The 2014-2015 NBA season is nearing the midway point, and there are surprises in both conferences. With individual players hitting their stride before the all-star break, the best-of-the-best are making their cases for league MVP. Here are Cavs Nation’s top 10 leading candidates for the award.
#10 LaMarcus Aldridge
Depending on what you consider Anthony Davis, Aldridge may be the best power forward in the NBA right now. He is a league leader in double-doubles, and has expanded his range on offense opening up the lane even more for Lillard. He is as reliable and consistent as any big guy in the league, and can play effectively in the pick-and-roll or with his back to the basket in the post. Lillard dominates the ball for Portland, but Aldridge’s skill set will make Portland very dangerous in the playoffs.
#9 Jeff Teague
Yes, that Jeff Teague. The same Jeff Teague that has led the Hawks to the best record in the east. The same Jeff Teague that is averaging 21 points and 8 assists in the month of January. The same Jeff Teague that is shooting 52% from the field and 44% from the 3-point line in his last five games. The Hawks are the feel good story of the east, and Teague is competing at an all-star level against some of the league’s best point guards on a nightly basis.
#8 Damian Lillard
Lillard is proving to be one of the better clutch players in the NBA this year. His 16 points after regulation to help the Blazers beat the Spurs earlier this year was an absolute clinic against one of the league’s best teams. He is a great scorer, confident with the ball in late game situations, and has underrated athleticism. Portland would likely be fighting for a playoff spot without him, but instead they are fighting for the best record in the NBA and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
#7 Kyle Lowry
Another under-the-radar candidate, Lowry should be an all-star for the first time this season. He is the leader of the #2 team in the east, and if it weren’t for the resurgence in Atlanta, he would be responsible for keeping the Raptors at the top of the east while missing 2014 all-star DeMar DeRozan for the last 20 games. Lowry is a scorer, distributor, and solid perimeter defender, and his stats this season are comparable to any point guard not named Stephen Curry.
#6 LeBron James
LeBron is dropping on this list because of a recent injury, but is still a perennial contender for league MVP. Whether he is in the lineup or not, it seems like everything he does reminds us of how valuable he is to the Cavs. When he plays, he routinely gives us 25 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. When he doesn’t play, we lose four in a row. No other player can miss this much time and still be on this list.
Maybe it’s just the Pelicans…
#5 John Wall
The Wizards are sitting in the #3 spot in the east right now, ahead of both Chicago and Cleveland, largely because of the play of John Wall. Wall leads the league in assists, and is not just relying on his speed to make plays anymore. He has improved in his floor leadership, his shooting, and he is no longer playing at full speed for 48 minutes. The game is slowing down for him, and his confidence is growing with each win.
#4 James Harden
Harden is dangerous every time he touches the ball, no matter where he is on the court. He has become the league’s best scorer and also one of its best playmakers. Harden has always been crafty with the ball, but this season he is facilitating the offense even more with defense-first point guard Patrick Beverley taking over full time. Harden is also doing his damage this year with a new supporting cast, which should not be overlooked.
The guy can score at will:
#3 Anthony Davis
The future of the NBA plays in New Orleans. Davis does it all for the Pelicans. He leads the league in blocks and is fifth in scoring and tenth in rebounding. What many people fail to remember is that he was recruited out of high school as a guard, but a major growth spurt put him in the post. If not the MVP, look for him to compete for Defensive Player of the Year. Scary for a 21-year-old.
Also, a career high this season:
#2 Marc Gasol
The best center in the NBA is Marc Gasol. He is quietly putting himself in contention for the MVP award by being a consistent force on both ends of the court for the under-the-radar Memphis Grizzlies. There simply isn’t anything that he doesn’t do well from the center position. He will be the biggest free agent name when his season ends, but that may not be until June because of the ways that he affects the game for the Grizzlies.
#1 Stephen Curry
When the starting point guard for the best team in the NBA is the best shooter in the league, leads the league in steals, is fifth in assists and ninth in scoring, he should be high on anyone’s MVP list. The fact that Curry is doing all this with a brand new coach and while dramatically improving his defense puts him on the top. If the season ended today, he would run away with his first MVP trophy.