NBA MVP Power Rankings 5.0

Kevin Reyes
NBA Analyst

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. 

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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 fifth MVP Power Rankings for the 2020-21 NBA season, updated after games from Feb. 19 through Mar. 4, the last games of the first half of the season.

Fifth Place: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Team record: 21-15, sixth place in West

Stats: 27.1pts/11reb/8.6ast/1.6stl on 56/41/88 shooting

Jokic has been one of the best players throughout the entire season, running as the engine of the Nuggets offense. His mixture of scoring, elite playmaking, and high IQ has made him nearly unguardable when he has it going. What held things back for him was Denver’s sub-.500 record for most of the first half of the season, but that has picked up lately. Their offense has been more consistent as of late, and their defense has had its moments. They’re now six games over .500 at the break, after a 3-5 start. While others around him have improved their play, it’s still been Jokic at the forefront.

He averaged 26/10/8/1.6stl on 55.9/48/93 shooting in the last two weeks, leading Denver to a 6-2 record. “MVP Performances” during stat stretch include a 41pts outing against the Portland Trail Blazers, a 39/14/9 near triple-double at Chicago, and a 37/10/11 performance against the Milwaukee Bucks. His stellar play has continued, and now with a better record, he can *potentially* be a constant in my upcoming MVP Power Rankings.

Damian Lillard posed a serious threat to take this spot, but I took Jokic’s overall better numbers and record for the past two weeks.

Fourth Place: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

Team record: 22-14, third place in East

Stats: 29pts/11.7reb/5.9ast/1.3stl/1.4blk on 55/28/66 shooting

Giannis has been dominating this season, and although his team has slightly fallen off from their success the previous two seasons, they still have a top three record in the East. But, you already knew that. Antetokounmpo is the latest victim of the phenomenon known as “voter fatigue”, which, in layman’s terms, refers to the media being bored by a player’s continued success and instead paying attention to other players. After winning two straight MVPs, Giannis has entered the “do something in the postseason and then we’ll talk about you” territory (which is dumb). His continued excellence is ignored for others that defy the odds, are the best year of their career, or have a better story. But that doesn’t take away from Giannis’ elite play this season.

He recently went on a four-game tear where he averaged 37/12/5/1stl/1.8blk, which were his notable “MVP Performances”: 38pts/18reb against the Kings, 37/8/8 against the Timberwolves, 38/10 against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans, and 36/14/5 against the Clippers. After an iffy stretch of losing, the Bucks have won five of their last six.

Giannis’ life narrative of coming out of nowhere to become a perennial MVP candidate, being one of the few international players to win the award, has gotten boring for the media and the casual fans. Nevertheless, the basketball narrative of continued dominance has never been more prevalent throughout his career, arguably more so than his previous two MVP seasons. Ignore the fatigue and give this man the props he deserves as he continues his quest for that elusive third straight regular season MVP.

Third Place: James Harden (Brooklyn Nets)

Team record: 24-13, second place in East

Stats: 25.3pts/7.8reb/11.1ast/1.2stl on 48/40/85.9 shooting

What I said about Harden on the previous edition of this series has been amplified massively in the previous two weeks: he’s found his role as the primary ball-handler of the team, still maintaining his scoring, and leading the Nets to be one of the hottest teams in the league (winners of 10 of their last 11).

Harden averaged a 29/10/10 triple-double for the past two weeks, with the lone loss of the Nets in those two weeks (six games) coming in their Saturday Primetime outing against the Mavericks. “MVP Performances” came at a premium during that stretch: 37pts/11reb/7ast/2stl at the Clippers home floor, a 29/11/14 triple-double versus the Kings, a historic performance against the Spurs (30/14/15 with no turnovers), and a 29/10/14 outing in his return to Houston for the first time since being traded.

He has a legitimate argument to be higher on this list, but the two above him have been great for most of the season, with their teams also having a top record.

Runner-up: LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

Team record: 24-13, third place in West

Stats: 25.8pts/8reb/7.8ast/1.1stl on 50.9/35.8/69 shooting

With the Lakers 2-4 record in the past two weeks, it hasn’t been a good stretch of games as of late. Nevertheless, LeBron has continued his stellar play, with the already talked about burdens of the short offseason and his age. Though yes, LeBron’s MVP case took a bump with the Lakers losing games without Anthony Davis, what he’s done throughout the entire season makes up for it *slightly*. “MVP Performances” are thin during this span of two weeks I judge, given his team’s record, so let’s consider his lone two wins for the sake of argument: 28/11/7 against the much improved Blazers and leading the Lakers to a 26-point win against the Warriors with 19/6/4.

A legitimate argument could be made for Harden and Antetokounmpo to be Runner-up, and it’s valid. Having said that, as I stated, his previous play makes up for it. Whatever the case may be, the MVP at this point is pretty clear.

MVP: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Team record: 24-12, first place in East

Stats: 30.2pts/11.6reb/3.3ast/1.4blk/1.2stl on 52/41/85 shooting

There’s not much I can say about Embiid without repeating myself. He’s been my MVP in three of the four previous Power Rankings, with that lone occasion landing him Runner-Up honors. He’s continued to be dominant, adding an elite off the dribble jumper to his already elite post game. When Embiid and the 76ers have been healthy, they’ve been practically unbeatable.

His tear of averaging 30+ points has continued with him averaging 31/14/3.9 for the past two weeks, with Philly going 5-2 in that span. His 50-piece against the Bulls, his 24pts/13reb/5ast against the Pacers and his 40pts/19reb against one of the main candidates for Defensive Player of the Year (Rudy Gobert) and the team with the best record in the NBA (Utah Jazz) are his “MVP Performances” in the past 14 days.

Embiid has been one of the top three players this season, and his continued dominance, along with his team’s success, has him at the top of the MVP race at this time.

Honorable Mentions: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)

Full Season MVP Power Rankings:

PlayerPointsPosition in Ladder
Joel Embiid45MVP
LeBron James27Runner-up
Paul George14Third Place
Nikola Jokic8Fourth Place
Damian Lillard7Fifth Place
James Harden /Kevin Durant6
Jayson Tatum5
Giannis Antetokounmpo /Stephen Curry
Malcolm Brogdon /Kawhi Leonard
Kyrie Irving1

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