NBA MVP Power Rankings 7.0

Kevin Reyes
NBA Analyst

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

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 are my sixth MVP Power Rankings for the 2020-21 NBA season, updated after games from Mar. 19 through Apr. 1.

Fifth Place: Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)

Team record: 25-24, fifth place in the East

Stats: 21.4pts/7.6reb/7.2ast/2.0stl on 48/20/85 shooting

The #JIMVP movement finally makes it first appearance in my Power Rankings! After a slow start to their season, the Heat have been slowly gotten healthy and improved their play. And with the acquisitions of Victor Oladipo, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelica, the team is poised to continue making a push to establish themselves as a top four team in the conference. As of now, the Heat are back over .500, which is thanks in large part to Butler’s play.

With Jimmy in uniform, the Heat have a 21-13 record this season, and 18-10 since he returned from his COVID-related absence in late January. He’s been their heart and soul this season, and the team hasn’t looked remotely the same without him. They were on a six-game losing streak recently, but it ended in this two-week stretch that they went 3-4 with Jimmy active. In that span, “MVP Performances” for Butler include a 27/5/6 effort to end the skid in New York, and his recent 22/6/8 outing against Golden State.

This spot was a toss-up between Butler and Stephen Curry, and could go to either. Steph deserves more praise than he’s getting for what he’s been able to do with a less-than-ideal roster. Ultimately though, Butler’s impact on Miami isn’t that far off, and the Heat are legitimate contender. The next four on the list can go in whatever order, to be honest. But this was the order I determined.

Fourth Place: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

Team record: 30-17, third place in East

Stats: 28.3pts/11.4reb/6.3ast/1.1stl/1.3blk on 55/30/68 shooting

Though they haven’t been as good as they were in the last Power Rankings, the Bucks maintain their positioting as a top three team in the East, and they’re still lead by the Greak Freak on a mission. Antetokounmpo has missed some games in this stretch, and struggled in some, but still leads Milwaukee with his all-around play.

Two games against Boston where the only two times Giannis didn’t reach 20 points, which is concerning, given the defense Brad Stevens used against him will be similar to what he sees in the postseason. However, focusing on the regular season, he did have notable “MVP Performances” with a 26pts, 9reb and 15ast outing against the Spurs and a 25pts/10reb double-double in Staples Center against the Lakers, bouncing back after a disappointing loss to the Clippers.

Third Place: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)

Team record: 29-18, sixth place in West

Stats: 29.8pts/4.3reb/7.8ast/0.9stl on 44/38/94 shooting

Dame has continued his insane play while leading an incomplete Blazers squad to consistent wins. Even recently, with them getting CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkić back, Lillard still has been the one leading the team, which is only 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for third place in the West.

He’s been on a tear in these last two weeks, averaging 25pts and 8ast — yes, the 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from three is bad, I know —. “MVP Performances” during that stretch make up for the bad percentages: 31pts/6ast versus the Mavericks, 22pts (including the game-winning free throws) and 9ast in South Beach against the Heat, 22pts/11ast against the Raptors on the road, and a 33pts/10ast showing at Detroit.

If Portland notches a top three record in the West, Lillard should be the MVP. Until then, he has a legitimate argument to the top three.

Runner-up: James Harden (Brooklyn Nets)

Team record: 34-15, first place in East

Stats: 25.9pts/8.2reb/11.1ast/1.2stl/0.7blk on 46/36/87 shooting

Needless to say, Harden has been elite all season when he actually wants to be with his team. That has been the case with the Nets, especially since the second week of his stint there, by which point he was acclimated to the team and led them through their injuries.

The Nets have continued their winning ways with Harden in command, even without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant for extended periods, having won five of their six games in this two-week stretch (with Harden on the court). “MVP Performances” have been plentiful in this stretch as well: 26/5/8 and three steals against the Wizards, 25/7/17 against the Blazers in Portland, 44/14/8 at Detroit, and a 38/11/13 triple-double against the improved Timberwolves.

The first month and change of the season, where he forced his way out of Houston, may have left a bad taste in some because of the way he acted. That’s the only thing in the way of him and winning the MVP this season. He’s got the record, on-court production, and narrative of continued dominance is nothing new. But, there is a certain “Joker” in the Mile High…

MVP: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Team record: 30-18, tied for fourth place in West

Stats: 26.5pts/11reb/8.4ast/1.5stl/0.6blk on 56/43/86 shooting

I’ve been the first to discredit Jokic’s MVP case, simply because of his team’s struggles early on (historically, players on top teams are the MVP, so there you go). However, with the Nuggets winning 13 of their last 16 games, including six of eight in the past two weeks, there’s no negative sides to the argument. Here are some of Jokic’s ranks in the NBA:

  • First in Field Goals Made, Offensive Win Shares, Win Shares, Box Plus/Minus, Offensive Box Plus/Minus and Value Over Replacement Player
  • Second in Total Minutes Played and Player Efficiency Rating
  • Third in Total Points
  • Fourth in Total Assists
  • Fifth in Total Rebounds and Steals
  • Sixth in Assists Per Game and Assists Percentage
  • Seventh in Points Per Game
  • Eighth in Rebounds Per Game
  • Ninth in Minutes and STelas Per Game
  • Eleventh in Field Goal Percentage

More recently, he averaged 25/10/8 on 58/52/82 shooting in the last two weeks, with some outstanding “MVP Performances” in that span: 34/15/9 at Chicago, 28/15/10 at Orlando, 37/6/9 at New Orleans, 16/10/8 against the now-improved Hawks, and a 21/10/5 outing against the 76ers.

Another fun fact you may or may not know: Jokic is the only player in the MVP race to have played in all of his team’s games. His respect has long been overdue (including on my end). Now? There are few things that stand on his path to being the MVP.

Honorable Mentions: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Rudy Gobert/Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)

Full Season MVP Power Rankings:

PlayerPointsPosition in Ladder
Joel Embiid45MVP
LeBron James28Runner-up
Nikola Jokic21Third Place
James Harden20Fourth Place
Damian Lillard / Giannis Antetokounmpo17Fifth Place
Paul George14
Kevin Durant6
Jayson Tatum5
Stephen Curry4
Malcolm Brogdon / Kawhi Leonard3
Kyrie Irving / Jimmy Butler1

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