With LeBron James ailing, Luka Doncic playing his way into shape, the Milwaukee Bucks struggling and Damian Lillard fighting his way through the frozen tundra of cold spells, two names have risen to the top in the early MVP race.
And it's no surprise that they used to occupy the same starting lineup back when the Warriors would waltz into arenas, yawn, flex their muscles for seven minutes, roll teams up and take them out with the trash before going about the rest of their evening.
“Yeah, no doubt, to me they’ve been the two best players in the league so far,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Steph Curry and Kevin Durant on Monday at shootaround when asked if the former teammates were the early frontrunners for MVP.
Curry was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, his second time capturing the award this season. Not to be outdone, Durant won POTW in the East for a week that saw him score 32.3 points per game while shooting 62.9 percent from the field.
On Tuesday, Curry and the 11-2 Warriors will arrive at Barclays Center to face Durant and the 10-4 Nets. Both teams find themselves atop the league despite a glaring hole in their starting lineup for completely different circumstances.
The Warriors have been energized by the impending return of Klay Thompson, who has missed the last two seasons with a torn ACL and torn Achilles. Thompson is expected to return to the lineup in the coming weeks, giving Curry back his Splash Brother for the first time in more than 24 months.
Meanwhile, Durant and the Nets have been playing without Kyrie Irving who remains out until he gets the COVID-19 vaccine.
Should the Warriors and Nets continue on their current trajectory, Durant could potentially face his old team in the NBA Finals. But, always the rational individual, Durant isn't looking at a Tuesday matchup in November as anything more than that.
“It’s just another game,” Durant said, via Adam Zangoria. “It’s 15 games into the season and obviously they’re the best team in the league and they’re playing at an elite level, but it’s a regular-season game. We obviously want to go out there and win in front of our home crowd but we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves and call this a Finals [preview]. We just want to build on who we are, figure out what we want to do out there and keep pushing.”
As for Kerr and the Warriors, who were smacked twice by the Nets last season, they are looking forward to the challenge of measuring themselves against one of the NBA's best.
“It’s just exciting, fun to play in these games, national TV, lot of star power out there,” Kerr said. “Lot of hype so I think our players are looking forward to it. Win or lose, we got 69 games left or whatever.”
Finals preview or not, Tuesday will see Curry and Durant -- two old friends, champions, former teammates and current MVP frontrunners -- square off in Brooklyn, offering a reminder of how unfair they were as teammates and how mesmerizing it is to watch them duel.