Kiki's NBA cuts (Dec. 18)

December 18, 2012

I know that it is still early, but since the first All-Star ballot came out, I thought we should take stock and see who the early front-runners are for MVP.

Entering training camp, this was supposed to be only a two-man race between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But I don't think the voting is that simple as there are many contenders having great years.

But after much thought, I have shrunk my list down to four players:

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
29.5 PPG, 5.2 REB, 5 AST, PER 25.8

Bryant should be on any list of potential MVPs. He still is one of the greatest closers the game has ever seen. He also makes some of the toughest shots imaginable and just reached 30,000 points for his career. Unfortunately with the Lakers being below .500 at this point, Bryant is last on my four-man list.

LeBron James, Miami Heat
25.4 PPG, 8.6 REB, 6.7 AST, PER 29.03

Before anybody goes crazy on James being No. 3 on this list, let me just say that he is probably the player that 30 out of 30 GM's would start a new team with. He has the best overall combination of skill and talent that we have seen in many years. Like Michael Jordan in his prime, he could be MVP every year. Although night-in and night-out he dominates each game, at this point in the season the Miami Heat are not the team they were last year. If I were a betting man, I would not expect to see him finish the year No. 3 on the list.

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
27.1 PPG, 8.3 REB, 4.2 AST, PER 27.82

When Durant dropped to No. 2 in the draft for the then Seattle Supersonics, it started what has been a tremendous run for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has turned into a devastating scorer and one of the toughest covers in this league because of his size and range. Last year, he led the young Thunder to their first finals appearance. And this year, the Thunder are right on target to have the same opportunity.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
27.9 PPG, 6.4 REB, 2 AST, PER 26.08

Anthony's scoring ability has never been in question, but this year he has turned into a complete player and leader of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Knicks. He is completely dominating the conference and according to most of the league, is the toughest player to guard - period. He is the best player on the best team in the East and that is good enough to make him the No. 1 MVP candidate at this point the season.

NBA’s hottest team
The Los Angeles Clippers have won 10 in a row and are hands down the hottest team in the league. They currently lead the NBA in so many statistical categories that we don't have time to mention them all. They are arguably the deepest team in the league, with eight legitimate starting-caliber players.

The Clippers are playing inspired defense, which has led to the most points off of turnovers in the NBA. 

I think the Clippers join the Thunder as one of the two best teams in the NBA at this point. This could be a special year for the Clippers.

What great teams have in common?
Basketball is a game of runs. The team that gets hot at the right time typically will win the game. Most great teams have a typical game-ending run sometime in the third or early fourth quarter. They will score a quick 10 or 12 points in a row, ending the game right there. Think back to the great Lakers teams during the Showtime era: the Boston Celtics of the 80s, the New York Knicks of the early 70s or even John Wooden's UCLA Bruins. All of these teams had the capability of blowing you out in a single run.

Great defense will lead to turnovers, and after five or six quick baskets it's game over.

Fantasy Tip of the Week
Ricky Rubio is back for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is a game changer and everybody who plays with him will benefit. The team stats will go up and all player stats will rise.