TO no-ones surprise Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, James Harden and the phenomenal Giannis Antetokounmpo are featured in MVP discussions early on. Through just over 12% of the season though some stars have taken another step to emerge as true candidates for the most valuable player award. This shortlist of guys exceeding expectations could stay in the mix all season long if they keep playing the way they are currently performing right now.

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Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

THRIVING outside of Chris Paul’s shadow, Blake Griffin is enjoying life as the Clips No. 1 guy. A lot of his numbers don’t jump off the page and grab you, except for the three-point shooting. Nailing a career-high 2.1 threes a night, Griffin is also shooting a career-best 40.4% from behind the arc. While LA has lost three on the trot (after starting 5-2) if they recapture their mojo and Blake keeps up his production he could force his way into the discussion.

Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics

IT’S fair to say that no-one thought that Boston would go on to win nine straight after going 0-2 in their first two games of the season, especially after what happened to Gordon Hayward. Since then though they have been a galvanised unit led by their new PG who is averaging 22.9 PPG. They are poised to be the best team in the East and if that’s the case then Irving will feature high up on people’s lists for the most prestigious individual honour.

Dark Horse MVP Candidates 1Image from celticsblog.com

John Wall, Washington Wizards

 

WALL might be the most likely to join the favourites for the award if things keep trending the way they are. Wall is trailing Westbrook by 0.1 for the assist crown averaging a career-high 10.8 assists a night. If the top-heavy Wizards can become a top two team in the East and go on to win over 50 wins it’s likely that they will be there because of John Wall’s play.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

HERE me out. At the moment Leonard has sat out his teams first 11 games with no concrete timetable on his return. In the past, only Bill Walton (’77-’78) and Allen Iverson (’00-’01) have missed more than 10 games and gone on to win the MVP and much like those two, Leonard isn’t any other run of the mill player. Upon his return, the Spurs will likely do what they have done in the past and lay waste to the league. If they go something like 47-15 should Leonard return soon, don’t rule out ‘The Klaw’ being right in the mix once again.

Anthony Davis/DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans

THE Twin Towers experiment is working out from a numbers perspective early on. Both Anthony Davis (28.4 points, 12.8 rebounds per game) and DeMarcus Cousins (28.9 points, 13.6 rebounds per game) have put up mind-boggling numbers early on in the season, but it hasn’t translated to wins yet for NOLA. If the Pelicans can find the magic elixir and start to change the result of some ball games then there is a chance that one or both of their All-Star bigs will be front and center of the MVP chatter.

Long, LONG shots

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
SIMMONS is legit. The Aussie rook is putting up Oscar Robertson/LeBron James type numbers early on forcing us to pay attention. Alongside Joel Embiid they have Philly off to the best start in recent memory currently riding a five-game winning streak. If Simmons can keep up his averages of 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists not only will he run away with Rookie of the Year, he could claim the MVP award too. Trust the process.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
I swear Marc Gasol does this in every early part of the season. He starts on a tear and then eventually misses a few games/sees his production dip/the Grizzlies go on a losing streak. With the Grizzlies moving in a different direction from the Grit and Grind days this season many expected them to struggle. Instead, they have started 7-4 and while I don’t know if they can keep it up, if they do then Gasol’s play will be a large factor.

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
PORZINGIS became the 11th first to third-year player who managed to score 300 or more points in his team’s first 10 games. No other Knick is on that list. Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Barry, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob McAdoo and Vince Carter are on the list however. That’s some pretty elite company. The hype is real.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
D-BOOK just became the fourth youngest player to score 3,000 career points behind some illustrious company in LeBron, Durant and Melo. With the Suns playing for nothing but their future in 2017-18, we could see Booker channel some ’05-’06 Kobe mojo and go on a scoring binge that raises eyebrows.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
TRY not to laugh. It’s unlikely that the 7-3 Pistons continue their hot streak, but if they do then someone on their roster deserves some recognition. The leagues leading rebounder at 14.7 a night mixed in with 14 points and an unconscious 75% from the free throw line (career 38.9 free throw %) could be said player.

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