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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, 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 Most Valuable Player award. 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 third MVP Power Rankings for the 2020-21 NBA season, updated after games from Feb. 5 through Feb. 18.
Fifth Place: James Harden (Brooklyn Nets)
Team record: 19-12, second place in East
Stats: 24.4pts/7.2reb/11.3ast/1.1stl/0.8blk on 48/38/89 shooting
It’s not an overstatement to say that the Nets have one of the most potent offenses in NBA history since acquiring Harden. And it isn’t a matter of circumstance; James Harden has been the engine of the Nets for most of his time. At the start, it seemed like he was still finding his groove with the team and his ideal role (all while still racking up triple-doubles, lol). It feels like he’s found his role as the primary playmaker, but still can get his own buckets if need be. Part of that can be attributed to Kevin Durant’s absence, with Harden having averages of 24/8/11 during the past two weeks. The Nets lost their first three games of this two-week stretch since my previous MVP Power Rankings piece, but won five in a row with Harden averaging 26/9.8/11.5 on 53/48/100 shooting in those victories. Four of those five were what I deem “MVP Performances”: 19pts/16ast/8reb against the Warriors, a 29pts/13reb/14ast triple-double in a record-setting game against the Kings, a 38pts/11ast/7reb performance in a comeback win at Phoenix, and 23pts/11ast/5reb against the Lakers.
Fifth place was a toss-up between Harden and Nikola Jokic, but the Nets better record (5-3) and James’ “MVP Performances” were the deciding factors. You can make a good argument for Jokic, though.
Fourth Place: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Team record: 16-13, seventh place in West
Stats: 30pts/5.3reb/6ast/1.2stl on 49/42/93 shooting
There’s a lot of ways you can describe Steph’s most recent play: amazing, incredible, spectacular, bonkers, crazy, bananas, among others. Curry’s numbers over the past two weeks read: 35.6pts, 4.7reb, 5.7ast on 54.8 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three and 94.4 percent from the charity stripe, and he’s led the Dubs to a 4-3 record in that stretch. He’s scoring at an elite rate, leading the league in three pointers made and points and second in points. But also, he’s doing it efficiently: he ranks ninth in True Shooting Percentage while ranking first in total field goal attempts and three point attempts.
His most recent outings have been outstanding: 57pts on 19-31 shooting from the field and 11-19 from three (wasn’t an “MVP Performance” because he didn’t get the W, but it should be noted nevertheless), 32pts at San Antonio, 40pts/8reb/5ast against the Magic, 36pts/6ast against the Cavaliers and 25pts/11ast/7reb in a comeback victory against the Heat.
His play has been sensational, and he’s been the closest thing to what you can call “carrying his team”. For anyone who, for some reason, doubted his greatness, there you go.
Third Place: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
Team record: 19-10, best record in East
Stats: 29.7pts/10.8reb/3ast/1.3stl/1.2blk on 54/39/85 shooting
Embiid’s run as my MVP for all three of my previous MVP Power Rankings has ended. It was fun while it lasted.
His play hasn’t dropped off by any means: he averaged 31.8pts/10.8reb/4.6ast/1.6stl/1blk on 48/31/85 shooting in the five games he played the last two weeks. However, the team’s success has fallen off from what it once was, with a 3-2 record in those games he played (3-3 overall). In his defense, and to speak positively about his candidacy, he did have “MVP Performances” in those 3 wins: 33pts/9reb/3ast/3stl against the Nets, 25pts/17reb/6ast/2stl/2blk at Sacramento, and 31pts/11reb/9ast/2stl/1blk against the Rockets.
Like I said, he’s still playing at an elite level. What separates him from the new duo at the top are better play, and better team success.
*I say this and he proceeds to drop a 50 piece on the Chicago Bulls… that’s an “MVP Performance” for the next edition of the rankings!
Runner-up: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Team record: 18-10, fourth place in West
Stats: 29.8pts/4.4reb/7.7ast/1.1stl on 45/38/93 shooting
I was extremely confident in the Blazers being one of the best teams in the league this season prior to Dec. 22: I had them finishing second in the West, Carmelo Anthony as the Sixth Man of the Year and Lillard as the MVP (see here). Albeit not in the ideal circumstances, given all their injuries, the team has started to play somewhat how I expected. The deep cast of role players they now have (Melo, Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr, Anfernee Simons, Enes Kanter and others) have played their best basketball of the season, which has helped the Blazers rattle off six straight wins. Having said that, Dame has been the catalyst of their success, averaging 32/4/9 on 43/38/92 shooting during the run. And in some of those wins, he’s had some superhuman performances: 30pts/7ast against the team with the best record in the East (76ers), 34pts/11ast against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks (including the game-winner), 31pts/10ast/7reb at the Thunder, and 43pts/16ast (career-high) against the Pelicans (including the game-winner).
He’s been nothing short of sensational, and would be my MVP pick if it weren’t for a certain someone that continues to amaze…
MVP: LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
Team record: 22-8, second place in West
Stats: 25.9pts/8.2reb/7.9ast/1stl on 50/37/70 shooting
At long last, King James has reached the top of my MVP Power Rankings. While I did criticize the narrative made around him being MVP two weeks ago, his case for the award has been made clearer with two more weeks of play in the books. He put up the usual amazing LeBron statline (28pts/9reb/8ast/1.4stl) during that stretch, and the Lakers went 5-2 during that stretch (including four in a row, part of their seven-game winning streak). He began that stretch with three straight clutch Overtime performances against the Pistons (33pts/5reb/11ast/4stl) and twice against the Thunder (28pts/14reb/12ast/2stl/2blk in first game, and 25pts/6reb/7ast/2stl in second). After those closer than they should have been games, though, he still continued playing great: 28pts/9reb/8ast/2stl in a comeback win against the Grizzlies, and 30pts/13reb/7ast against the Timberwolves.
Oh, and he’s playing at this level without taking a single game off, at 36 years old, in his eighteenth season, and coming off the shortest offseason in American sports history. Is it a good idea in the long run? I don’t believe it is, no. But if he wants the MVP and his “damn respect” so badly, then this is helping whatever point he wants to prove.
Aging like fine wine, LeBron continues to excel at the highest level at a stage where many expected him to fall. A day removed from him reaching 35,000 career points, becoming the third player to reach that amount (joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone) youngest to do so and the lone player to accompany that point total with 9,000 rebounds and 9,000 assists, and thanks to his continued greatness from the start of the season until now, he’s my MVP pick.
Honorable Mentions: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
Full Season MVP Power Rankings:
|Player||Points||Position in Ladder|
|Paul George||14||Third Place|
|Nikola Jokic /Damian Lillard||7||Fourth Place|
|Kevin Durant||6||Fifth Place|
|Malcolm Brogdon /Kawhi Leonard||3|
|Kyrie Irving /Giannis Antetokounmpo /James Harden|
What does your MVP list look like at the moment? Tweet at me and let me know!