7. KOBE BRYANT – Last week: 23.8 ppg/4.0 rpg/3.8 apg
LW: No. 7, maintaining
Kobe followed up his 3-for-20 performance against Utah at the end of last week by shooting 10-for-27 in a loss against Houston two nights later. He’d finally get back on track Wednesday night against Dallas, having his most efficient game of the month with 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting. Then he turned right back around and went 5-for-17 in a win against Portland. In a week where the Lakers went 2-2 you can tell that Kobe sometimes shoots them out of games. After being benched by Mike Brown in the fourth quarter against Memphis on Sunday it’s looking more and more like Andrew Bynum is the team’s most important player. Kobe is the leader, and the one responsible for putting the ball in the basket at the end of the day, but Bynum could be the most important player for the Lakers when it comes down to it. Kobe still leads the league in scoring, and the Lakers still lead the division, so it’s hard to say he doesn’t belong in the MVP conversation.
6. KEVIN LOVE – Last week: 33.5 ppg/15.8 rpg/2.0 apg
LW: No. 9, rising
Is there anyone who can stop Kevin Love? By the looks of it, there really isn’t. Each week he goes out and puts up astonishing numbers and it’s getting really hard to ignore at this point. Sure MVP has a lot to do with team success, but where do you draw the line? This guy Kevin Love has been playing some of the most consistent basketball week in and week out.
It goes a lot deeper than the numbers as well. Last Friday on NBA TV in a thriller at Oklahoma City, Kevin Love went nuts. He finished the game with 51 points on 16-for-27 shooting, 7-for-11 from three-point range and he pulled down 14 boards. If you got a chance to watch the game, you can see that he’s really Minnesota’s go-to guy on every possession. That’s just the type of play you’re beginning to expect from Love now. There’s no question that he belongs in the MVP conversation.
5. RUSSELL WESTBROOK – Last week: 25.0 ppg/4.8 apg/3.5 rpg
LW: No.6, rising
Russell Westbrook has continued to block out the negativity and just focus on his game. Those who criticize him about the amount of shots he takes are the same ones praising him on nights like Friday against Minnesota. Westbrook finished with 45 points on 17-for-28 shooting. What people fail to realize is Westbrook doesn’t always take food off of Durant’s plate. The reason why the Thunder are so difficult to stop defensively is because they have two legitimate scoring threats.
4. DWIGHT HOWARD – Last week: 21.3 ppg/12.8 rpg/2.5 bpg
LW: No. 4, maintaining
Last week was a productive one for the Magic and Dwight Howard, aside from that embarrassing loss at Chicago on Monday night. They responded to that loss with resilience by taking care of business against Phoenix, Cleveland and Toronto respectively. Dwight put up a typical Dwight Howard double-double in each of the Magic’s four games last week.