MVP Power Rankings 1.0 (Dec. 22-Jan. 7)

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Year in and year out, the Most Valuable Player is the result of an NBA season that people most talk about — besides who wins the championship. With that said, two weeks into the 2020-21 season, we can start talking about it. And while there’s still a big part of the season still left to play, it’s still fun to begin these conversations early and see how opinions change with the passing of time. So, twice a month, I’ll be presenting my top five in the race for the MVP award.

How it works: Once every two weeks, I will be ranking who I think are the top five candidates for the regular season MVP. Each position in the ranking has a different value (first place is ten points, second is seven, third is five, fourth is three and fifth is one), like an actual MVP ballot. All totals carry over to the following rankings (totals illustrated at end of article), until the end of the season where that will determine my vote for MVP. Individual stats, team record, narrative and “MVP Performances” (great games that players have, in wins, that solidify their candidacy) are the things I will take into consideration when making these rankings.

Without further adieu, here’s my MVP Power Rankings for the first two weeks of the 2020-21 NBA season (December 22, 2020 through January 7, 2021):

Fifth Place: Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)

Team record: 5-4 (tied for seventh in East)

Stats: 27.1pts/5.3reb/6.1ast/1.6stl on 50.4/42.6/100 shooting

The Nets figured to be contenders in the East, even pre-season favorites to win the championship in the eyes of many, thanks in large part to the expected performances of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. And, to the surprise of few, they have both performed at that level, and even surpassed expectations for some. In Kyrie’s case, he’s been every bit as great as he showed last season. His “MVP Performances” include his 26pt performance against Stephen Curry on Opening Night, 37pts in his return to Boston on Christmas Day and 27pts (18 in first quarter) against the Jazz in a blowout win in Brooklyn.

Unless you think you can’t have two MVP candidates from the same team, you need to have one of Kyrie or Durant on your list. Kyrie was the pick for me because of his overall better numbers, and the extra performance KD didn’t against Utah.

Fourth Place: Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers)

Team record: 6-2 (tied for second in East)

Stats: 23.6pts/4.1reb/7ast/2stl on 51.8/47.2/87 shooting

The Indiana Pacers kept their roster intact from last season, and with a new head coach in Nate Bjorkgren, the team is off to a blazing start by being tied for the second best record in the NBA. Everyone on their team has stepped, seeing as they’ve been able to win games even after T.J. Warren got hurt, being led by Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis. Brogdon particularly, like at the start of last season, has been the engine of this team on both ends of the floor. He’s always been one of the better defensive guards in the league, and he’s the main producer of the show the Pacers have put on for the first two weeks of the season. His all-around gem against the Knicks in their first game of the season (21pts/7reb/8ast/2stl), 25pts/5reb/5ast/2stl outing against the Celtics in a nail-biter, 21pts/7reb/11ast/3stl/1blk performance at New Orleans (capped off by a game-winner in overtime) and a career-high 35pts with 7ast against the Rockets have been his notable “MVP Performances” so far.

Like the previous spot, you can have a fair debate between two players from the same team (Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis). For me, Malcolm has been more consistent and has played the best basketball out of the two recently.

Third Place: Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

Team record: 6-3 (fourth in East)

Stats: 26.3pts/7.3reb/4ast/1stl/0.9blk on 46.8/45.1/88.6 shooting

Tatum was expected to take a big leap this season, considering he’s entering his age 23 season, the progress he showed last year and that the team was going to be without Kemba Walker for the first month of the season. And he, along with Jaylen Brown, have been fantastic for the first two weeks. Tatum has been the better of the two all things considered, especially as of late.

Since the calendar turned to 2021, Jayson Tatum is averaging 29.8pts/6.3reb/5ast/1.3blk on 48.8/48.6/90 shooting in four games (including a three-game winning streak). “MVP Performances” include: a 30pts/7reb/2stl/2blk outing against the Bucks in their first game (including the game-winning three), 27pts/11reb/4ast/3stl in a bounce-back win at Indiana after losing a close game to them two days prior, 24pts/8reb/12ast/2blk at Detroit (including the game-winner), a 40pts/6reb (11-19 from the field, 5-8 from three and 13-13 from the free throw line) masterpiece against the Raptors and 27pts/5reb/4ast at Miami in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch.

The numbers have been stellar, and the Celtics recent success has put Tatum on the map of potentially being one of the league’s fifteen or maybe even ten best players of the league. While that’s debatable, him being a top MVP candidate shouldn’t be.

Runner-up: Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)

Team record: 6-3 (tied for second in West)

Stats: 24.6pts/6.5reb/4.8ast1.6stl on 48.9/47.8/94.6 shooting

After their major collapse in the playoffs last season (blowing a 3-1 series lead in the semifinals against the Denver Nuggets), the Clippers have started the season red-hot and have placed themselves as one of the favorites to represent the Western Conference in the Finals. A big part of this has been the stellar play from Paul George, who is still one of the best two-way players and looks to be an MVP candidate for the second time in three seasons.

George was the protagonist of criticism toward the Clippers during their shorter than expected postseason run, and he appears to have taken the slander personally. His first two games of the season were immediate redemption opportunities against the Lakers team that they weren’t able to face last season, and the Nuggets team that came back against them. George kicked off his season with a 33pts/6ast (13-18 from the field, 5-8 from three) at Staples Center and a 23pts/5reb/9ast outing on Christmas Day, respectively. Other notable “MVP Performances” include his game against the Phoenix Suns with 39pts (15-24 from the field, 7-10 from three), and in Golden State on January 6 (21pts/12reb). He’s also been on the court for the Clippers in their overall embarrassing performances against the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

Whatever this team did last year and how bad it actually was doesn’t matter for this discussion. The MVP is a regular season award. And, as things stand, PG has had an amazing start to his 2020-21 campaign, what could quite possibly be a revenge season for him after his performance in key moments in the 2020 playoffs. He’s second just because there’s someone who has flat-out been better.

MVP: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Team record: 7-2 (best record in East and NBA)

Stats: 24.6pts/11.8reb/3.3ast/1.1stl/1.8blk on 52.5/45.8/83.3 shooting

Yes, Thursday’s game at Brooklyn didn’t look good for Philly. But even considering that, Embiid is the clear frontrunner for MVP in the first two weeks of the season. He’s been a stout defender, and him being in arguably the best shape of his NBA career has allowed him to play great basketball on the best team in the league. His 32.3 minutes per game are the second highest average of his career, and he’s playing his most efficient basketball while also averaging his second highest amount of points. He leads his Sixers squad to being among the league’s best in multiple categories (top ten in points, assists, rebounds, FG%, 3P%, blocks, opponent FG% and points allowed, notably), and he’s point-blank been the best player on the best team in the first two weeks. His “MVP Performances” include a 29pts/14reb effort in a fourth quarter comeback win on the 76ers’ first game of the season vs the Wizards, 27pts and 10reb at New York against the improved Knicks, a 29pts/16reb/4ast/2stl/2blk effort against the Raptors and a 38pts/8reb/5ast/3stl/3blk outing against Bradley Beal’s 60pts and the Wizards.

No player, currently, has been more dominant and consistent than Embiid, nor is there a better team than his. Two weeks in, he’s my MVP.

Honorable Mentions: Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)

Full Season MVP Power Rankings:

PlayerPointsPosition in Ladder
Joel Embiid10MVP
Paul George7Runner-up
Jayson Tatum5Third Place
Malcolm Brogdon3Fourth Place
Kyrie Irving1Fifth Place

What does your MVP list look like at the moment? Tweet at me and let me know!