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Are LeBron and Kawhi closing in on Steph Curry?

ESPN Illustration

This is our third installment of the Player Power Rankings, and this week's list features a significant amount of upheaval, most of it in the second 10.

Three new players join the list, their teams winning too much to remain ignored. While not all members of the top 20 are on playoff teams or even clubs playing up to their potential, winning weighs heavily in these rankings. Gotta reward the ballers for their success.

The reverse is true as well. With a supposed contender falling flat on its face seemingly every other time out, one of the team's superstars had to be bumped from the top 5. After all, a team with two top 5 players should be able to protect a lead. When they can't, there must be a reckoning.

Note: MVP odds from Ladbrokes.com


1. Stephen Curry

Golden State Warriors
RPM: 10.12 (No. 1)
MVP betting odds: 1-100
Previous rank: No. 1

For those who doubt we could inscribe Curry's name on his second straight MVP trophy right now, peep his crunch-time stats: 50.8 percent shooting in the last five minutes of a close game; 51.6 percent in the last minute; 61.1 percent from 3. This dude actually gets better in the clutch. Just one more reason to say "unheard of'' when discussing this man.


2. LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers
RPM: 8.74 (No. 5)
MVP odds: 30-1
Previous rank: No. 2

Steph's brilliance is not the only thing that put him atop this list. LeBron's vanishing J and the Cavs' maddening inconsistency played a role as well. But LeBron's starting to find his rhythm -- a season-high 35.5 percent from 3 this month -- and perhaps so are the Cavs. The way he closes the gap on Steph is by getting his team to reach its full potential. He truly won't be able to prove that has happened until June, but a 3-1 West Coast trip was a step in the right direction.


3. Kawhi Leonard

San Antonio Spurs
RPM: 9.62 (No. 2)
MVP odds: 18-1
Previous rank: No. 3

Sure, his stunningly improved 3-point ball has deserted him recently -- 29 percent over a recent five-game stretch -- but so what? He guarded both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to help the Spurs protect their home court Saturday night. That's why being stellar on both ends is such a beautiful thing: J or not, you can always impact the game. Plus, even in his poor shooting stretch, he averaged nearly 24 PPG.


4. Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder
RPM: 6.31 (No. 8)
MVP odds: 20-1
Previous rank: No. 4

KD falls out of bed and posts monster numbers -- points, rebounds (for his position), and assists (for a virtual 7-footer). But his team is blowing games like toddlers make birthday wishes. Another week, another two Ls in four games. Oh, and another 17 turnovers. While he's a great ball handler for a giant with a butter stroke, he's not a great ball handler. So he probably needs to stop dribbling as much.


5. Chris Paul

Los Angeles Clippers
RPM: 7.60 (No. 6)
MVP odds: 100-1
Previous rank: No. 6

CP3 wasn't at his best this week: He stumbled over himself once while being guarded by LeBron, and was the victim of a historic performance by Russell Westbrook in OKC's get-back victory over the Clippers. But he has still been the driving force behind the Clippers' admirable months-long surge without Blake Griffin, and even in sub-par form, he gave out 41 assists in three games.


6. Russell Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder
RPM: 9.11 (No. 3)
MVP odds: 28-1
Previous rank: No. 5

Against the man I've just elevated above him, Russ became the first player with at least 25 points, 20 assists and 10 rebounds (he had 11) in a game since Magic Johnson in 1988. But someone had to pay for the Thunder's late-game futility. If it was just about the box score Russ, with two triple-doubles this week, might be No. 1 on this chart, but OKC's inability to close out games is directly related to his lack of production and preponderance of gaffes in the fourth quarter. He leads the league in turnovers in the fourth and overtime, and since the start of February is 3-for-21 from beyond the arc in the final 12 minutes.


7. Damian Lillard

Portland Trail Blazers
RPM: 2.27 (No. 50)
MVP odds: 150-1
Previous rank: No. 7

For the first time this season, Dame didn't go video game on Steph Curry and the champs. After averaging 45.5 points in their first two meetings, he was held to only 17 on 26 percent shooting, as the Warriors put the Blazers back in their place. But D.O.L.L.A. bounced back with a solid, if not spectacular, 19-point, 10-assist pick-me-up in a rout of Orlando.


8. James Harden

Houston Rockets
RPM: 5.24 (No. 12)
MVP odds: 40-1
Previous rank: No. 8

It wasn't a week to write home about for The Beard, but he did drop 32 to lead Houston to an impressive W at Boston and rack up a near triple-double against the pitiful 76ers. And for all those who want Harden's ranking to plummet because of his legendarily laughable defense, here's how good his offense is: Even with his paper-thin resistance, he's ranked seventh in the league in PER (25.2).


9. Kyle Lowry

Toronto Raptors
RPM: 7.36 (No. 6)
MVP odds: 150-1
Previous rank: No. 9

It wasn't a week of gaudy numbers for Lowry either, but his Raptors went 3-1 and knocked off Atlanta and Miami, two of the hottest teams in the East. Like Kawhi Leonard, he gets it done on both ends, so his harassment of the Hawks' Jeff Teague and the Heat's Goran Dragic made up for his inaccuracy from long range.


10. Anthony Davis

New Orleans Pelicans
RPM: 3.20 (No. 31)
MVP odds: 150-1
Previous rank: No. 10

AD has been on a mad tear, averaging 31 points and nearly 12 rebounds over his last five games. His rush has done nothing for the injury-plagued Pelicans, who've lost four of those games. But it's hard to blame Davis for failing to carry a starting lineup full of journeymen and career backups to victory. Big men, no matter how good, need competent guard play to win games. Davis has gotten that from Jrue Holiday but otherwise, his support has been lacking. We won't punish him for that.

The next 10

11. LaMarcus Aldridge | PF | San Antonio Spurs

Since January, Aldridge has nearly matched his Portland numbers. After scoring 23 or more points only five times in his first 32 games in San Antonio, he has tallied 23 or more in 15 of his last 29, including his last seven.

Previous rank: No. 14

12. Paul George | SF | Indiana Pacers

His paltry field goal percentage (.412) bothers me, but he's also averaging career highs in points (23.3), assists (4.2) and free throw attempts.

Previous rank: No. 11

13. Draymond Green | PF | Golden State Warriors

He has had a nice week of scoring, and of course, is doing all other things well. Still, like a larger Jason Kidd, he can have a huge impact despite shooting poorly and scoring little.

Previous rank: No. 16

14. John Wall | PG | Washington Wizards

I'd like to see Wall justify this ranking by getting the Wizards, no matter how ravaged by injuries, into the playoffs. It is, after all, the East.

Previous rank: No. 13

15. Klay Thompson | SG | Golden State Warriors

He doesn't have to do it much, but he can also take guys off the dribble. There's a legitimate Big Three in the Bay Area. With all the love for Draymond, let's not forget that.

Previous rank: No. 17

16. DeMar DeRozan | SG | Toronto Raptors

I had to acknowledge that Lowry is either way better than I think or getting big-time help up north. With DeRozan averaging 30 points on 50 percent shooting this much, I chose the latter.

Previous rank: N/A

17. DeMarcus Cousins | C | Sacramento Kings

I'm sick of his foolishness. Professionalism and maturity are critical skills and attributes as well. I hear he's not a bad guy, just an emotional one without proper guidance. Whatever, it's time to grow up.

Previous rank: No. 12

18. Isaiah Thomas | PG | Boston Celtics

I can no longer deny what Thomas is doing in giving Boston a shot at home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference first round. His roster is nowhere near as talented as Miami's, but his Celtics are battling the Heat for the No. 3 seed.

Previous rank: N/A

19. Kemba Walker | PG | Charlotte Hornets

Similar to Thomas, this guy is carrying a well-coached team full of nondescript players to impressive heights. He's averaging nearly 29 points, 7 assists and 5 boards in leading Charlotte to a 7-2 mark this month.

Previous rank: N/A

20. Hassan Whiteside | C | Miami Heat

He has delivered 12 double-doubles in 13 games since the All-Star break. On top of that, he's hitting about 75 percent of his free throws, which is why he has bumped DeAndre Jordan.

Previous rank: No. 19