LeBron James playing MVP basketball

BY foxsports • February 9, 2011

FOXSportsFlorida.com Heat Writer
Feb. 9, 2011

Here's something that will turn the stomach of Heat haters and MVP voters alike -- LeBron James is on the verge of winning a third consecutive MVP award.

"He's playing MVP basketball right now," coach Erik Spoelstra said after James posted 41 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and three steals in Wednesday's 117-112 victory over Indiana. "I don't even think that's debatable."

It's a biased opinion, but it's true. Look at the facts.

For starters, Miami (38-14) is winning. That's the biggest requirement for the MVP. The Heat is only a half-game behind Boston (38-13), which is almost the unanimous pick to win the Eastern Conference.

And James is producing. He's averaging 26.4 points per game (second in the NBA), 7.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. For his career he averages 27.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.0 assists. So there's been no big statistical sacrifice by joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form Miami's Big Three.

Plus, James has already won the Eastern Conference Player of the Month Award twice (actually, he shared it with Wade in January), and he has the NBA's highest-scoring game of the season with his 51-point outburst at Orlando. James has made the Heat better and he's made his teammates better.

The other MVP candidates? Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, the league's leading scorer at 29 ppg, is probably the favorite. Durant also averages 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Chicago's Derrick Rose (24.6 ppg, 8.2 apg) is still up there along with Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki (23.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg), New York's Amare Stoudemire (26.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.2 blocks) and maybe San Antonio's Manu Ginobili (18.4 ppg, 4.9 apg) and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (25.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.0 apg). But the list is shortening and no one stands out as the clear leader.

Oklahoma City is 33-18, fourth in the West, 10 games behind San Antonio (NBA-best 43-8). Durant's team also trails Dallas (36-15) and the Lakers (36-16) in the Western Conference standings. That might be tough to overcome for MVP purposes. The same goes for the other leading MVP candidates, especially Stoudemire, whose Knicks are barely above .500 with a 26-24 record.

About a month ago James said he gave up realistic hopes of winning MVP when he joined the Big Three. That's no longer the case.

If the Heat enters next week's All-Star break as the No. 1 team in the East, James has to enter the All-Star break as the No. 1 candidate to win the MVP award.

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