THE first rankings were a little all over the place, but after nearly 20 games for all ball clubs, the 2.0 edition makes a lot more sense. Some may disagree with the slides *spoiler alert* Anthony Davis and Pascal Siakam took, but it wasn’t their own fault. Instead, the numbers and win total we are seeing from some of the league’s premier talents are making this year’s race an ultra-competitive one. Strap yourselves in
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Honourable Mentions: Kemba Walker, Paul George, Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond
10. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat (14-5)
Season Stats: 18.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.3 APG; 41.5 FG%, 23.8 3P%, 86.8 FT%
Last Rank: 9th ( 1)
MIAMI’S quest to be a top-4 seed in the East this year is alive and well with the Heat one of four teams yet to lose at home. Defense has been their calling card so far, with a balanced attack being spearheaded by Jimmy Buckets. Butler cracks the top-10 thanks to his teams’ success and if he can have more games like he had last Friday against Chicago (27 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists) and boost his shooting numbers, Butler can keep climbing the ladder.
9. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (10-9)
Season Stats: 25.9 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.1 APG; 50.2 FG%, 42.1 3P%, 80.6 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
THE ‘bad team, good stats’ narrative around Karl-Anthony Towns is quickly shifting. He and the Timberwolves still have their work cut out for them in the ultra-competitive West, but owning a winning record after 19 games isn’t where I thought Minnesota would find themselves. Andrew Wiggins stepping up has definitely helped, but KAT is the engine that makes the Timberwolves go, posting career-best scoring and rebounding numbers while taking more three’s a game than the likes of Trae Young, Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal right now! His 3.8 made treys a night are tied for the second-most in the NBA and if he can keep making it rain from deep and posting a 25/12 line, Towns won’t be doing his MVP chances any harm.
8. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (15-4)
Season Stats: 25.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.0 APG; 47.0 FG%, 39.0 3P%, 81.1 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 3)
SIAKAM takes a slight dip since the first ladder instalment, but it’s through no fault of his own. The Cameroon native continues to emerge as a legitimate star, currently ranked 11th for points per game and steering the Raptors to an impressive win/loss record. Seven wins on the trot for Toronto has the reigning champs shaping up as one of the teams to beat out East and Siakam’s high level of play is only going to keep their win total climbing. In line for his first All-Star appearance this year, there’s no reason why Siakam can’t hold down a rung on the ladder for the entire duration of the season and remain in contention.
7. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (17-3)
Season Stats: 26.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.4 APG; 47.9 FG%, 34.4 3P%, 87.2 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 5)
THE biggest drop off from the first rankings has seen Anthony Davis take a hefty slide. The main reason has been due to LeBron James increasing his MVP candidacy, but Ant still deserves to be considered as a notable candidate – capable of reeling off unreal numbers in any game. Pelicans fans saw plenty of AD highlights during his time with the franchise and in his first game at Smoothie King Center as a visitor, they were treated to another impressive stat line. Davis dropped a season-high 41 points in the Lakers’ W, the most ever by a player in his first game against his former team. Having strung nine games in a row together, the only thing that’s going to push Davis up the ranks is if that number keeps rising.
Image from nba.com
6. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (13-4)
Season Stats: 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 6.0 APG; 46.7 FG%, 24.2 3P%, 78.0 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 3)
I had Nikola Jokic ranked so high last time thanks to the Nuggets record and the back-to-back game-winners canned by the Joker. His numbers haven’t been as impressive or efficient as years past thus far, but Jokic is still the cog that keeps Denver rolling. Currently owning the fourth-best winning percentage in the entire NBA, the Nuggets have been getting consistent production from Jamal Murray and are killing teams by committee on offense. That’s part of the reason Nikola’s per-game averages have dipped and while he won’t care as long as Denver keeps winning at this high clip, it does hurt his MVP odds.
5. Kawhi Leonard, L.A. Clippers (14-6)
Season Stats: 25.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.5 APG; 43.6 FG%, 30.6 3P%, 84.0 FT%
Last Rank: 8th ( 3)
THE return of Paul George to the court has hampered Kawhi’s nightly numbers, but the boost he is giving the Clippers has been unreal. The George/Leonard combo might be the best one-two punch in the league and together they have the chance to emerge as the title favourites. The Clippers have gone 3-3 when Leonard sits so far and I hope he can stay healthy and return to playing 70+ games. Similar to their other L.A. star peers, it’s difficult for one star to stand out as a true MVP threat, however, if either of this pairing is going to do so, Kawhi is the likely competitor.
4. James Harden, Houston Rockets (13-6)
Season Stats: 38.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 7.8 APG; 44.6 FG%, 35.5 3P%, 86.5 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 3)
BUCKETS. They’ve been the flavour of James Harden’s season so far and regardless of Houston’s place in the standings, if the former winner can keep scoring the way he has so far, the skies the limit for his MVP chances. ‘The Beard’ is bound to be in the conversation all season and if he maintained his current scoring pace Harden would see finish the year with the 3rd highest PPG average in NBA history, behind a pair of Wilt Chamberlain seasons. His 60-point game against in Atlanta is further proof that Harden is the most likely active player with a shot at topping to Kobe’s 81-point threshold and those type of scoring numbers alone are enough to keep Harden near the top of the pecking order.
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (13-6)
Season Stats: 30.6 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 9.6 APG; 48.3 FG%, 33.0 3P%, 82.7 FT%
Last Rank: 4th ( 1)
TRYING to break the tie between 2nd and 3rd in the latest MVP rankings was my hardest task when I was toggling players through the rungs. As we struggle to comprehend what Luka Doncic has achieved in his first 100 career games, the question of his MVP legitimacy is fading fast, with the Mavericks currently a top-4 seed in the West. There was a play early against Phoenix were Luka made a one-handed pass for I think a Hardaway three-pointer that was the best highlight I saw all weekend – by far. Doncic’s catastrophic rise to superstardom makes him must-watch basketball every night and so far, Dallas’ record is intact enough for him to be a real-time threat for the trophy.
2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (17-3)
Season Stats: 25.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 10.9 APG; 50.1 FG%, 34.5 3P%, 68.1 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 4)
HE couldn’t, could he? LeBron is the best player on the best team right now, with the Lakers soaring to one of the best starts in franchise history. No offense to the No. 1 ranked player on the ladder, but Los Angeles has had to battle their way through the superior conference while the Bucks’ 17-3 start includes a 6-0 stretch against the likes of Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta. LBJ has 30 more assists than anyone in the league right now (Doncic is second) and as long as Robin stays healthy there’s no reason why Batman can’t lead the NBA in assists for the first time ever. There’s still a long way to go, but with one-quarter of their schedule over, James’ chances of a fifth MVP award are alive and well.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (17-3)
Season Stats: 30.9 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 5.9 APG; 56.0 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 58.6 FT%
Last Rank: 1st (level)
IT’S going to take some serious doing to take Giannis down from the top rung in 2019-20. We thought that Khris Middleton’s injury might see the Bucks slip, but instead, they continued their tear in the seven games he missed by reeling off a 7-0 ledger. During that span, Antetokounmpo averaged 33.1 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals, which included last year’s winner scoring 50 points against the Jazz. Only seven players previously have averaged 30 points and 13 rebounds over a whole season and the fact that Giannis is adding six assists and an ever-improving jump shot makes him the resounding favourite in my eyes. Don’t penalise him because he makes these insane statistics look easy.
Banner from fivethirtyeight.com
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