LeBron leads race for MVP

The 2008-2009 NBA season is near the halfway mark with one of its biggest superstars leading the way.

Some 40 games, out of the 82 total, have been played this season and already LeBron James is making a great case for the league MVP award.

‘King James’, as he is sometimes called, has his Cleveland Cavaliers in prime position on top of the Central Division in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavs are close to 10 games clear of their nearest threat, perennial power Detroit, and are step and step with the Boston Celtics as the best squad in the conference.

James has had much to do with that success. Coming into this week LeBron was averaging nearly 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field.

However the reason why James has featured heavily in the MVP debate is his improvement on defense. James is a pest for opposing squads as he steals the ball often, defends well one-on-one and blocks any shot that lacks effort.

But James is not the only player on a good squad who is garnering a spot during MVP discussions.

The East has a number of teams playing well. In the Southeast division the Orlando Magic are the team to beat again this year largely due to big man Dwight Howard.

Howard is a double-double threat on a nightly basis (averaging close to 20 points and 14 rebounds per contest) and is a force on the defensive end as well (as he is near the top of the league in blocked shots).

Another solid squad is right below the Magic in their division. The Atlanta Hawks, who snuck into the playoffs last year, are playing as good the Pistons (record-wise) right now.

A big reason for that success has been the play of guard Joe Johnson. Johnson is a dynamic scorer (averaging about 22 points per game) who can also hurt teams by getting his team-mates involved (as he averages about six assists per game).

Of course every MVP discussion is being flooded by mention of Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat. True the Heat are playing second-fiddle to the Magic and Hawks in their division but Wade truly looks to be back to form.

D-Wade has onlookers thinking playoffs for Miami with good reason as he leads the NBA in scoring (averaging about 29 points a contest) while dishing out seven assists per game.

There might be a chance that lights-out shooter Michael Redd of the Milwaukee Bucks or guard extraordinaire Devin Harris of the New Jersey Nets can get into the MVP debate much more later in the season but their teams are going to have play much better and be a threat.

Over in the Western Conference enough cannot be said about the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers and the consistency of last year’s MVP Kobe Bryant.

Bryant continues to sacrifice his body and his minutes for the team and his ability to be a force on offense (averaging roughly 27 points and five assists a game) and a pest defensively (as he is in the top five in the NBA in steals) has really shown through.

The fact that Kobe finally has a solid team around him that looks to get back into the NBA Finals again is a big factor why many feel he is a favourite to repeat as MVP.

However the West has many dynamic players on competitive teams that can get in Kobe’s way.

The Phoenix Suns are a playoff-calibre team in large part due to the presence of Steve Nash. Granted Nash doesn’t have great scoring numbers (he averages only 14 points a game) and Phoenix is lead by their big-man duo of Shaq and Amare Stoudemire.

But without Nash, who shoots 43 per cent from downtown and makes close to nine assists per game, the Suns would not be a factor in a highly-competitive conference.

Even though he’s injured and going to be out a couple weeks Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets certainly deserves a mention.

The Nuggets are out in front in the Northwest division mainly because Anthony has scored about 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds and made four assists per game.

Another big name to think about is Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets. Paul is the NBA leader in assists and steals and leads his team in scoring averaging about 20 points a game.

His Hornets are right with the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest division and are primed for another playoff run with Paul at the helm.

With the way their teams have been playing certainly Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers deserve a mention as well. Only time will tell if their squads are better than expected and give them the edge over the other players.

In the end those players have plenty of time to state their case this season. Now is the time for fans to watch their games and make up their own minds.

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