NBA MVP Watch: Who Are the Early Favorites?

After a couple of weeks in the NBA, which stars are playing unlike any other?

LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Kobe Bryant. Derrick Rose.

What do these four players have in common? They've all won at least one MVP in the last seven years. You could say they're the usual suspects when it comes to the MVP candidacy. And you could say that LeBron is the favorite year in and year out. He's won the award four times over the past seven years while going back to back twice in five seasons.

Why wouldn't he be our staff favorite for MVP?

I doubt any of us would vote for LeBron, or any of the other players above for that matter, as an MVP candidate through the first two weeks of the season. For one, KD has not played a minute due to injury, while D-Rose has played only three out of seven games while dealing with two sprained ankles. As for Kobe, well, to put it nicely, the Lakers stink.

And for LeBron, his team has really struggled to play defense and win games. So, with these four usual suspects struggling for various reasons, who is worthy of some early consideration for NBA MVP?

Here, and most Mondays throughout the NBA season, I'll break down the top candidates from 5 to 1 based on our metrics. For those of you unfamiliar with nERD, it's a player ranking that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on their efficiency. The league average is 0. Comparable to win shares, this ranking gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win with that player as one of their starters.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the candidates.

5. James Harden, Houston Rockets

If you wanted to argue that Harden has been the MVP of this young season, you wouldn't find much of an argument from me. So far, he's posted the highest nERD of any player with a rating of 24.8, while his Rockets have earned the highest nERD of any team (85.1). So, while Harden may be the best player on the number-one ranked team, there's a way we can more effectively weigh the value of each potential MVP candidate.

By dividing Harden's nERD by his team's overall nERD we can find the percentage of total nERD he contributes to his team. Harden's "nERD share", of 29.1% ranks fifth among our top five players. This is in large part due to the presence of Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza, who also boast nERD ratings of 12.8 and 15.7, respectively. Harden may very well be the best player out of the gate in 2014, but he hasn't been the most valuable. However, if Howard goes down with injuries as he has in the past, Harden could see a jump in value and MVP votes by the end of the year.

This week: Timberwolves, 76ers, Thunder

4. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Number four might be the unlikeliest of our five candidates to actually win the award when all is said and done. Nonetheless, Lowry has really emerged as a star in this league. He's a hidden gem north of the border, but he's really come out this year as a man on a mission to put Toronto right back into the playoff mix. Now that he's getting paid like a top guard, Lowry is proving himself worth every penny. Through seven games, he's our fourth ranked player with a nERD of 18.5.

Lowry's the main reason his team sits pretty at 6-1. He possesses a 29.6% share of his team's total nERD of 62.5. As the "King of the North" and leader of the Raps, I wouldn't be surprised if Lowry is in and out of our top five throughout the season.

This week: Magic, Bulls, Jazz

3. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

Yes, the real Chris Bosh is back. Without Mr. James around, Bosh has put the Heat on his back and morphed back into the NBA superstar we all saw in Toronto. In fact, he finds himself at number five in our player rankings with a nERD of 17.4 while LeBron is on the outside looking in (-0.7). I never thought I'd say that, but Bosh has been the best player on his team by far.

Even with Dwyane Wade looking his younger self, Bosh has more than tripled Wade's nERD rating (5.7) over the first two weeks. It's really clear that Bosh has made the Heat his team. Bosh has accounted for 30.7% of his team's total nERD of 56.6 while leading Miami to a record of 5-2. Now with the opportunity to put up big numbers night in and night out, I expect to be mentioning Bosh a lot for weeks to come.

This week: Pacers, Hawks, Bucks

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

For many NBA fans and analysts, this name comes as no surprise. Over the past couple years, Stephen Curry has risen to superstar status out west with Golden State. His lights-out shooting and play-making ability have earned him a nERD rating of 24.0 over the first two weeks of the season - good enough for second in the league. And Steph's great start has translated to early success for the Warriors.

Golden State is our second-ranked team with a team nERD of 75.9 and a record of 5-1 through 6 games. Now, Klay Thompson sure had a hot start to the year splashing threes and cashing checks. But Curry has more than doubled Thompson's nERD of 10.4 while contributing more than 31.6% of his team's total nERD. They may be "brothers" but Curry should be in the spotlight all year on his way to competing for his first MVP.

This week: Spurs, Nets, Hornets, Lakers

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Our projections favored Brow as the early favorite for an MVP year, and he has not disappointed. Davis stepped into the spotlight with his first performance of the year, and he hasn't let up since - earning the third-best nERD of all NBA players, with a rating of 20.8. But that's not all he's done.

Brow has helped the Pelicans get off to a 3-2 start against some tough competition. This past week, he led New Orleans to a victory over a tough Charlotte team, but more impressively went into San Antonio and came out with a victory against the defending champs. These types of wins have helped the Pelicans to a team nERD of 54.4 - 12th in the league. While that ranks only 12th in the league, Davis has contributed more than 38.2% of his team's total nERD. That's 6% more than every other candidate. It'll be interesting to see what Brow does against LeBron and the Cavs tonight.

This week: Cavaliers, Lakers, Timberwolves