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2007, January 21: ESPN.com Daily Dime – LeBron Looks Like The MVP Leader

June 24, 2008

January 21, 2008 — Teams will be hitting the midpoint of the 82-game
season this week. Let’s see who’s shaping up as the leading MVP
candidates.

1. LeBron James, Cavaliers forward — Everyone in the East knows it’s
going to be hard to top a Cavaliers team with an always-improving
LeBron in a seven-game series. He’s developing his killer instinct,
which is not good for the rest of the NBA. The recent win over the
Spurs was a good psychological boost.

James is averaging a league-leading 29.7 points per game, along with
7.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists. That’s big-time production, approaching
Oscar Robertson territory. His team’s getting healthy too, and coach
Mike Brown’s two-year extension gives the team stability.

2. Kevin Garnett, Celtics forward — Takes a team like the Celtics that
had been playing non-existent defense and helps put them to the top of
the league in limiting opponents’ field-goal percentage (41.5) while
seeing his team earn the top point differential (plus-11.5). A lot of
that is attributable to Garnett’s ability to play multiple positions,
and help where he’s needed most. His arrival in the East has
dramatically shifted the power. Whether the Celtics get more help at
point guard or not, he’s getting it done regardless, now at 19.7 points
and 9.7 rebounds per game.

3. Kobe Bryant, Lakers guard — Surprise, surprise. Kobe Bean has never
won an MVP, and this year won’t be any different, even though he’s
generally recognized as the game’s best player at both ends of the
floor. He’s found a way to nurture and develop his teammates while
still managing to score 27.7 points per game, second in the NBA. His
production figures to pick up with the loss of Andrew Bynum for at
least seven more weeks.

What guy would you choose to take over Bryant? Nobody, in my opinion.
That’s the truth about a guy who can score 35 or 40 and it’s not
headline news. And don’t forget that no matter what happens in the
months and years ahead, Kobe’s no-trade deal means he would trade the
Lakers, and not the other way around.

4. Dwight Howard, Magic center — Still only 22, a refreshingly
traditional big man who averages a league-leading 15.2 rebounds per
game. As tremendous a young man as he is a player. Without Howard, the
Magic would be a perennial lottery team. As is stands now, he’s
established himself alongside Tim Duncan and Amare Stoudemire as the
game’s most powerful and effective big men.

Being the leader of a young team will bring growing pains, but
ultimately we will see Howard putting the Magic in position to compete
for an East championship every year.

5. Jason Kidd, Nets guard — Yes, the Nets have been up and down this
season, including Sunday’s 116-92 loss in Phoenix for a fifth straight
defeat, but his ability to produce triple-doubles has us talking about
him in terms of Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson on a nightly basis.

He’s at 11.4 points, 10.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game, the kind
of numbers most any point guard would take. Right now, he’s the face of
the franchise. There had been talk of trading him and beginning to
rebuild, but I don’t see the Nets going down that path and being
non-competitive when they move to Brooklyn.

Others considered: Blazers guard Brandon Roy showed he had a hot hand
before the season began, pulling the No. 1 pick in the lottery draw.
The Blazers have a built-in excuse to say "wait till next year" but
he’s been a great young leader. Hornets guard Chris Paul (21.5 ppg,
10.5 apg) has stepped up his game; now it’s not a matter if New Orleans
can win a playoff series, it’s a question of whether they can find
their way through the second round. Spurs forward Tim Duncan’s
greatness is something we just take for granted. Along with Manu
Ginobili and Tony Parker, he makes up the best big 3 in the NBA.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime. For more about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com.

By Jalen Rose – ESPN.com