Top 10 Power Ranking Every NBA Team’s 2012 13 MVP Candidate

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The race for the NBA’s MVP award is set to begin.

Though the league officially recognizes just one MVP, every team has that player who is indispensable, invaluable and keeps the franchise’s heart beating.

LeBron James has re-instilled a sense of dominance in Miami, while Kevin Love continues to lead Minnesota’s resurrection. Chris Paul has propelled the Clippers toward title contention while Rajon Rondo has restored the Celtics’ sense of purpose. And Deron Williams is now being leaned upon in Brooklyn as hard as Dirk Nowitzki is in Dallas.

But while each individual team’s MVP candidate is easy to discern, where does each player stand when pitted against his fellow irreplaceable commodities? Who is the MVP of MVPs, the cream of the crop, the end-all for indispensability?

Let’s find out.

10. Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.0 steals

Tony Parker has game. So much game, in fact, the Spurs wouldn’t appear nearly as ageless as they do without him running the show.

The 30-year-old point guard may have a spotty jump shot, but he’s great at navigating his way in and out of the paint, creating easy looks at the rim for himself and wide-open attempts for his teammates.

Defensively, Parker hardly receives enough credit. Sure, his ability to pick the occasional pocket has been revered to some extent, but watch closely, and you’ll see an athlete completely committed to each movement he makes; everything Parker does defensively is calculated, courtesy of superior anticipation that allows him to defend even the quickest of first steps.

Sleeper candidate for the 2012-13 MVP award, anyone?

Because while both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are integral cogs in San Antonio’s machine, Parker is more than that; he’s vital to the Spurs’ survival.

9. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 21.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.7 steals

Dirk Nowitzki is old, but that hasn’t rendered him any less effective or valuable to the Mavericks.

While Dallas’ deft offseason patchwork set the stage for the team to at least broach the realm of title contention, there’s no hope, no championship window without Nowitzki.

The 34-year-old power forward has unlimited range and is the most crafty inside-out scoring presence the league has ever seen. He hurts opposing defenses in so many different ways, whether it’s making that extra pass, attacking the basket or simply Jackie Chan-ing his way to a fade-away.

Everything the Mavericks were, everything they are, and everything they will become is because of Nowitzki.

He’s not just their MVP, he’s their end-all.

8. Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.2 steals

The Nets head into Brooklyn with high expectations, which they would have no chance of actualizing without Deron Williams.

Not only is the especially strong point guard one of the league’s best playmakers, but he’s a dangerous scorer off the dribble who’s known to draw fouls. His defensive stances are also admirable, as his quick hands and feet allow him to frustrate his opponents.

Easily the most important factoid about Williams, though, is his leadership. In Utah, he led a docket laden with odds and ends to relevancy, meaning he’s just the floor general Brooklyn needs.

You see, as good as the Nets look on paper, there’s no guarantee Joe Johnson remains a perimeter shooting savant, no guarantee Gerald Wallace remains involved and no guarantee Brook Lopez gets the rock where he feels most comfortable.

Except that there is a guarantee, in the form of Williams.

7. Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.2 steals

Carmelo Anthony means a great deal to the Knicks, even more so than Tyson Chandler.

Though Chandler is invaluable to New York’s success, specifically on defense, the addition of Marcus Camby has made his job easier, ever so slightly.

But not Anthony’s. He’s the one who will be held responsible for all the Knicks’ accolades and failures, the one who will be the focal point of the offense and expected to ramp up his game defensively; he is the one this team invested everything—and continue to invest everything—in.

As far as end-alls go, there’s no doubt Anthony is one. Even alongside the likes of Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire, ‘Melo is the one the team turns to for an answer.

After all, New York is going as far as one of the game’s most overly criticized takes it.

6. Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 28.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.2 steals

The arrivals of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have rendered Kobe Bryant close to expendable to the Lakers, right?

Wrong. Even in a role of diminished importance, Bryant is still Los Angeles’ most valuable commodity.

Because while Howard is tasked with surviving alongside Pau Gasol and Nash expected to lead this newly-formed quartet toward a title, Bryant remains Los Angeles’ end-all.

Not only does Bryant have the power to both further and cripple the Lakers’ dynamic through his willingness to make adjustments; without him, there is no chance for a championship.

That says it all—and rightfully so.

5. Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 steals

Kevin Love has proved to be so much more than a one-trick pony.

Not only has the power forward developed limitless range, but his rebounding prowess continues to amaze, and he’s even stepped up his interior defense.

And while there’s a case to be made for Ricky Rubio’s selection here, the fact is the Timberwolves would have imploded just as quickly had it been Love, not Rubio, who was watching from the sidelines.

Love single-handedly allowed Minnesota to regain a sense of relevancy, and did so before the arrival of Rubio, all before he was 23, in fact.

That’s correct. One of the league’s most valuable commodities hasn’t even hit his prime yet, which is great news for the budding Timberwolves.

For the rest of the league, though? Not so much.

4. Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 12.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 11.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.8 steals

Is he controversial? Yes. Is his jump shot broken? Yes. Has that prevented him from becoming the Celtics’ most valuable commodity?

No, absolutely not.

Rondo is one of the league’s most dynamic point guards. He carries himself and the ball in seamless fashion, navigates his way in and out of the paint without breaking a sweat and is the epitome of unselfish. His suffocating defense doesn’t hurt his cause either.

Without Rondo, do we really believe Boston would still be considered a title contender?

Again, absolutely not. Because Rondo is the Celtics.

3. Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 19.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 0.1 blocks, 2.4 steals

Lob City without Chris Paul simply wouldn’t be Lob City at all.

Almost single-handedly, Paul transformed the Clippers from one of the league’s biggest laughing stocks to one of its most formidable contenders. Not bad for less than a year’s work, is it?

While we revel in Blake Griffin’s highlight dunks, let it be known he only has the opportunity to go airborne courtesy of Paul, whose penchant for breaking down defenses opens up an array of offensive doors for his teammates.

Los Angeles’ point guard plays with substance; every shot, every pass, every step has a purpose.

And now, thanks to Paul, so do the Clippers.

2. Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 27.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.4 steals

No one on the Thunder has anything on Kevin Durant, including Russell Westbrook.

Though Oklahoma City boasts one of the deepest rosters in the league, this is a team that is hardly a playoff entity without its small forward.

Durant cannot only score from anywhere on the floor, in any which way imaginable, but he’s an athletic freak who crashes the boards hard despite his lanky frame. And now he’s developed a defensive conscience.

And as undeniably talented as Durant is, he’s still wildly underestimated. But the “he’s too fragile” and “he doesn’t play defense” arguments just won’t cut it anymore, because he’s disproved both of them, instead proving he’s not only the second-most valuable player in the league, but the second-best one overall.

1. LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat

2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.9 steals

There’s nothing LeBron James can’t do.

On a team lined with superstars and stacked to the high heavens in general, James has managed to distinguish himself in ways he never has before, even in Cleveland.

Remember back in 2010, when the Miami thrice first came into existence? Of course you do, because it changed everything, including the MVP conversation. Surely when three top-20 talents joined forces none of them would be in the running for such an honor. After all, it’s about more than stats, it’s about indispensability, right?

That’s correct, and that’s exactly what James is to the Heat—indispensable.

Would Miami appear near unbeatable every night without James? Do the Heat win the 2012 NBA championship sans LeBron? Could Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade carry the immensely heavy, two-way burdens James has?

No, three times over.

James is his own breed of athlete. He can play every position, and play them well; he’s dominant in every facet of the game, from scoring to facilitating to defense.

Again, there’s nothing James can’t do. But there’s plenty the Heat couldn’t do without him.

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