In first-place MVP votes last season, James easily outdistanced Durant 85-24, which leaves plenty of ground for Durant to make up with voters.
The league's three-time scoring champ has been turning heads with an improved all-around game that has him averaging career highs in eight significant categories — field-goal percentage (.521), 3-point percentage (.427), free-throw percentage (.904), rebounds (8.4), assists (4.2), steals (1.5), blocks (1.3) and minutes (39.5) — while leading the Thunder to a league-best 21-5 record.
Anthony's scoring (from 22.6 to 28.0) and 3-point shooting (.335 to .448) are up considerably.
Paul has regained his shooting touch while leading the Clippers on a franchise-record 12-game winning streak.
Randolph is healthy after last season's knee injury and averaging a career-high 12.9 rebounds.
Though it is early, these five candidates figure to thrive all season, as do their teams.