OVER a month has passed since my last check-in with plenty of fluctuation in the standings and the MVP ladder. The buzz around early flashes in the pan like Blake Griffin and Kemba Walkers has started to quiet down with former winners like LeBron and James Harden making their move. The real question is can anyone catch the force out in Wisconsin, who is starting to resemble a modern-day Shaq with every game that passes?
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Honourable Mentions: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons
10. Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors (21-11)
Season Stats (21 games): 29.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.3 APG; 50.1 FG%, 47.7 3P%, 94.9 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 8)
THE injury bug caused Steph to plummet down the standings after an impressive start to the season. He was shaping as a legitimate threat to take out his third MVP crown through the first 12 games of the season before he was sidelined for the Warriors next 11 contests. He seems destined to jockey for votes with his former MVP winning teammate (more from him soon) and a top-5 finish is his feasible ceiling in 2019.
9. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder (20-10)
Season Stats (30 games): 25.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.4 APG; 44.7 FG%, 38.2 3P%, 83.4 FT%
Last Rank: Not Ranked
THE leader of the MVP charge for the OKC Thunder is surprisingly not their one-time winner Russell Westbrook. The walking triple-double is still having a great season of his own, but Paul George is the one who continues to garner a ton of recognition for Oklahoma’s success. Through the month of December PG is averaging over 30 points a game while boasting one of the best defensive efficiency marks as well. He might not be a genuine threat to win the award but he’ll be in the conversation all year if he keeps this level of play up.
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8. James Harden, Houston Rockets (16-14)
Season Stats (27 games): 31.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 8.2 APG; 45.7 FG%, 37.7 3P%, 80.3 FT%
Last Rank: Not Ranked
THE only player scoring the rock better than George in December is last year’s winner James Harden. His 33.7 points per have been fueled by a handful of crazy stat lines including a 50 point triple-double and a 47 point outing on Monday. The W’s haven’t been flowing for Houston in the same fashion this year, but that doesn’t take away from Harden’s individual dominance.
7. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (21-11)
Season Stats (32 games): 28.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 6.1 APG; 50.7 FG%, 35.5 3P%, 93.1 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 1)
LIKE I’ve already said, I think Curry and Kevin Durant are destined to duke it out for a spot inside the top-5 (maybe even the top-3), but I can’t see either of the Golden State pair taking out this year’s trophy. Still, Durant is leading the charge for Dub Nation on both sides of the ball, helping them stay in touch with the top of the West standings. If KD wants to win his second MVP trophy he’ll likely need to do something unprecedented…like leave the Bay at the end of the year.
6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (21-12)
Season Stats (32 games): 26.3 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 3.6 APG; 47.5 FG%, 27.6 3P%, 79.5 FT%
Last Rank: 10th ( 4)
THE most impressive number Joel Embiid has put up this year is 32. Out of a possible 33 games, Embiid has only missed one contest for rest reasons after struggling to stay on the court for his entire career to date. Should Philly surge to a top-2 seed out East and Embiid plays over 70 games there’s no reason why he can’t become a serious chance to take out the crown. For now, Sixers fans will just relish him being in uniform instead of street clothes.
5. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (18-13)
Season Stats (31 games): 28.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.0 APG; 52.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 67.9 FT%
Last Rank: Not Ranked
IT was only a matter of time before LeBron made his way onto the list, with the initial ‘feeling out’ period behind him now. Understanding how to play alongside his new Lakers teammates was always going to see the King start slowly, but as the wins start to pile up, we are all left wondering what L.A.’s ceiling can be in 2019. They might not be a true championship contender but with LeBron kicking into high gear this early in the season, a 55+ win campaign and some more eye-popping box scores could see James vie for the top rung on the ladder.
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (15-17)
Season Stats (28 games): 28.0 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 4.7 APG; 50.4 FG%, 33.8 3P%, 81.1 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 1)
ANTHONY Davis’ individual dominance continues to impress, while his supporting cast continues to cause distress. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Only Joel Embiid has had more games with 30 points and 15 rebounds with AD filling up the box score on a nightly basis. With a lack of supporting cast, he has been forced to perform at such a high level and yet the Pelicans still find themselves towards the bottom of the West standings. This might be the final straw for Davis, with his generational talent bound for greener pastures if NOLA can’t find him another star running mate.
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (21-9)
Season Stats (30 games): 18.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 7.4 APG; 48.5 FG%, 29.8 3P%, 84.3 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 4)
SOME people might be butthurt over Nikola Jokic outplacing some of the league’s more mainstream names. As Denver keeps knocking down some of the premier talents in the league with Jokic leading the charge, the thought of his claiming the top individual prized isn’t far-fetched anymore. He continues to provide the Nuggets with a stable force as his teammates keep dropping like flies, steering his squad to the best record in the conference. Continually improving on the defensive side of the ball, there’s no lid on what this team and their steller Serbian can achieve this year.
2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors (24-9)
Season Stats (25 games): 26.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.2 APG; 49.1 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 84.9 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 1)
WE tend to forget that before the season from hell last year, Kawhi was a staple in the annual MVP race. He is back to his terrifying two-way best as Toronto continues to stake their claim as the best team in the NBA. With the Raptors soaring Leonard continues to amp up his production, but his availability will be the biggest question mark on his potential MVP resume. Having already missed eight games this season, a few more rest nights could hold him back from truly contending in this award contest.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (21-9)
Season Stats (28 games): 26.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 6.1 APG; 59.0 FG%, 12.5 3P%, 69.6 FT%
Last Rank: 1st (level)
A lot has changed in the last month, but some things have remained the same. The Greek Freak has been the most dominant player in the league, dunking his way to be the MVP favourite through 30-odd games. His team’s success helps his cause, but Giannis is on a tear with his averages similar to past powerful presences like Shaq, Moses Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. No player has ever put up 27 points, 13 boards and 6 assists over a whole season, but Antetokounmpo is doing so at the tender age of 24. Yikes.
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