NBA MVP Watch: Paul George Is Back in the Mix

Paul George is back in a big way in 2015-16.

You don't have to wait until December 18th to see the force awaken -- Paul George has already been playing for a month now.

A healthy and revitalized George is playing with renewed confidence that has been reciprocated by the rest of his team. After losing their first three games of the season, the Indiana Pacers are enjoying a five-game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 13 games.

Display after display of red-hot shooting, George sizzles his way into the MVP discussion. He is the lone representative of the East in the latest MVP Watch and ranks fifth in nERD in the NBA.

nERD is our in-house metric that measures a player's contributions throughout the course of a season based on their efficiency. 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.

Who joins him in the top five?

5. Paul George, Indiana Pacers

nERD Score: 14.3
Team Record:11-5

In terms of putting the ball through the hoop, you can't do much better than how Paul George has been doing as of late. George was recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 37.3 points over his last three victories, which included shooting percentages of 55% from the field and 57% from three-point range. On the season, George is averaging a career-best 27.2 points per game and ranks second in the league in average three-pointers made per game with 3.2 (only behind Stephen Curry's ridiculous 4.9) while converting on 46% of his attempts beyond the arc.

4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

nERD Score: 15.9 
Team Record: 11-7

Full throttle with or without his Team USA counterpart, Russell Westbrook continues to impress all over the stat sheet. He leads all point guards in rebounding with 7.4 per game and ranks second in the league with 9.8 assists per game. However, over his last three games, Westbrook is shooting a measly 15% from three-point range. More alarmingly, Westbrook recorded an 11-turnover game last week and is the current league leader in total turnovers (95) and turnovers per game (5.3).

3. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

nERD Score: 16.6 
Team Record: 11-7

After missing six games, Kevin Durant did not skip a beat by making 10 out of 13 field goal attempts in his first game back. In four games since his return from injury, Durant has averaged 29 points, 7.8 rebounds, and a whopping 2.8 blocks per game. Best of all, Durant is healthy enough to continue logging heavy minutes as he's played 37-plus minutes in his last three contests.   

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

nERD Score: 19.5 
Team Record: 14-4

Leading the Spurs to the second best record in the league, Kawhi Leonard jumps to the second spot after a stellar string of 20-plus point games, a sight which is becoming more and more common for Leonard. He continues to be a force in the league as he ranks ninth in points (22.2), eighth in steals (1.9), and third in three-point percentage (47%). Along with his freakish consistency, Leonard's steady improvement from long range makes him a viable threat from anywhere on the court.

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

nERD Score: 32.4 
Team Record: 19-0

With their undefeated mark in jeopardy during a late-game scare in Utah, Stephen Curry calmly dropped 10 points in the fourth quarter, including 3 clutch three-pointers, and finished with a modest 26 points. He has taken somewhat of a backseat in the scoring department, averaging "only" 25.8 points over his last five games, but Curry showed again that he is capable of scoring points when it matters most. The Warriors look to remain spotless as they begin their six-game Eastern road trip.