The NBA's best players have set a heavy pace early in the year. At the quarter pole, here's who is leading the MVP race:

5. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers »

It was always going to take a season for the Clippers to realize their potential. Paul (15.7 ppg, 9.3 apg) is the engine that makes them go. They have matched a franchise best with 11 straight wins, and it could be well into the teens before they lose again.

4. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers »

At age 34, Bryant (29.5 ?ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.2 rpg) is scoring more than he has since the 2006-07 season to carry the rudderless Lakers, including 33.8 ?points per game in December. He's not the reason that his team has struggled.

3. LeBron James, Miami »

James (25.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 6.9 apg) is the reason the Heat can be on cruise control for the first two months of the season and the reason they're the still the team most feared all year.

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City » It won't matter that Durant (27.7 ?ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.2 apg) is having a career year in field goal percentage, rebounding and assists if he can't bring a championship to Oklahoma City. That's the method behind his improvement as an all-around player.

1. Carmelo Anthony, New York?» It won't be easy to continue his remarkable 3-point shooting (45.8 percent). But on the game's biggest stage, Anthony (28.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) has led the Knicks to the top of the Eastern Conference and is rewriting his own legacy.

- Craig Stouffer