WE’RE officially on the downward slope of the NBA season after clearing the midway point. Earlier in the year, I highlighted a handful of sleepers who could potentially challenge for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy before the season was done and dusted. The usual suspects, LeBron, Harden, Giannis and Steph are still all sandwiched in the MVP discussion with Durant, Irving and Westbrook right in the mix as well. There are four new players on the dark horse list that you need to keep our eye on though.
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Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves
AS it stands right now the Timberwolves are sitting 3rd in the Western Conference standings. Third. They have a better record than the Thunder, Spurs and Cavaliers and leading the charge is the ultra-competitive Jimmy Butler. In his first season at Minnesota, Butler took a while to get going, but recently he has been rolling as the wins keep piling up. Averaging 25.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.2 steals in his last 15 games (12 Minnesota wins) it will be hard to not include Butler in the MVP discussion if the T-Wolves keep clicking on all cylinders.
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DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
STARTING 2018 in historic fashion might just be the beginning of DeRozan’s dominance in the new year. Now the owner of a nice 3-point shot, he and the Raptors have taken another step towards being a potential NBA finalist come June. Averaging over 25 points a game (7th most in the league), DeMar is reaching new heights that could see him evolve into a true superstar of the league in the coming years.
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
THE first time I made this list I included Kawhi stating that 60-65 dominant games from him might be enough for him to emerge as an MVP candidate. It’s clear that won’t be the case now, however, not all hope for a Spurs MVP is lost. LaMarcus Aldridge has helped to resurrect his career and his reputation with the first half of his 2017-18 season. Channeling his former Trailblazers self, Aldridge could enter award discussions if they win a top-2 seed and he emerges as their bonafide best player while Leonard continues to battle injury.
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Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
YES, Bradley Beal, not John Wall stands the best chance of being Washington’s MVP. Wall’s dominant play will be needed for the Wizards to win enough games for Beal to enter the conversation, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Averaging a career-high 23.8 points a night Beal has kept the Wizards afloat while Wall was sidelined. A few more scoring binges and a top two or three seed in the East and Beal could be in the conversation.
Long, LONG shots
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
FOR the Brow to make an MVP push he will need to have more nights like last night at MSG. Erupting for 48 points and 17 rebounds, Davis looked uber impressive from start to finish. Obviously, the big thing for Ant is health and he needs to string a month or two together with some more eye-popping box scores.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
SIMILARLY to Davis, and Embiid MVP campaign is linked to minutes on the court. The talent is definitely there, the wins not so much.
Chris Paul, Houston Rockets
HMMM. Over the last six games with a hamstrung Harden sitting on the sidelines, Chris Paul has looked like his vintage self averaging 23.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 10.2 assists a night. More video game like numbers from Paul and a few more Harden absences and maybe, just maybe…
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
I am really excited to see how the Nuggets look once Paul Millsap is healthy again. As Jamal Murray and Gary Harris continue to develop, Nikola Jokic has taken a slight backseat and is perhaps even being underrated. Joining DeMarcus Cousins as the only player averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists a game, those numbers will only get better when Millsap rejoins the team and if the Nuggets push for a top-four seed, then the buzz around Jokic as an MVP candidate will grow.
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