We all know that the only real MVP candidates this season are Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Their teams are at the top of their respective conferences, they’re putting up gaudy numbers that most mortals can barely comprehend and they’re hands down the two biggest names in basketball. This could end up being the best MVP race in NBA history and we also could be witnessing the birth of the best basketball rivalry since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
But with such a clear-cut MVP race unfolding, it’s easy to get sucked in and forget about the tremendous seasons other guys are having. So let’s pretend for a second that whatever spaceship dropped off these two freakish alien/cyborg athletes and let them play basketball suddenly came back to pick up their prized possessions and we had to scrap the MVP race and start all over. In other words, if LeBron and KD didn’t exist, who would be the top candidates for the award?
Before we dive in, let’s establish some parameters for what “MVP” really means. It’s a combination of things, but the MVP award should go to somebody who embodies as many of the following traits as possible:
- The Stats – The MVP needs to go to somebody putting up big numbers. This one is pretty obvious. Advanced statistics play a part, but the most basic stat line is usually sufficient to narrow the playing field down to a couple of candidates
- The Value – In other words, if you took this player away from his team, how much worse would that team be?
- The Story- This is probably the least important factor, but it’s worth nothing than an MVP is often the main storyline of the season. When we look back in the history books, the MVP should be the player whose year defined the NBA regular season as a whole. Sometimes it skews the MVP Award in the wrong way (see “Derrick Rose in 2010-11″ or “Steve Nash in 2005-06″), but the story is still important to factor in.
- Team Success – You can’t be an MVP if your team isn’t winning games.
- As a special note, the MVP Award does not necessarily mean the best player in basketball. If that were the case, Michael Jordan would have won the award from the late 80s until he retired, Kobe Bryant would have more than one MVP award and LeBron James would be a lock this season. But the MVP award (and All-NBA selections, for that matter) is about who has the best regular season, not who we know to be the best player.
Now that we’ve got that straightened out, let’s start with the top 10 other MVP candidates.