The 2013/14 NBA campaign may still be in its infancy, but with the games coming thick and fast it is never too early to start predicting just which stars are staking valuable early claims to be named as the league's Most Valuable Player.
Prior to a busy Friday night around the association, GMS selects five top players who are currently leading the way in the latest MVP race. Such selections are subject to opinion of course, so it could be that a number of deserving candidates have just missed the cut.
5. Kevin Love
With a number of NBA stars making long-awaited returns from injury this season, dominant Minnesota Timberwolves forward Love appeared to be overlooked and largely underestimated by fans and basketball analysts alike.
With so many evidently focused upon Derrick Rose's comeback and the ongoing saga involving LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his troublesome achilles, two-time All-Star Love has given a swift reminder of his considerable capabilities.
Averaging 25.4 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, the 25-year-old - who broke his hand twice last season - has once again become an integral figure under Rick Adelman at Target Center as the 7-6 Timberwolves look to assert their status as genuine contenders for a Western Conference playoff spot.
4. Kevin Durant
Three-time NBA scoring champion Durant certainly did not cool off during the summer break. Instead, the 25-year-old former second overall pick returned to action seemingly more determined than ever to propel the Oklahoma City Thunder back into the championship picture.
Already averaging 29.5ppg - higher than his career average of 26.7 - Durant's unstoppable scoring streak has been the key behind the Thunder's solid 8-3 start.
Durant's chances of securing the ring that his talent so obviously merits has been markedly boosted by the return of fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook returned to the court far earlier than anticipated this month having spent the last six months on the sidelines with a knee injury. Together, he and Durant form arguably the best one-two punch that the NBA has to offer.
3. Paul George
With a far stronger bench unit to compliment their stellar starting five, the Indiana Pacers are showing no signs whatsoever of a potential hangover from their heartbreaking Eastern Conference Finals defeat to the eventual champion Miami Heat in May.
Instead, Frank Vogel's men have started in blistering fashion, dropping only one game to the Chicago Bulls on their way to a formidable 10-1 record. The Pacers have made Bankers Life Fieldhouse a fortress, with six victories on their own floor in front of a rabid and enthusiastic crowd.
While defensive powerhouse Roy Hibbert, emerging guard Lance Stephenson and David West are all vital to the Pacers' burgeoning championship hopes, 23-year-old forward George has been outstanding thus far, averaging 24.4 ppg.
If the Pacers are to better last year's sterling effort, his form will be crucial.
2. LeBron James
A list such as this would just not seem complete without the inclusion of reigning MVP James. Although the Heat superstar endured an uncharacteristically quiet game during the win over Mike Budenholzer's Atlanta Hawks this week, he remains comfortably the league's top talent.
Averaging 25.6ppg, James became only the fifth player in league history to record 500 consecutive double-digit point games during the 104-95 triumph over the Toronto Raptors earlier this month.
Spoelstra's Heat have not been quite as dominant as anticipated during the early stages of the new season, but James' incredible versatility and eye for the spectacular should surely see them safely construct yet another deep playoff run.
1. Chris Paul
Unquestionably the NBA's best active point guard, LA Clippers star Paul's opening to the new campaign has been admirably consistent.
Averaging 19.3ppg to compliment his formidable 12.5 assists, the six-time All-Star even broke Magic Johnson's 22-year record in Monday's 109-107 win over the Timberwolves with his twelfth-straight double-double.
While James may still be most people's favourites to claim a third consecutive MVP award, Paul will provide stiff competition if he is able to maintain such excellent form as the key facilitator of Doc Rivers' offense at Staples Center.
Do you agree with our selections? Who do you feel is currently leading the race to be named MVP? Stats have been taken from NBA.COM, whose own weekly look at the race for the MVP award can be seen here.
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