THE NBA MVP ladder is starting to take shape as real contenders cement their spot, while the fast start by some has caused them to fade. While there is still no appearance from household names and past winners like LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, there’s plenty of movement at the top of the table. Hopefully, the interesting season-long race won’t be impacted by the games played/health of the leagues’ superstars with some solid cases taking shape after 12-14 games.
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Honourable Mentions: Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, Kemba Walker
10. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (8-6)
Season Stats: 27.7 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 3.6 APG; 48.1 FG%, 27.1 3P%, 80.3 FT%
Last Rank: Not Ranked
IF stats were the only thing that counted, Joel Embiid would be in the conversation for early MVP honours, with ludicrous box scores becoming a regular occurrence. One major stat stands out over the others, with Embiid appearing in ALL 14 of Philly’s games to start the year. Help is on the way in the form of Jimmy Butler, but Embiid’s eye-popping numbers might make him the favourite on this team, which is saying something.
9. Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (8-6)
Season Stats: 23.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.9 APG; 45.0 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 70.3 FT%
Last Rank: Not Ranked
ONLY three players who stand 6′ 4″ or shorter have averaged at least seven rebounds throughout an entire season, two of whom are glitches in the matrix (Jason Kidd & Russell Westbrook; Steve Francis is the third). Victor Oladipo could become the fourth member of the list if he keeps up his healthy averages, numbers we commonly associate with the likes of LeBron, Giannis and Durant. Oladipo’s place is more than justified.
8. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors (12-1)
Season Stats: 17.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 11.0 APG; 49.7 FG%, 38.6 3P%, 81.4 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 1)
KYLE Lowry’s slight slide isn’t through any fault of his own. In fact, since we last checked in with him Lowry hasn’t missed a beat, still leading the league in assists and guiding a Raptors team to a 6-1 surge (including three games without Kawhi). Big victories have seen Lowry’s minutes go down and as a result, his numbers don’t stand out as much as some of his peers on this list.
7. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (9-4)
Season Stats: 17.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 6.9 APG; 53.4 FG%, 41.0 3P%, 83.8 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 1)
A strange stretch of games have brought the Nuggets down to Earth this week, with Denver copping three straight L’s. Games like Jokic’s four-point, one-shot night against Memphis won’t help, but if he can put forth more games like the one against Brooklyn (37 points with 21 rebounds), Jokic’s place in the rankings and Denver place in the standings are both safe.
6. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (11-2)
Season Stats: 26.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.5 APG; 55.7 FG%, 40.4 3P%, 92.6 FT%
Last Rank: 10th ( 4)
WITH another 10 games under our belts, most players and their absurd shooting percentages have deflated. It’s only natural after such a small early sample size that these shooting stats go down right? Not Durant. In fact, KD has IMPROVED his field goal percentage since last time, sandwiched in between Joey Harris and Julius Randle for the 14th best clip in the NBA. He’ll need to be at his efficient best to keep the Dubs rolling without his star peers.
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5. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (6-6)
Season Stats: 24.6 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 4.8 APG; 46.3 FG%, 35.0 3P%, 75.6 FT%
Last Rank: 1st ( 4)
AN ugly 2-6 mark since the first ladder instalment has seen Anthony Davis lose his grip on the top rung, but he said it best himself. Davis told the media he faces “a lot of pressure” and has to “…play almost perfect every night to give us (New Orleans) a chance to win”. In other words, he needs help or the Pelicans might leave him with no other choice but to see if the grass really is greener outside of NOLA.
4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers (10-3)
Season Stats: 26.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.8 APG; 46.5 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 94.0 FT%
Last Rank: 8th ( 4)
IN the ultra-competitive West, teams can’t afford to take nights off with a few mid-season wins/losses potentially the difference between a playoff spot or missing out. The Blazers hot start could be a large reason they hold on to a top-4 seed this season, with Damian Lillard doing everything in his power to get Portland over the line. Terry Stotts deserves a ton of credit for Portland’s record, but it wouldn’t be possible without Lillard’s individual excellence.
3. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors (12-1)
Season Stats: 24.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.2 APG; 48.4 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 88.3 FT%
Last Rank: 4th (1)
KAWHI’S spot this high up the ladder is far from safe. Leonard has appeared in just nine of Toronto’s 13 games, which isn’t alarming, yet. It’s still early-ish in November so resting Kawhi is fine with me, but it could do his MVP odds some harm. It’s worth it in the big picture if sitting him increases the chances of having a superhuman Kawhi firing on all cylinders in April/May (and beyond?). Toronto’s playoff foes will have a tough time stopping someone with eyes on the back of their head. No, literally…
2. Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors (11-2)
Season Stats: 29.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.1 APG; 51.5 FG%, 49.2 3P%, 92.3 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 3)
COULD Steph become the first member (and founding father) of the 50/50/90 club this season? Highly possible. The caveat surrounding Steph Curry and any of his insane record-breaking feats is, of course, his health. No stranger to the sidelines, Curry is once again in street clothes for the Warriors, albeit for a short period of time. Similarly to Kawhi, games played could become a determining factor for MVP candidates and if Curry can’t keep his number high he will inevitably slide down the ladder.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (10-3)
Season Stats: 25.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 5.8 APG; 55.0 FG%, 7.7 3P%, 63.3 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd (2)
EVEN though his jumper looks funky everything else Giannis Antetokounmpo can do on the basketball court causes us to dismiss the speculation over his shaky mechanics. I watched last night when he struggled to hit a free throw against Denver, but I also watched how he got from the half-court line to the basket in two dribbles and three gargantuan steps. Bucks GM Jon Horst expects Antetokounmpo to add a 3-point shot to his arsenal at some point in the next two seasons as well, so yes, we should all be very afraid.
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