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Early returns: 7 standouts for NBA's top individual honor

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Early returns: 7 standouts for NBA's top individual honor

When it comes to MVP talk, it's never too early to speculate. Yes, the list will change a lot throughout the season but it's not just about how your start or how you finish. It's about all 82 games.

The key with MVP winners, based on recent returns of the 10 previous seasons, is that their team has to win about 70% of their games -- a top three team in the conference -- to win.

Last year's winner Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, his team won 67 games (81.7%); Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder won 59 games (71.9%); LeBron James won 66 (80.5%) and 46 (69.6%) during the lockout-shortened season with the Miami Heat; Derrick Rose led the Chicago Bulls to 62 wins (75.6%); James twice in a row again with the Cleveland Cavaliers with 61 (74.4%) and 66 (80.5%); Kobe Bryant led the L.A. Lakers to 57 (69.5%); Dirk Nowitzki sparked the Dallas Mavericks to 67 (81.7%); and Steve Nash had the lowest total wins with the Phoenix Suns at 54 (65.9%).

Based on how the season has started, here are my magnificent seven performers and how I'd rank them (entering Thursday's games):

7. Kevin Durant, Thunder

Stats: 29.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 blocks, 49.5% FG, 41.2% 3-pt

The skinny: OKC could be the best team in the West, which alone could catapult Durant to the top of the list. But the drawback is that he could split votes with a teammate.

6.  John Wall, Wizards

Stats: 20.8 points, 8.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.3 blocks, 44.3% FG

The skinny: His assists are down because he has had to score more but it's what Wall is doing in the fourth quarters, and defensively, which isn't necessarily reflected. Like Durant, he could lose votes because he has a teammate that's on fire, too. 

5. Kyle Lowry, Raptors

Stats: 19.2 points, 6.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 44.8% FG, 43.5% 3pt FG

The skinny: Now that he's healthy, and lighter, Lowry is quarterbacking the East's best team. That alone is enough to put him in the conversation.

4. Bradley Beal, Wizards

Stats: 25.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 47.5% FG, 46.4% 3pt FG

The skinny: Leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring (10.3) and is starting to get to the foul line more often which also is responsible for him being 10 points above last season's average.

3. Russell Westbrook, Thunder

Stats: 28.6 points, 10.6 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 49.5% FG, 36.7% 3pt FG

The skinny: When Kevin Durant calls you the best player on the team, that says something. Westbrook's ball distribution is at a career high and it hasn't negatively impacted his scoring. His only drawback is 6.0 turnovers.

2. Andre Drummond, Pistons

Stats: 20.3 points, 19.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.8 steals, 49.2% FG

The skinny: Drummond gets 7.5 offensive boards per game, which is responsible for such high early returns. His points average would be much higher if he shot better than 57.6% from the foul line.

1. Stephen Curry, Warriors

Stats: 35.8 points, 5.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 57.4% FG shooting, 51.9% 3pt FGs. 94.6% FTs

The skinny: He'll easily repeat at this pace with the 2015 champs. And to make his numbers pop even more, Curry is playing the fewest minutes of anyone on this list (31.9).

MORE WIZARDS: Wall, Beal vault into NBA's top 5 in 4th-quarter scoring

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Bradley Beal eliminated in first round of three-point contest, Donovan Mitchell wins dunk contest

Bradley Beal eliminated in first round of three-point contest, Donovan Mitchell wins dunk contest

It was a short night for Wizards guard Bradley Beal in the 2018 All-Star three-point contest on Saturday, as he was eliminated in the first round.

Wearing the Wizards' new 'The District' white alternate jersey, Beal shot a 15 and fell short of the top three spots to qualify for the second round. Suns guard Devin Booker won the contest with a 28 score in the final, beating out Klay Thompson of the Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Clippers.

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Beal's was undone by a slow start. He missed all five shots on the first rack and made just one on the second. He began to heat up at the third rack, but by then couldn't recover.

Here is Beal's full round:

This was Beal's second showing in the three-point contest. He finished second back in 2014 and this year said he was motivated to avenge that loss. He should have plenty more opportunities to participate in the future if he chooses.

The NBA's All-Star Saturday night began with Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie winning the skills competition. He beat Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen in the final round.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest. He edged Larry Nance, Jr. of the Cavaliers in the finals.

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Saturday Night is here with the three-point contest, dunk contest and skills competition set for Los Angeles.

Here is all you need to know: TV and live stream info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

2018 NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Skills competition

Participants: Lou Williams, Clippers; Jamal Murray, Nuggets; Al Horford, Celtics; Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets; Joel Embiid, Sixers; Buddy Hield, Kings; Lauri Markkanen, Bulls; Andre Drummond, Pistons

What to know: This year's crop has a fascinating mix of guards and big men and don't sleep on the seven-footers. Embiid in particular has a unique skillset for his size. Still, it's tough to beat the guards. Watch out for Dinwiddie, who is the best passer of the bunch.

RELATED: BETTING ODDS FOR DUNK CONTEST, THREE-POINT CONTEST

Three-point contest

Participants: Klay Thompson, Warriors; Eric Gordon, Rockets; Devin Booker, Suns; Paul George, Thunder; Wayne Ellington, Heat; Bradley Beal, Wizards; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; Tobias Harris, Clippers

What to know: Thompson and Gordon enter the contest as past champions, as Thompson won it in 2016 and Gordon took it home last year. Thompson has the best three-point percentage among the group and is the favorite, but watch out for Beal, a past runner-up, and George who has the second best percentage. Also, Booker is one of the game's best young players and has a very smooth stroke from three.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Dunk contest

Participants: Dennis Smith Jr.; Mavericks; Donovan Mitchell, Jazz; Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers; Victor Oladipo, Pacers

What to know: This is all about the rookies, Smith and Mitchell, who most are predicting to win. Oladipo has been in the contest before, but didn't win. He's also the only All-Star of the bunch. Nance is the only guy who isn't a guard and his father won it back in 1984. It will be interesting to see if he does some sort of nod to his old man, now 34 years later.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS