THE NBA All-Star break isn’t just a spectacle to be watched by fans around the globe, it gives all 30 teams a chance to take a breath after a hectic two-thirds of the 2018-19 NBA campaign. While all of the players you’ll find on this list will be appearing in the All-Star Game, there’s no doubt they will use this time to rest and recuperate for what is set to be a thrilling finish to the regular season. The MVP debate is no different, with James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George seemingly running a three horse race, yet one of them fails to crack the top-3 in the 5th MVP ladder.
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On the Outside Looking In: DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin
10. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (28-29)
Season Stats (39 games): 26.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 7.6 APG; 51.3 FG%, 35.5 3P%, 67.9 FT%
Last Rank: 8th ( 2)
SINCE my last check-in LeBron has appeared in just five games and it would take something historic for the King to etch his way back into the MVP race. The Lakers are in danger of missing the playoffs, LeBron didn’t land the superstar sidekick he coveted at the trade deadline and as a result, the 2018-19 season may be a wash for King James and Co.
9. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (26-33)
Season Stats (45 games): 28.1 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 4.2 APG; 50.8 FG%, 32.3 3P%, 81.0 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 3)
ANTHONY Davis is fourth in the league for points per game, third for rebounds per game and second for blocks per game. And yet, despite all he does for the box score the Pelicans are still languishing in the bottom three of their conference. It might be a tad harsh to put AD down so low on the latest rankings but with every L the Pels cop his chances of winning the award take a severe hit. That’s without bringing all his trade drama into the conversation…
8. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors (43-16)
Season Stats (43 games): 27.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.3 APG; 49.2 FG%, 36.3 3P%, 86.4 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 5)
THE lack of games on his resume finally saw Kawhi take a hefty tumble down the ladder. He might be on the second best team in the league from a win/loss perspective when the regular season draws to a close, but he has still only appeared in ONE back-to-back this season. I can’t blame the Raptors for managing their superstar to ensure he’s as healthy as possible for the playoffs, but it doesn’t do his MVP chances any good.
7. Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors (41-16)
Season Stats (46 games): 28.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.2 APG; 48.8 FG%, 44.4 3P%, 92.2 FT%
Last Rank: Not Ranked
I may have jumped to conclusions by taking Curry off the ladder earlier and he could very well finish inside the top-5 when voting takes place. He’s scoring the ball at the second best clip of his career and there’s every chance a 16-1 stretch is coming from Golden State. However, he and KD will just take too much of the shine of one another, almost making them both instantly ineligible.
6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (37-21)
Season Stats (54 games): 27.3 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 3.5 APG; 48.2 FG%, 29.5 3P%, 81.1 FT%
Last Rank: 4th ( 2)
IT’S hard to knock Embiid for putting up numbers that we only associated with powerhouses like Shaq, Moses Malone and Kareem this early in their careers. With so many absurd stat lines being put up across the league though, the MVP award is about so much more than per game averages. With Tobias Harris now in toe, there’s every chance Embiid’s numbers take a slight hit while the Sixers record more wins. He’s not out of it by any means.
5. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (41-16)
Season Stats (57 games): 27.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 5.9 APG; 51.6 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 89.3 FT%
Last Rank: 10th ( 5)
IS it just me or has Kevin Durant barely been talked about this season? I mean we all know he makes daily headlines with regards to his free agency, but let’s not forget about what he’s doing on the court. He’s been the driving force behind this Warriors team, especially in the early going when Curry and Boogie were out and Klay was in his shooting slump. He’s the only player on this list to appear in every one of his teams’ games to date as well. Curry still holds him back from truly contending, but make no mistake, he’ll has a bunch of votes coming his way.
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4. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder (37-20)
Season Stats (56 games): 28.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.1 APG; 45.3 FG%, 40.6 3P%, 83.7 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 3)
GEORGE has cemented himself firmly in the conversation for the league’s highest individual honour since the last check-in. Over the recent 17 game stretch in between updates, PG is averaging over 33 points a game and is one of only three players scoring over five 3-pointers a night in that span. Scoring aside, the Thunder have roared to the third seed out West, with their sights squarely on the Denver Nuggets. If they can top Denver and George keeps his level of play up he may be in serious contention.
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (39-18)
Season Stats (56 games): 20.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 7.7 APG; 50.5 FG%, 30.8 3P%, 84.9 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 2)
SPEAKING of the Denver Nuggets, their driving force has edged out mainstream picks to land at third in the latest MVP ladder. Why? Because he may already be the best passing big man we have ever seen. Assists aside, Nikola Jokic, who is about to make his first All-Star appearance averages the fewest minutes (31.6) out of anyone on the list. His averages improve with every month that passes and if the Nuggets can cling to a top-2 seed he deserves to maintain a high rung on the ladder.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets (33-24)
Season Stats (54 games): 36.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 7.7 APG; 44.1 FG%, 37.4 3P%, 87.1 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd (level)
WHEN I started writing this article I put Harden at No. 1, but then I really dug into some of his numbers. Take nothing away from Harden, he is scoring the ball at a historic clip and I’m not here for people who hate on the way he plays. However. Since the last ladder check-in, the Rockets have gone just 10-7 and there are understandable concerns over how this style will translate into postseason success. He may still win the award and ‘The Bearded One’ deserves to sit right near the top of the rankings. For me, he isn’t the “Most Valuable Player” to date though.
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1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (43-14)
Season Stats (53 games): 27.2 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 6.1 APG; 58.1 FG%, 22.3 3P%, 71.7 FT%
Last Rank: 1st (level)
THE best player on the best team in the league. Seems like a good way to steer your MVP vote, but Giannis’ No.1 ranking isn’t solely because he plays for a surging Bucks team. He’s the driving catalyst on the best defensive unit in basketball right now, boasting the best net rating (+13.7) and defensive efficiency (99.5) out of all the superstars in the NBA. Couple that with his ever-improving shot (35 3P% + 75.9 FT% since the last ladder) and it’s hard to mark the case for anyone not named Antetokounmpo right now.
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