With just 11 starts, it's still a little premature to throw Jeremy Lin into the MVP conversation. But has any player ever been more valuable to his team in such a short time? If the point guard continues to transform the Knicks from trainwreck to contender, he'll get on this list in a hurry. For now, here's our top 10 at midseason. * -- Stats and rankings through Thursday, Feb. 23
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks
After averaging 15.1 points in January, Nowitzki has averaged 23.9 so far in February. That includes at least 20 points in 10 of his last 11 games. In other words, Dirk is back. And so are the Mavericks.
Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls
He's missed 10 of 35 games and his numbers are down from last season, so his chances of repeating as MVP are slim to none. But he's still the best player and indisputable leader of a title contender. Ultimately, the Bulls will only go as far as he takes them.
Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
When he was putting up huge numbers for the league's worst team last year, you had to wonder if Love was simply a stat stuffer. Now, with the Wolves at .500 and Love putting up even bigger numbers, you can better gauge his value. His production is leading to wins. In an MVP discussion, that's what really matters.
Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
No player is carrying his team as much as Kobe is carrying the Lakers. But is it too big a burden? His shooting percentage is its lowest in seven years. His 3-point percentage is its worst in 10 years. And he's averaging the second-most turnovers of his career. A little help, please?
Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich says the Spurs have become Tony Parker's team. In that case, the point guard gets most of the credit for their remarkable 11-game win streak, seven of which came on the road. His value became even clearer when Popovich rested Parker and Tim Duncan in Portland and the Spurs lost by 40.
Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC Thunder
Let's stop waiting for Westbrook to become Scottie Pippen or Pau Gasol or someone else happy to defer to a superstar teammate. The Thunder have two alpha males on their roster and it's not hurting team chemistry. Westbrook scored 40, 31 and 31 points in Oklahoma City's past three games before Thursday's win over the Lakers. Durant had 51, 31 and 28, and the Thunder won all three.
Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic
If Howard's future wasn't always the topic of conversation, people might appreciate his present. Not only is he averaging more than 20 points and 15 rebounds, he's helped the Magic go 10-4 so far in February after a late-January implosion. Orlando is now third in the East and in no hurry to deal its superstar.
Chris Paul, PG, LA Clippers
After uncharacteristically faltering down the stretch of consecutive games, Paul did what a leader does. He took full responsibility for both losses, then torched the Nuggets for 36 points to keep the Clippers in third place in the West going into the All-Star break.
Kevin Durant, SF, OKC Thunder
With nine 30-point games in the past month, Durant is creeping up on Kobe Bryant for the scoring title, which would be his third straight. More importantly, he's shooting more than 50 percent for the first time and averaging career highs in rebounds (8.2) and assists (3.4).
LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat
Some pundits have suggested that LeBron shouldn't be allowed to win a third MVP award until he earns a first title. Only irrational arguments like that may prevent James from being honored for his finest season to date. His stats (27.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 6.8 apg) only tell part of the story. He's playing the fewest minutes of his career, thanks to Miami's depth and frequent blowouts, but his efficiency is off the charts.