Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng is ranked eighth on an early listing of MVP candidates from NBA.com's Sekou Smith, higher than Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. The Bulls are currently 4-2 this season, despite the absence of former MVP point guard Derrick Rose.
Deng has been impressive for Chicago this season, averaging 17.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game -- all while while playing more minutes per game than anyone but Rondo and new Houston Rockets guard James Harden.
That has allowed the Bulls to stay competitive despite Rose's absence and additional injuries that have hobbled his replacement, Kirk Hinrich. Between Deng, an improving Joakim Noah and the efficient contributions of Richard Hamilton and Nate Robinson, Chicago has figured out a way to score enough to be one of the better teams in the East.
Smith lists Miami Heat forward LeBron James, the MVP in three of the past four seasons, as his early favorite to win the award again, noting that, "Even in the absence of mind-boggling statistics, it's clear that James is operating on a level all his own."
Rounding out the top five are Harden, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. Also ranked ahead of Deng are San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker and Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph.