2011-12 NBA Most Valuable Player Prediction

Award Prediction Links:

MVP  |  Coach of the Year |  Defensive Player of the Year  |  Most Improved  |  Sixth Man

And now, we come to the most hyped and coveted regular season award.  It’s safe to say that oft-injured Derrick Rose won’t defend his MVP title, so who’s up for contention this season?

My one disclaimer before going into my top 5 candidates: usually, most voters tend to select players whose teams have the best record in the league.  But I have reasons for omitting the top guns from Chicago and San Antonio, the likely East and West 1st seeds – i.e. Derrick Rose (for obvious reasons) and Tony Parker.  Parker had a huge part in the Spurs’ success this year, but I felt the team was great for so many other reasons.  The team blossomed with Head Coach Gregg Popovich’s brilliance and being able to develop a great supporting cast that made significant contributions.  The Spurs’ great season thus resulted from a balanced attack on a nightly basis, and not so much heavy reliance on Parker.

In other words, I’m voting for the most valuable player, not the best player on the best teams.

5.  Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves

April 1, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) drives to the basket on Portland Trail Blazers power forward J.J. Hickson (21) during the first quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

After securing last season’s Most Improved award, Kevin Love had yet another monster season – averaging 26 points and 13.3 rebounds a game.  Along with rookie Ricky Rubio, Love has turned the Timberwolves franchise around.  If not for a season-ending injury to Rubio in early March and a concussion for Love, the Wolves would have been a safe bet to make the playoffs.  We all know how great of a rebounder he is, but how about his outside shooting?  He even won this year’s Three-Point shootout during All-Star weekend as a heavy underdog.  He’s also shown us his ability to make big plays down the stretch of games, making some game winners along the way (including a thrilling buzzer beater vs. the Clippers).  What you have to love about him is his confidence; in an interview early this season with NBA TV (I think), he declared himself to be the best Power Forward in the NBA, and has backed it up completely.  Most importantly, he’s easily a top-2 pick in next year’s fantasy draft.

4.  Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

Apr 15, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert (21) defends Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Miami won 93-85. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

I know, I know.  He has LeBron on his team, and Miami went 12-1 without him.  But don’t let any of that fool you.  Although he’s sat out a handful of games due to injury, he has had his fair share of production (he’s THIRD in the league in PER) and 4th-quarter explosions and buzzer beaters.  You also see his whole team (LeBron included) defer to him in crunch time; this has been a lot more evident this season than last.  You can always count on him to step up his game when it counts.  When Wade dominates the playoffs this year – just as he did last year when LeBron shrunk in the playoffs’ biggest moments – just remember how valuable he really is to this team.

3.  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

April 20, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots the ball over Sacramento Kings small forward Travis Outlaw (25) during the first quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

This year’s MVP race has widely been viewed as a two-man race between KD and LeBron.  To me, though, the team’s subpar play in the month of April really hurts him here.  Still, Durantula has had an overall amazing season.  He’s currently edging Kobe Bryant for the scoring title – an honor we will take for granted, as he’s a virtual lock to win it for the next decade.   But he has also stepped up his defense and rebounding proficiency.  If not for a bad taste in my mouth after a mediocre April for the Thunder, I would have agreed with the majority and placed him as a top-2 candidate.  Nevertheless, at only 23 years old, his time is bound to come soon as a perennial MVP candidate.

2.  Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

April 22, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) controls the ball as New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Marco Belinelli (8) looks on in the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Because of the media frenzy surrounding the Clippers upon the acquisition of Chris Paul and the resulting lofty expectations, he’s not getting as much credit as he deserves for turning around the league’s (arguably) worst franchise.  Until tonight, the Clippers had a chance to win their first-ever Pacific Division title if the Lakers dropped their season finale vs. the Kings (which, due to the significance of the Kings’ last game in Sacramento, is a distinct possibility).  Because that was even within reach, you have to give Chris Paul all the credit in the world.  The team struggled mightily after losing Chauncey Billups to injury, but Paul has found a way to keep the Clippers among one of the league’s elite teams.  He managed to bring his team out of the mid-season rut and has them finishing the regular season on a high note.

1.  LeBron James, Miami Heat

April 13, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during a game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

I’ve been anti-LeBron-for-MVP in seasons past as passionately as anyone.  But this season, it’s hard to ignore the heavy lifting he’s done for this team.  Sure – a handful of his 4th quarters have been mediocre at best, but his body of work throughout the regular season on a nightly basis has been spectacular.    For every game where he’s faded in the 4th, there’s been many, many more games where he’s dominated opponents and put games out of reach early.  He is the landslide leader in PER (as always), and has even shown improvements on both ends of the floor – especially defensively.  Most importantly, he had the Heat finishing the season strong after many doubts started surfacing about their mediocre play earlier this month.  Even with Bosh and Wade taking some games off in the last few weeks, LeBron has led the team to secure a #2 seed in the East.

Other Award Predictions:

Coach of the Year |  Defensive Player of the Year  |  Most Improved  |  Sixth Man

*By the way, I don’t think you need to ask why I didn’t write a Rookie of the Year prediction.  Congrats, Kyrie – well deserved.