EVERY NBA team has now completed at least 50 games, with two-thirds of the season more or less in the rear-vision mirror. Atop the MVP food chain, there’s still no movement, however, the rest of the ladder continues to fluctuate with an insane scoring binge and an ankle sprain to a serious contender causing plenty of movement between rungs 2-10.
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Honourable Mentions: Rudy Gobert, Bam Adebayo, Russell Westbrook, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell
10. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (36-14)
Season Stats (40 games): 23.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.5 APG; 46.0 FG%, 36.5 3P%, 80.7 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
TORONTO is streaking through the standings right now, vaulting themselves into the valuable No. 2 seed thanks to a franchise-record 12 straight victories. It’s no coincidence that the win streak almost perfectly coincides with Pascal Siakam returning to the lineup for the Raptors as their All-Star starter continues to put up a legitimate case to win back-to-back Most Improved awards. The defending champ might have another decent crack at winning his second ring, but I can’t see him vying for this year’s MVP trophy even if TO keeps winning.
9. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers (23-28)
Season Stats (49 games): 29.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.1 APG; 43.5 FG%, 39.7 3P%, 87.5 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
DESPITE Damian Lillard’s nuclear fortnight, you can only place so high in the ladder if your team still owns a sub .500 record. Portland is doing their best to turn their fortunes around winning five of their last seven games with Dame averaging an absurd 44.9 PPG (and 10.0 assists a night) in that span. Excluding Westbrook a few years ago, no player has won fewer than 50 games and claimed the MVP since the 80’s and unless Lillard keeps up his insane scoring average I can’t see him becoming a serious threat.
8. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat (34-16)
Season Stats: 20.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.3 APG; 45.2 FG%, 25.5 3P%, 83.7 FT%
Last Rank: 8th (level)
JUST because his per-game averages aren’t as eye-popping as some other members of the MVP race, doesn’t mean that Jimmy Butler is less deserving of a ladder rung. In fact, until the Raptors went on their double-digit win streak, Miami looked every bit like the conferences second-best team. His shooting from distance (just 28 makes in 110 tries) has been a sight for sore eyes, but excluding that Butler has been giving the Heat exactly what they need – a bonafide leader who lets his play do the talking.
7. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (38-11)
Season Stats (42 games): 26.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.3 APG; 51.2 FG%, 31.5 3P%, 86.5 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 1)
AD sliding in the ranks once again comes at no fault of his own. He is on track to play 70+ games for just the third time in his career (knock on wood) despite missing a string of five straight games in the middle of January. Since returning his per-game numbers have taken a slight dip, however, he still deserves his regular place among the top-10 award contenders. Part of being LeBron James’ teammate means you have to be pretty damn special to outshine him and generate some MVP buzz of your own.
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6. Kawhi Leonard, L.A. Clippers (36-15)
Season Stats (39 games): 27.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.3 APG; 46.4 FG%, 37.3 3P%, 89.1 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 1)
ON average Kawhi seems to miss one out of every three games. That doesn’t mean the other two-thirds of the time he’s merely making up the numbers with L.A. owning a 31-8 record with the reigning Finals MVP in the lineup. If he was a stand-alone franchise, Leonard would have the second-highest winning percentage (79.5%) in the entire league and given his statistical resume it feels unfair to exclude Kawhi from the top-5. However, missing one-third of the season so far will be held against him as it probably should.
5. James Harden, Houston Rockets (32-18)
Season Stats (47 games): 35.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 7.3 APG; 43.6 FG%, 36.0 3P%, 86.7 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 2)
SOME atrocious shooting nights in January saw Harden post the worst statistical month we’ve seen from him in a long time. To start 2020, Houston’s scoring savant shot just 35.5% from the field and 27.0% from behind the arc, hardly looking like a genuine MVP as Westbrook picked up a lot of the slack (averaging 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the month of Jan). The Rockets have found their groove winning three straight with Harden averaging 38.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG and 9.0 APG in that stretch. More of those numbers will undoubtedly see him rise up the ladder.
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (31-19)
Season Stats (43 games): 28.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 8.7 APG; 46.4 FG%, 32.1 3P%, 76.3 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 2)
AVAILABILITY is the best ability and unfortunately for Luka, his slide down the ladder is partially due to his absence in the last few games. According to head coach Rick Carlisle, the super sophomore could be out until the All-Star break with this ankle sprain the only thing that has halted his unreal season. Doncic has been driving force behind the Mavericks playoff push so far and there’s no doubt that he’ll be in the running for this award for the rest of the decade. Winning it this year is starting to look like too tall a task for the young franchise-changing stud though.
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (36-16)
Season Stats (52 games): 20.6 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 6.8 APG; 51.7 FG%, 33.0 3P%, 80.1 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 2)
IF you need any justification as to why Nikola Jokic finds himself above the likes of James Harden and Luka Doncic, look no further than his recent box score. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back after Denver’s involvement in a four-team, 12-player trade the Nuggets were left with just seven active players to take on Utah. Jokic came out and became just the 9th player in league history to drop a 30-20-10 stat line helping his squad pick up their 36th win of the season. Light work for the stellar Serbian, who is firmly in the mix as a top tier MVP candidate.
2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (38-11)
Season Stats (47 games): 25.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 10.7 APG; 49.3 FG%, 35.2 3P%, 69.2 FT%
Last Rank: 4th ( 2)
THE torrid pace the Lakers are setting means LBJ is looming as one of the few legitimate candidates to topple the No. 1 player on this list for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. The proud owners of the second-best record in the entire league has LeBron and the Lakers snapping at the heels of their conference rivals, even with James playing the fewest average minutes of his career (34.8 per game). With his trophy cabinet already fairly stacked, LeBron will likely prioritise his rest to add a 4th championship ring to his resume over another MVP, but there’s still a chance he can achieve both.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (43-7)
Season Stats (46 games): 30.1 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 5.8 APG; 55.4 FG%, 31.9 3P%, 60.8 FT%
Last Rank: 1st (level)
A lot of Antetokounmpo’s numbers have improved in the last month, except for his free throw shooting. The only Achilles heel in the reigning MVP’s game isn’t going to halt his momentum to claim the award for a second straight year, with Giannis currently on an absolute statistical tear. With his Bucks poised to push for 70 games this year, Antetokounmpo has had at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in four straight games, falling just one bucket short of turning that into a seven-game streak. Good luck catching him.
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