LeBron James and Kevin Durant have faced each other twice in the past few weeks, with Durant outplaying James in Oklahoma City and LeBron turning the tables in Miami. The MVP race has essentially come down to these two superstars with three weeks left in the regular season. There's still plenty of time for things to change, but here's how we rank the top 10 so far:
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
No, they're not legit MVP candidates at this stage of their careers. But the Celtics have been the best team in the East since the All-Star break, thanks largely to Pierce's offense and Garnett's defense. (And Rajon Rondo's passing.) So let's give them some credit after everyone wrote them off months ago.
Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat
The Heat are 9-1 without him, and his scoring average (22.7) is the lowest since his rookie season. But Wade remains one of the league's most dominant players on both ends of the court. Miami will need him in the playoffs.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
He had a couple of subpar games against the Heat, but Oklahoma City's irrepressible point guard has generally raised his game as the season has progressed. He scored 45 points against the Timberwolves and 36 apiece against the Lakers and Spurs.
Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic
Howard's season-long drama excludes him from serious MVP consideration, but there's no denying his on-court impact. With him, the Magic are a top-four team in the East. Without him, they can't even beat the Pistons, as they proved this week.
Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
He can't go all out all of the time because of his troublesome knees, but Paul has turned up the energy and intensity to spark the Clippers' resurgence as a top-four team in the West. His competitive fire and basketball IQ have changed the franchise's culture, but he hasn't quite been able to take Los Angeles from Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
There seem to be two distinct schools of thought about Kobe this season. Either he's the ultimate warrior who is defying age (33) and injuries to carry the offensive load for the Lakers, or he's the ultimate ballhog who has taken 200 more shots than anyone else in the league. Is it possible there's a lot of truth to both?
Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs
There are plenty of reasons for San Antonio's uncanny success this season: Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and a deep bench, to name a few. But those pale next to Parker's extraordinary play. At age 29 and in his 11th NBA season, Parker has taken the reins of the Spurs and kept them among the league's elite teams.
Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
In the span of six days, Love had 51 points and 14 rebounds against the Thunder, 30 and 21 against the Nuggets and 40 and 19 against the Bobcats. The only reason those aren't MVP numbers is because the Wolves are slipping out of the playoff race. But the guy is having a historic season.
Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
He closed the gap on LeBron James by leading the Thunder to wins over the Clippers, Heat, Lakers and Bulls. His nine-turnover game in Miami halted that momentum, but a strong finish could give Durant his first MVP. At this point, he's the only one who can keep LeBron from winning No. 3.
LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat
His first two months of the season were sensational. His March was pedestrian by his standards, but he's off to a good start in April with 41 points against the Sixers and 34 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds against Oklahoma City. Once again, the MVP award is his to lose.