6. Chris Paul – LA Clippers
- NBA Stats: 18.1 PPG, 9.4 APG, 4.6 RPG
- January Schedule: Road Games (6) Home Games (9)
- Key Games to Watch: Mon, Jan 5 vs Atlanta; Sat, Jan 10 vs Dallas; Sun, Jan 11 vs Miami; Wed, Jan 14 @ Portland; Fri, Jan 16 vs Cleveland; Sun, Jan 25 @ Phoenix; Sat, Jan 31 @ San Antonio
The Clippers scoring and assists leader should see his stock rise this month, but it’s imperative for him and his team to improve on their away performances, as playing sub .500 basketball on the road won’t get the job done. From an MVP standpoint, Paul is one of the most sound point guards in the NBA, delivering the perfect combination of offense and floor leadership. His speed and court vision is what makes the Clippers such a deadly team, unfortunately, their slow start to the season has thwarted many. The 2013-14 third best team in the Western Conference is currently sitting at No.6 in the current standings with no immediate signs of moving up a slot above Dallas or Houston. The promising news is they have nine games at home where I expect them to get the job done.
7. John Wall – Washington Wizards
- NBA Stats: 17.6 PPG, 10.4 APG, 4.6 RPG
- January Schedule: Road Games (10) Home Games (7)
- Key Games to Watch: Fri, Jan 2 @ Oklahoma City; Sat, Jan 3 @ San Antonio; Fri, Jan 9 vs Chicago; Sun, Jan 11 @ Atlanta; Tue, Jan 13 vs San Antonio; Wed, Jan 14 vs Chicago; Sat, Jan 24 @ Portland; Wed, Jan 28 @ Phoenix; Sat, Jan 31 vs Toronto
Wall’s name was among the leading MVP candidates over the past two months, unfortunately, the Wizards could find themselves sinking lower in the conference standings due to a very tough road schedule heading their way. I have no doubt that Wall can hold his own offensively on the court, but he could be exhausted this month, as he’s facing marquee matchups versus at least eight of the leagues best guards (Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, and Damian Lillard just to name a few). January will either make or break the NBA’s leader in assists.
8. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
- NBA Stats: 21.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.9 RPG
- January Schedule: Road Games (8) Home Games (8)
- Key Games to Watch: Sat, Jan 3 vs Atlanta; Thu, Jan 8 vs Miami; Wed, Jan 14 vs Los Angeles (Clippers); Fri, Jan 16 @ San Antonio; Sat, Jan 17 @ San Antonio; Wed, Jan 21 @ Phoenix; Sat, Jan 24 vs Washington; Wed, Jan 28 @ Cleveland; Friday, Jan 30 @ Atlanta; Sat, Jan 31 @ Milwaukee
Lillard hasn’t gotten a lot of shine due to how well LaMarcus Aldridge is performing, but you can’t deny how essential and revered Lillard has been for this team. This season the young point guard’s confidence is through the roof and he seems to be on a mission to lead his team deep into the postseason. I’d pay close attention to Lillard this month, as he faces the likes of John Wall, Kyrie Irving, and Chris Paul– three of the top point guards in the NBA.
9. Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks
- NBA Stats: 16.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG
- January Schedule: Road Games (8) Home Games (9)
- Key Games to Watch: Sat, Jan 3 @ Portland; Mon, Jan 5 @ Los Angeles (Clippers); Wed, Jan 7 vs Memphis; Sun, Jan 11 vs Washington; Fri, Jan 16 @ Toronto; Sat, Jan 17 @ Chicago; Fri, Jan 23 vs Oklahoma City; Fri, Jan 30 vs Portland
The Atlanta Hawks have shook-up the East, ranking them as the No.1 team in the conference through the early part of January. I have to admit, before the season began, I didn’t think Al Horford and Millsap could co-exist, but both players are paying huge dividends for their team. If any player deserves the nod for MVP, it should be Millsap. He’s second on the team in scoring, but leads the team in rebounds and steals per game. The Hawks have defeated many of the elite teams in the league and have laid waste to the Western Conference. January could be an interesting month for this team, as I’m expecting them to drop to the No.2 or No.3 spot in the Eastern Conference. Still, Millsap will earn the MVP nod this month, he’s been playing at an All-Star caliber level.
10. Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
- NBA Stats: 22.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, 6.1 RPG
- January Schedule: Road Games (7) Home Games (10)
- Key Games to Watch: Mon, Jan 5 vs Houston; Fri, Jan 9 @ Washington; Wed, Jan 14 vs Washington; Sat, Jan 17 vs Atlanta; Mon, Jan 19 @ Cleveland; Thu, Jan 22 vs San Antonio; Fri, Jan 23 @ Dallas; Sun, Jan 25 vs Miami; Tue, Jan 27 @ Golden State; Fri, Jan 30 @ Phoenix;
Butler, arguably the most improved player in the NBA, continues to make his case for MVP, and in January we could actually see him move up a few slots. This kid is as tough as a box of nails, and has emerged as the Bulls leading scorer and best perimeter defender. Butler combined with Pau Gasol and a healthy Derrick Rose, have transformed the Bulls into the 2015 Eastern Conference finals favorite. Could this be the month where we see the Bulls claim the No.1 spot in the east? I think so.