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Race to the MVP: LeBron's wild week lifts him to No. 1 spot

By Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Posted Nov 14 2008 7:26PM

Well, folks we'll just do it right here, right now: LeBron James has surged from No. 7 to No. 1 in this week's Race to the MVP rankings.

I know it's a huge change. I expect a flood of e-mail on two levels: one, from Kobe's fans, who may be the most passionate and fervent fans around, and two, e-mail from others, most of whom will note LeBron's six position leap into the top spot and past Kobe Bryant.

"Dude, how can you have him seventh one week and first the next. Your (sic) an idiot!"

Heck, one colleague has already given me the business. He called me "weak" for caving to the King's loyal subjects. (I think he was joking.) Then, NBA.com's John Schuhmann said I am "absolutely" doing the right thing with this week's rankings.

That's one for, one against. I needed a tie breaker.

So, I IM'd NBA.com's Dave McMenamin, who may be the biggest Bryant acolyte on our staff. Ah, who am I kidding, he's the biggest.

Peterson: Your take?
McMenamin: i'm with schuhmann. its his award.
Peterson: Really?
McMenamin: on nov. 12, yes sir

And that is the point. You will notice, we're only in Week 3. We've had injuries ("Sacre Le Blur!") and inconsistency (Amar'e's performance this week and the constant repositioning of the accent in his name. I'm old enough to remember when it was Amaré ...) effect the rankings.

So the leap LeBron makes this week, and this early in the season, is no leap of faith.

McMenamin: true. i mean, 6-2 record. Three 41 pt games ... averaging like 28, 9 and 7
McMenamin: and his numbers over the last 5 games are insane

Insane is right. Instead of five, let's go with the last four since our most recent rankings: 131 points, 35 boards and 29 dimes for sparkling averages of 32.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists.

As I noted in the Week 1 rankings, things are as random as a Palin family first name. Basically, I think of the first month as one, big snow globe. You gotta shake it up and see where things land. Guys will switch spots. Players will soar from the free throw line (as LeBron did against the Bucks on Tuesday) and others will tumble. Things change.

That's just how it will be. For now.

Also, a couple more formatting issues before we get to the rankings.

You have asked for the old format. After some tweaking, it's back.

Some have also asked for us to restore the stats for those in the "Outside Looking In" list. In a word: no. This year, if you're not in the top 10, you don't get stats.

Of course, you can always complain. Comments? Questions? Are you mad as hell and you're not going to take this any more? Drop us a line at RacetotheMVP@gmail.com.

All right, on to the rankings.

Hoops Line of the Week: Dwight Howard, Orlando Nov. 12 at Oklahoma City 30 points, 19 rebounds, 10 -- 10! -- blocks with three assists sprinkled in. Nice first triple-double, Kal-El.

Line of the Week: "There's a lot of All-Stars that don't have a ring. I've got one in my closet. Ask them if they'd trade their All-Star for my ring." -- Udonis Haslem, to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, on not being on this year's All-Star ballot.

Drop of the week: Amare Stoudemire, Suns (-6)

Rise of the week: LeBron James, Cavs (+6)

Race to the MVP - The Top 10
1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers | Team Record: 7-2
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
28.9 8.3 7.3 2.0 0.7 .487 .764
Last Week's Rank - 7
Oh, LeBron, you're back where I said you would end up when this season ends. Last week, when your Cavs were 3-2, I said I just wasn't feelin' your team. Now, at 7-2 and on a five-game win streak spurred by your 170 points (34.0 points per game) was too difficult to ignore or deny. You didn't just earn this spot, you took it. Kudos, King, kudos.

2. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers | Team Record: 7-0
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
24.1 5.1 3.4 1.4 0.6 .460 .831
Last Week's Rank - 1
Kobe should know better than anyone that sometimes it's not how well you do, it's how well the other guy does. How many times has an opponent played well only to have Kobe outdo that player (and often spectacularly)? Countless times. So, it should come as no surprise that LeBron's stellar play has supplanted last season's MVP at the top of this list. That, and the Lakers have played great team ball. He's been spectacular when needed, but not glaringly brilliant. Of course, Kobe is still the alpha dog of the league's only undefeated team. He and the Lakers aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

3. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets | Team Record: 4-3
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
22.6 5.4 11.9 3.1 0.1 .550 .811
Last Week's Rank - 2
Losing to the Lakers, even at home, we can understand. But losing to Charlotte, even if it was on the road? Ugh. After starting 3-0, the Hornets have lost three of four. No one, however, can deny Paul's individual brilliance. He's started the season with seven 20-plus points, 10-plus assists games. You know who else has done that to start season? C'mon. Stumped? No one. Simply the best point guard on the planet and may be the best in a generation.

4. Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks | Team Record: 6-1
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
24.4 4.7 4.9 1.6 0.3 .457 .821
Last Week's Rank - 5
A slight move forward this week for Johnson, who will now get more attention from opposing defenses now that Josh Smith could be out for nearly a month with a sprained ankle. Question is: will it matter? Johnson still dropped 28 and seven dimes on the Celtics (OK, it wasn't efficient: 9-for-23 shooting) and when he only had 17 against the Bulls on Nov. 11, he dished eight assists. Seems as if he's passing out of those double teams quite well, thanks.

5. Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors | Team Record: 4-4
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
24.9 10.6 2.3 0.5 0.8 .542 .803
Last Week's Rank - 4
Last week, I urged Raptors fans to hit the ballots like rats in a lab experiment and they hijack the mailbox with "Where's Jose Calderon?" Sigh. Look. It's gonna be tough to get Bosh into the All-Star Game as a starter. He has LeBron James and Kevin Garnett in front of him. (And although KG isn't in the top 10 here, would it surprise or disappoint anyone to see him start in the All-Star Game? I don't think so.) So focus, Raptors fans. Oh, and Bosh dropped a spot although he averaged 23.8 and 10.5 in his four games this week because of three things: his nine-point stinker in Boston, the Raptors have lost three of four and they haven't beaten a team over .500.

6. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat | Team Record: 4-4
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
28.3 5.9 7.6 2.8 1.8 .490 .777
Last Week's Rank - 9
Peterson, what are you doing? Another guy on a .500 team higher than guys on better teams. Yeah, so sue me. And averaging 33 points, 7.8 assists, 6.0 boards and 2.5 steals per game in one's last four games should force people to take notice. Oh, and he's shooting .518 in those games too. Wade is back. Now, can he bring the Heat's glory days back with him?

7. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic | Team Record: 5-3
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
23.9 15.0 1.5 1.0 4.4 .642 .515
Last Week's Rank - 8
Man, what a game for Kal-El against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Wow, 10 blocks in a game. That, and you've raised your free throw percentage above. 500? Oh, and you've averaged 30 and 18 -- 18 rebounds! -- in your last three? That's Wilt, Russell and Pettit territory. No wonder Howard has moved up spot in these rankings.

8. Carlos Boozer, Utah Jazz | Team Record: 6-2
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
20.3 11.3 2.5 1.0 0.2 .595 .727
Last Week's Rank - 6
Carlos had a respectable week with a 19.8 points per game and 12.5 boards, but the Jazz went 2-2 and became the first team to lose to the Wizards. Let's see how Boozer's numbers climb (or slide) with Deron Williams back in the lineup. (And no, I don't think I can go a week in R2MVP without mentioning D-Will...)

9. Amar'e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns | Team Record: 6-3
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
23.1 8.4 2.4 1.1 1.0 .593 .871
Last Week's Rank - 3
Um, excuse me, Mr. STAT. May I ask you a question: what happened last week? You know the 18-point game against the Grizz and then the 11-point game against the Rockets at home? Last week, I called you one of the most unstoppable players in the game, and then ... well, as the Arizona Republic's Paul Coro wrote: "Forward Amaré Stoudemire mentions how 'we will see if we can correct those mistakes' after saying he did not get enough shots during an 11-point outing in Wednesday night's 94-82 loss to Houston at US Airways Center." Are those clouds on the Suns' horizon I see?

10. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics | Team Record: 8-1
PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% FT%
20.4 7.4 3.7 1.0 0.3 .408 .785
Last Week's Rank - OLI
Every time I watch a Celtics game, I see Pierce hitting a humungous shot after humungous shot. He had two rather putrid efforts to start the week (18 points against the Bucks and seven against the Pistons -- both wins, though), before coming through with monster games against Toronto (36-9-4) and Atlanta (34). Against the Hawks, his 21st and 22nd points on a cold-blooded jumper with 0.5 seconds left sealed the Celtics' win. I know Jerry West would be especially loathe to lend the nickname Mr. Clutch to Pierce (not a Celtic), but Pierce has earned it ... even if he is borrowing it for these three weeks.

Dropping out: Tony Parker (Le Blur c'est infirme)

Outside looking in, for now, in alphabetical order: Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, T.J. Ford, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Danny Granger, Al Jefferson, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Brandon Roy

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