LeBron James didn’t win the MVP last season, which would have been his third regular season award, because of the negative hype against him, and Derrick Rose suddenly bringing back the Chicago Bulls into a championship caliber team.

This year, the hate against James isn’t as strong, Rose isn’t MVP’ish and Kevin Durant, despite being pretty amazing every time he steps on the court, is missing something in his overall game and defense from dominating like James. Kobe, with all of his pluses and minuses, Howard and Bynum as the best centers, Chris Paul in his new home and the new wave of power forwards (Aldridge, Griffin, Love) join James and Rose as the best players in the NBA during the first half of the NBA season.

Number 10 – Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers

For the first time in his career, Bynum is pretty close to the focus of attention. Into his seventh NBA season, Bynum’s ability to remain healthy for half the season is just as an accomplishment as his numbers – Career highs of 16.3 points and 12.8 rebounds (3rd in the NBA). If Bryant would be a bit more sharing individual, his offensive numbers would have been higher, and the Lakers would probably be having a bit more wins. He has 21 double doubles in 30 games, third in the league.

Number 9 – Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

Although Griffin’s numbers aren’t much better than they were last season, with 21.4 points (ninth in the league) and 11.4 rebounds (4th in the league), being in actual contention this season for a playoff spot and probably more, unlike last year when Griffin and the Clippers were just highlight stars and nothing more, put Griffin under more pressure to contribute and lead, which he has done rather well, despite still being far from a complete player on both ends of the court.

Number 8 – Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

Coming off an improbable MVP season was going to be hard, but Rose has been suffering more from back problems than from post-MVP like syndromes. Rose is averaging 21.8 points and 7.7 assists, as the Bulls battle with the Heat for Eastern supremacy. He’s just as important to Chicago this season, although the team has done rather well without him. Still, no Rose, and dreams of winning an NBA title can be forgotten.

Number 7 – LaMarcus Aldridge, Portlan Trail Blazers

For the first time without Brandon Roy, Aldridge, unlike the Blazers as a team in recent weeks, is grabbing the leader role in both hands, making the most of it. Getting a chance to play in his first All-Star game after getting a bit snubbed last season, Aldridge is averaging 22.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game while shooting 50.6% from the field.

Number 6 – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Leading the NBA in scoring, Bryant is averaging 28.4 points this season, his highest since leading the league in 2007 with over 31 points per game. The problem? The Lakers have regressed, and Bryant taking over 23 shots a game, something he hasn’t done since 2006, isn’t a good thing all the time. He did have four consecutive games of 40 points or more, and scoring 30 in seven out of eight games, but it seems too many times that Bryant’s idea of what’s good for the Lakers isn’t the right course for the team.

Number 5 – Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves

With 25 points and 14 rebounds a game, Love is not only leading the NBA with 30 double doubles in 32 games, but finally part of a good team in Minnesota, with the Wolves currently just outside the playoff picture with a 17-17 record. Love isn’t the defender people want him to be, but he’s much better offensively, becoming a real consistent threat from all ranges, although he does fall in love with shooting three pointers a bit too much at times.

Number 4 – Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Talking about changing mentalities, Chris Paul arriving at the wrong side of Los Angeles’ basketball world has turned the Clippers from a nice team with Blake Griffin into an actual forced to be reckoned with in the West, and also the best team in LA, leading the Pacific division with a 20-11 record. Paul has also decided to stay for the 2012-2013 season, meaning this isn’t a one time thing. Averaging 19.2 points and 8.6 assists per game, Paul immediately became the Clippers’ go to guy in crunch time.

Number 3 – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

Howard wants to be with the Magic? I don’t. I’m pretty sure there are a couple of teams he’d probably prefer. Maybe the Lakers, or maybe the future Brooklyn Nets. But Howard has changed his sulking from earlier on in the season, realizing he has a pretty good crew around him. He’s averaging 20.1 points and a league high 15.3 rebounds per game, but the Magic, with a 22-13 record, won’t be going far in the playoffs again.

Number 2 – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

For the first time in his career, and for the first time since the franchise moved to OKC, the Thunder and Durant are favorites. To win the West, for sure, and maybe the league. There’s still the Durant-Westbrook issue, which rises and sinks, mostly depending on how Westbrook decided to play, but in general, Durant continues to prove he’s the most talented offensive weapon in the league. Averaging 27.9 points per game, there’s a good chance he’ll be leading the NBA in scoring for a third consecutive season, also averaging 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals per game.

Number 1 – LeBron James, Miami Heat

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Still not exactly loved or popular around the country, except for Miami fans, but James, despite those fourth quarters during the NBA finals, isn’t letting everything that surrounds him affect his play, or at least until the regular season ends. Averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game, while playing excellent defense and leading the Heat, with or without Dwyane Wade to the best record in the East, James is our mid-season MVP.