on the season and in command of the fourth seed in the Western Conference. The one stigma on Harden has been that he plays turnstile defense. Well that is no longer the case, as he leads the NBA (yes, you read that correctly) in defensive win shares this season with 1.3. It’s finally nice to see Harden putting in effort on that side of the court. If this trend continues, the Rockets are poised to make a deep playoff run.
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are 8-8 on the season, so that sort of disqualifies anybody on the team of being “most valuable,” but in this case you could certainly make an argument. Anthony Davis is putting up numbers that the NBA hasn’t seen in a long long time. The Brow is averaging 24.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and a whopping 3.1 blocks. Did I mention he was 21 years old?
Davis has been compared to Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, even a young Marcus Camby. But to be honest, there’s a chance he could be better than all of them. I realize that’s premature (again, he’s only 21), but he has a unique skill set that most players his size could only dream of having. He was only 6’3″ for most of his high school career, so he had to learn how to play point guard out of necessity. It wasn’t till he was a senior that he grew to 6’10”. It’s like he has an unfair advantage, being that height and being able to dribble and handle the ball the way he does. Just wait until masters the low-post, he’s going to be unstoppable. It’s seriously scary to think about how Davis might be in three years.
5. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
Aldridge is the prototypical power forward. A guy that could roll out of bed and get you 20 and 10. Speaking of the low-post, there is nobody in the league who has it mastered quite like LMA. That’s where he makes his living. For a man who’s 6’11”, 240 pounds, he has a ridiculously smooth fade away jumper, and masterful touch around the rim. You could call him mundane, boring, anything you want, I call him effective.
Aldridge may not be the greatest athlete or the highest of fliers, but man can he play the game. He’s truly a joy to watch. Anyway, that brings us to this season. Aldridge entered Wednesday averaging 22.4 points and 9.6 rebounds for a Blazers team that sits third in the West with a 14-4 record. Many believe Portland has the best starting five in the league and I would hard-pressed to disagree, but you cannot discredit what Aldridge does because of that. He is the anchor down low and the emotional leader. They would barely hover around .500 without him.
On the bubble: Lebron James, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Damian Lillard.