LeBron James has been named NBA Most Valuable Player three times in the last four seasons and has done absolutely nothing this season to dissuade voters from making it four out of five.
His field-goal percentage is up from last season (from .531 to .542), his 3-point shooting has risen considerably (.362 to .434), rebounds have noticeably increased (7.9 to career-high 8.5), assists also are up (6.2 to 6.8) as are blocks slightly (0.8 to 0.9). Turnovers are down (3.4 to 2.6), as are his scoring (27.1 to 25.2) and free-throw percentage (.771 to .681).
Many who vote on the MVP award lean toward sharing the wealth whenever possible, but it must be a plausible argument. No one switches votes simply for the sake of a switch.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant, New York forward Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Memphis power forward Zach Randolph are early candidates for a plausible switch from James repeating.
Not coincidentally, this season's top five MVP candidates (see chart) also play on teams with the five best winning percentages (.731-plus entering Saturday's games).
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.