Under the Radar NBA MVP’s

For the most part, every analyst and sports reporter has narrowed the 2013-2014 NBA MVP race down to two candidates: LeBron James and Kevin Durant. With James averaging 26.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, and Durant averaging 31.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and  1.4 steals, who wouldn’t have these two as their top candidates? Keep in mind, LeBron has kept the Miami Heat in contention this season with an injured Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant won games on his own without the likes of Russell Westbrook, and is still productive with his co-pilot in the lineup.

However, I think there are some candidates that should also be considered at the top of the MVP race. Will they win it? Probably not. I think Kevin Durant will take it this year, due to his superior stats to LeBron in points and rebounds, and simply being in contention for the top of the Western Conference. But here are my under-the-radar picks for MVP, if the selection committee ever forgot about King James and KD:

1. Blake Griffin, LAC: Chris Paul has played in 49 of the 68 games this season for the Los Angeles Clippers. With his absence, Blake Griffin averaged 27.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.  The numbers are an increase in points (from 24.3), assists (3.7), and steals (1.1) from his 2012-13 season. This increase in production from Blake Griffin has helped the Clippers go 13-6 without Chris Paul this season. They are also riding an 11 game winning streak after their beatdown on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night, and he has averaged 23.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists during the streak.

It would be crazy to ignore Chris Paul’s stats, who has averaged 16.8 points, 10.6 assists,  4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 steals during the streak. But Blake Griffin has proven to be able to step up without CP3 in the lineup, and with him in the lineup, he still thrives.

In addition to this, his post game his gotten increasingly better this season, as well as his jumpshot, which he has been able to knock down consistently. So many people know him for his high-flying and powerful dunks, but Griffin will also be known for his ability to dominate a stat book and win games for the Clippers.

2. Joakim Noah, CHI: Joakim Noah has been incredible this season. The Bulls have traded leading scorer Luol Deng, lost their #1 option in Derrick Rose yet again, and are still the third best team in the Eastern Conference behind Indiana and Miami. And Noah is the reason why

He has averaged 12.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals for the Bulls. Those are some very high stats all around, and even though he doesn’t score as much as LeBron or Durant, Joakim Noah is the X-Factor for the Bulls. I guarantee if you measured the intangibles of basketball (hustle plays, energy providing, game changing moments), Joakim Noah would be at the top of that list. The Bulls have won 15 out of their last 20 games, and Noah has averaged 14.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game during that stretch.

It’s obvious that the key to the Bulls’ success this season is Joakim Noah. And without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng and lower production from Carlos Boozer this season, it’s certainly more impressive.

3. Stephen Curry, GSW: Steph Curry has been lights out for the Warriors this season, who are fighting to remain in the bottom part of the Western Conference playoff picture. He has proven to be the best shooter in the game right now, and has taken over games and provided clutch moments for the Warriors, who are 42-26 this season. He has averaged 23.4 points, 8.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.6 steals this season. With his entire toolbox full of shooting, driving, free-throw shooting, clutch plays, beautiful dimes, energizing the city of Oakland, and winning games for Golden State, Stephen Curry is  a must for contention in the MVP race.

4. Goran Dragic, PHX: Goran Dragic, who has led the Phoenix Suns to a miraculous 38-28 season out of nowhere this season, has put up incredible stats, simply because no one had any expectations for him and the rest of his teammates out of Arizona. After a 25-57 season last year, the Suns have turned it around, and that is largely in part to what Dragic has done on the court for them. He has dazzled with his scoring and playmaking abilities, in addition to leading one of the most team-oriented organizations I’ve seen in years. Whether the Suns make the playoffs or not (9th in the uber-competitive West currently) remains to be seen, but what a year it has been for Dragic, who has averaged 20.5 points, 6.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals this season. If the Suns, who are only a game out of the last spot in the Western Conference playoff picture, make the playoffs this season, expect a few people to put down Goran Dragic as the MVP of the NBA this season.

5. Al Jefferson, CHA: Al Jefferson is 29, but he’s playing like he’s 24. In his 10th season in the NBA, he has put up his best numbers, and has helped lead an awful Charlotte Bobcats team (in terms of history) to a probable playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, sitting at 33-34 (7th currently). He has it all: the jumpshot, the post-game, the clutchness, the rebounding and blocking abilities, and the ability to share the ball and help his team consistently. This season, Jefferson has averaged a double-double per game, at 21.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals. Those are hall-of-fame numbers right there. With this stat-line from Jefferson, and the great turnaround of the Bobcats to probably make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, expect some guys to put down him as their MVP candidate.

Will any of these guys win the MVP this season? Probably not. It’s either Kevin Durant or LeBron James. But expect a few people to pick these guys as their NBA MVP’s, and these guys in the list above have definitely earned the right to be in contention with King James and KD for this MVP race.

 

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Main photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc