50% of the NBA season is in the books and as we round the corner with the All-Star break within our sights the MVP race is heating up. The same glitch in the matrix still finds himself in pole position, but there are a bunch of contenders who are putting forth serious challenges to his throne. Whether it be through putting up historic numbers or leading their team to a top-2 seed in the conference, there’s no denying this race is on!
MVP Ladder 1.0
MVP Ladder 2.0
MVP Ladder 3.0
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On the Outside Looking In: Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Victor Oladipo, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard
10. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (27-14)
Season Stats (41 games): 28.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.1 APG; 50.5 FG%, 36.4 3P%, 91.1 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 3)
KD hasn’t really done anything wrong to slide down the ladder, but he hasn’t exactly stood out either. There’s no doubt he’s the favourite Warrior for the award this season and it might be a bit harsh putting him at 10, considering he has put up a 27/7/7 line since the last ladder check-in. If Boogie comes back and they go on a tear he could be in for a boost, but the 2013-14 winner still faces an uphill battle to claim another MVP trophy.
9. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs (24-18)
Season Stats (42 games): 22.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 6.4 APG; 47.3 FG%, 17.5 3P%, 83.7 FT%
Last Rank: Not Ranked
ENTERING the ladder for the first time this season is a new Spur with newfound playmaking powers. DeRozan is averaging a career-high 6.4 assists a game and for the first time in his near 10 pro seasons he chalked up consecutive games with double-digit assists last week. In one of those contests, as he went to battle against the Raptors, he added 14 rebounds, giving him his first career triple-double, leaving us wondering if Popovich can unlock more of DeRozan’s powers and turn him into a true megastar.
8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (23-19)
Season Stats (34 games): 27.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 7.1 APG; 51.8 FG%, 35.6 3P%, 68.2 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 3)
LEBRON’S groin injury has seen him take a tumble down a few rungs as the Lakers struggle to cope without him. The fact that his team is just 3-5 illustrates how valuable he is to LA even though they have chalked up two straight double-digit wins. When he inevitably returns to the court expect ‘The King’ to climb back up the standings, but a fifth MVP crown this year seems unlikely.
7. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder (25-15)
Season Stats (39 games): 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.9 APG; 44.8 FG%, 38.4 3P%, 82.5 FT%
Last Rank: 9th (2)
AFTER announcing himself to the MVP rankings last time around, Paul George is proving his stay on the ladder is no fluke. In the last 10 games, only James Harden and Anthony Davis are scoring at a better clip, while George maintains his dominance as perhaps the best perimeter defender in all of basketball. A few more W’s and we’ll have to no choice but to take his candidacy seriously.
6. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (20-22)
Season Stats (37 games): 28.9 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 4.4 APG; 51.4 FG%, 32.1 3P%, 80.4 FT%
Last Rank: 4th ( 2)
SIGH. It’s the same ‘ol story with AD as he continues to break the internet with viral box scores, yet NOLA keeps coming up short. Some of the blame definitely has to go Davis’ way, as no one is perfect on the Pelicans. However, this dude is pretty god damn close. It seems unfair to push Davis down the MVP ranks considering in his last 10 he has put up two 30 points/20 rebound games, a 48 points/17 rebound line and just last night went off for 38/13/7. Until that winning percentage start climbing though, Davis’ ceiling in the MVP race is finishing 3rd or 4th.
Image from sports.inquirer.net
5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (27-12)
Season Stats (39 games): 19.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 7.5 APG; 50.3 FG%, 32.6 3P%, 84.3 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 2)
I genuinely fell bad about putting Jokic further down the list as Denver continues to prove their success is no fluke. The fact that their big man is putting forward season averages that only Russell Westbrook, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain have sustained over a whole season makes him a bonafide MVP contender. An All-Star berth is all but assured (don’t mess this up) and as the Nuggets re-integrate Gary Harris and Paul Millsap into their lineup it seems like the only way Jokic can move is up.
4. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (27-15)
Season Stats (40 games): 26.9 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 3.6 APG; 49.0 FG%, 30.1 3P%, 80.6 FT%
Last Rank: 6th (2)
ASTONISHINGLY Joel Embiid has appeared in 40 of a possible 42 games for Philadelphia this season and in turn, they are looking more and more like a championship contender. As long as Jimmy Butler can stop complaining this 76ers team has the ceiling to win multiple championships and Embiid is clearly the top dog on the team. Not since Shaq has someone put forward a 26/13/3.5 stat line with both Embiid and Davis averaging such numbers this year. I know which one I’d give my vote to at the halfway mark of the season.
Image from libertyballers.com
3. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors (31-12)
Season Stats (33 games): 27.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.1 APG; 50.2 FG%, 36.8 3P%, 84.8 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 1)
AS I’ve mentioned time and time again, games played will be the biggest deterrent in Kawhi’s MVP case. That being said, the Raptors keep finding a way to chalk up wins regardless of if Leonard and/or Kyle Lowry are uniform. Their stellar depth might make be what some naysayers point to, and we have seen great regular seasons from the Raptors before only for them to falter in the postseason. With Kawhi leading the charge things could be different this time around and as the team’s true number one option he is putting forward his best scoring seasons to date, more than justifying Masai Ujiri’s off-season decision.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets (23-17)
Season Stats (37 games): 33.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 8.6 APG; 43.6 FG%, 38.6 3P%, 85.3 FT%
Last Rank: 8th ( 6)
WELL that escalated quickly. Whether you hate him or love him, there’s no denying that James Harden is a scoring technician on a torrid pace we haven’t seen in over 15 years. Last night he became the first player since Tracy McGrady to score 30+ in 14 straight games and he has a chance to keep the streak alive against Cleveland in a few days time. The win/loss column will be my biggest assessment of if Harden’s MVP case is legit and maybe it’s recency bias, but he seems like a man on a mission right now.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (29-11)
Season Stats (38 games): 26.6 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 6.1 APG; 58.1 FG%, 16.7 3P%, 69.9 FT%
Last Rank: 1st (level)
I’LL admit it, the rest of the field is gaining on Giannis. It’s crazy to consider after the Greek Freak has hardly put a foot wrong so far in the 2018-19 season. Some people will want to see him hit the deep ball with more consistency, but nobody’s perfect. While stat lines can fuel an MVP campaign, the Bucks and Antetokounmpo will be focused on their playoff seeding over how many rebounds or points their force of nature is averaging. Ironically that might help Giannis sew up the award, but if you are a stats guy sit on this one for a minute. With the exception of Nikola Jokic, Antetokounmpo is averaging the fewest minutes per game (33.6) out of all the players on the MVP ladder.
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