TIME flies when you’re having fun! It’s hard to believe that we are nearly halfway through the 2019-20 campaign, but as we gear up for the next 40-odd games multiple NBA stars are out to stake their claim as the best individual player this season. There is some fluctuation in the newest ladder compared to the last instalment and we now have some clear cut candidates able to challenge the reigning MVP for this year’s trophy.
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Honourable Mentions: Chris Paul, Pascal Siakam, Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo, Rudy Gobert
10. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (25-12)
Season Stats: 24.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.4 APG; 46.3 FG%, 36.0 3P%, 84.2 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
HAVING lost just one game in the last 11 tries, the Utah Jazz are flying up the Western standings. Some would rather see Rudy Gobert in this slot and he might be their most important player, but with Mike Conley out, Mitchell has been their MVP. The All-Star calibre guard has averaged 25+ PPG since Conley went down, shooting over 50% from the field and seizing the reigns as Utah’s go-to guy once again. Boosting his assist along the way has not only helped the Jazz surge, but it’s doing his All-Star chances wonders!
9. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics (25-11)
Season Stats: 22.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.1 APG; 43.5 FG%, 39.7 3P%, 87.5m FT%
Last Rank: N/A
KEMBA is still the Celtics’ best chance at claiming this award, as unlikely as it seems. Boston’s strength lies in their multiple weapons, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both also averaging over 20 PPG. Nevertheless, Walker remains this teams’ leader as the Celtics continue to push their case forward as the second-best team in their conference and if they keep pushing for 55+ wins his name is bound to come up in conversation.
8. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat (27-10)
Season Stats: 20.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.6 APG; 43.5 FG%, 27.0 3P%, 82.3 FT%
Last Rank: 10th ( 2)
DON’T be surprised if we see Miami’s best player hold down a spot in the second half of the ladder for the duration of the year. As the Heat continue to impress the NBA community, the dual time All-Star is leading the charge in South Beach with their squad currently the only team without multiple losses at home. Four of their next five games do come on the road, but Butler and Co have a five-game homestand to end January that could help boost their winning percentage and Butler’s MVP candidacy.
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7. Kawhi Leonard, L.A. Clippers (26-12)
Season Stats: 25.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.1 APG; 44.8 FG%, 35.3 3P%, 89.1 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 2)
MISSING over a quarter of L.A.’s games this season has seen Kawhi Leonard take a tumble down the ladder and his lack of games played remains the strongest argument against his legitimacy for the trophy. The Clippers seem destined to hang inside the top-4 out West and make some noise this postseason, but the organisation won’t be concerned with individual awards for the likes of Kawhi and his teammates. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.
6. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (30-7)
Season Stats: 27.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.2 APG; 50.4 FG%, 29.3 3P%, 85.9 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 1)
AD loyalists will make the case that he’s the best MVP front-runner in Lakers colours and I can see their point of view. My eternal love for LeBron aside, I still see Davis as his Robin, but we’ve known for years the former Pel is capable of winning the league’s highest individual honour. A lot of people believe he’s leading the race as the Defensive Player of the Year – myself included, but that seems like the only end of year award he’ll claim in 2020.
5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (26-11)
Season Stats: 19.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 6.4 APG; 50.8 FG%, 32.7 3P%, 79.3 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 1)
NIKOLA Jokic re-established himself as a staple in this race with an unreal past month. In a 15-game stretch, Denver’s man in the middle has shouldered the load on offense, averaging over 24 points while shooting the lights out (56.2 FG% and 46.0 3P%). It won’t come as a shock to learn that the Nuggets are 12-3 in that time span and fresh off an impressive pair of games against Atlanta and Dallas, don’t be caught sleeping on Jokic as a realistic threat to take out the MVP.
4. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (30-7)
Season Stats: 25.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 10.8 APG; 48.6 FG%, 34.7 3P%, 68.8 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 2)
THE King has done enough to classify himself in the top tier of award hopefuls, putting forth the annual “best player on the best team” argument – don’t @ me Bucks fans. Still leading the league in assists, Bron fills up the box score enough to warrant attention for what would be his 5th MVP, but you still feel like he’ll have to do something special to separate himself from the pack and emerge as the favourite. If the Lakers stay on this torrid pace, then winning 60-65 games would certainly help his chances.
3. James Harden, Houston Rockets (25-12)
Season Stats: 37.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 7.5 APG; 45.2 FG%, 37.6 3P%, 86.4 FT%
Last Rank: 4th ( 1)
IN his latest outing, James Harden had arguably his worst game of the season – shooting 5-17 from the field finishing with just 17 points. It’s worth noting that the scoring maestro did net 40+ in three of the four games before the match with OKC and the copious amount of points alone that ‘The Beard’ produces will keep him in MVP contention. Don’t expect the 2017-18 winner do fall out of the race anytime soon, with his high basketball IQ leading to Harden getting the right shot or making the right pass at the right time to keep him right in the hunt.
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (23-14)
Season Stats: 29.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 9.0 APG; 47.4 FG%, 32.7 3P%, 80.2 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 1)
THOSE who argued that Luka didn’t have the body of work to back up his 2K like per-game averages can politely sit down. It appears like the end of year win/loss tally is the only thing holding back Dallas’ megastar from surpassing Derrick Rose as the youngest MVP in the history of the NBA. Don’t laugh, Doncic is putting forth what most believe is the best season by anyone under the age of 21 in the history of the league and when you look at his near triple-double averages, it’s hard to build a case against him. Luka still has work to do to steal the top overall spot, but he’s the closest competition right now.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (33-6)
Season Stats: 30.2 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 5.5 APG; 55.1 FG%, 31.9 3P%, 61.8 FT%
Last Rank: 1st (level)
ON one hand, I hope some adversity strikes Giannis to make this race an interesting one. On the other, I’m enjoying watching this international masterclass put on by the ‘Greek Freak’ and as contenders continue to emerge, Antetokounmpo passes every test thrown his way with flying colours. If you wanted to point out a weakness, you could highlight his recent 3-point shooting, with the reigning MVP going 8-36 from downtown since Christmas Day. While that is significant, I can’t see that discussion hampering Giannis’ case for another MVP, leaving us clutching at straws when it comes to finding faults in his game.
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