WITH less than 20 games remaining for each NBA squad, time has run out for a handful of players to put forth their case as the league’s MVP. Last year’s winner is the clear-cut favourite and in the eyes of many no-one will catch the Greek Freak for the 2019-20 trophy. A lot can happen in just under a quarter of the season though, so while Giannis has one hand on the award, there are still some players in the running trying to wrestle the hardware away.
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BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR
Kawhi Leonard, Clippers – 26.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.1 APG
Paul George, Clippers – 20.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.9 APG
INDIVIDUAL awards were never really on the cards for Kawhi and PG13 this season, with both superstars prioritising their health in the effort to win a championship. Traditionally, two high-profile names will clash with each other when it comes to claiming an MVP award, but if either guy can perform at their peak and play 70-ish games, there’s no reason why they can’t be a future contender.
Luka Doncic, Mavericks – 28.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 8.8 APG
IF Luka Doncic didn’t miss any time pre/post All-Star he’d probably still be flying as a top candidate to win the league’s greatest individual trophy. Some may still view him in this category with the Slovenian sensation achieving more in his first 122 career games than some players achieve in a 15-year tenure in the league. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Doncic has the chance to win a plethora of awards and go down as an all-time great. I can’t see him nabbing any hardware this season though.
Damian Lillard, Blazers – 29.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.9 APG
IT’S a shame that Damian Lillard’s insane scoring binge was halted by injury, with Portland’s lead man missing seven games with a groin complaint before returning against Washington a few days ago. In a dozen games prior to that, Lillard had been on a tear averaging 37.9 PPG while nearly posting 50/50/90 shooting splits (49.8 FG%, 48.9 3P%, 91.7 FT%). The Blazers only managed to go 7-5 over that stretch, which is a big reason why Dame isn’t in serious contention for the award.
Pascal Siakam, Raptors – 23.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG
SHOUTOUT to Pascal Siakam for an unreal season thus far, but claiming the honour as the league’s best player over the entire season was a task too tall for the fourth-year Raptor. Boosting his scoring average 6.7 points from a season ago has Siakam in line to be the first-ever player to win the Most Improved award in consecutive seasons, with his growth a large contributing factor to Toronto’s 44-18 season so far. There’s no reason why he can’t compete for future MVP’s if he keeps improving at this rapid rate, but he’s out of the mix for 2020.
Joel Embiid, Sixers – 23.3 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.1 APG
Ben Simmons, Sixers – 16.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 8.2 APG
FOR Ben or Joel to seriously contend for Most Valuable Player honours I have a hunch they’ll need to go their own way. That being said, the All-Star duo currently combine to form one of the best 1-2 punches in the entire league and if the Sixers find the right balance with the rest of their roster then there’s a chance either of them could become a threat for future recognition. Unless those things happen, I doubt either of the young studs will be in serious contention.
Anthony Davis, Lakers – 26.6 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.2 APG
IF anyone from L.A. is going to claim the MVP this year it’s going to be Anthony Davis’ running mate. AD is still one of the most impactful players on both sides of the ball, likely translating to a Defensive Player of the Year award this year and a spot on an All-NBA squad. Someone has to be Robin on the Lakers and Davis might not hold that roll down forever, but he does right now.
Bradley Beal, Wizards – 30.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.1 APG
BEING weighed down by a miserable supporting cast has seen Bradley Beal’s name go unmentioned in MVP chatter for the entire season. After the latest batch of games, Beal is second in the league for scoring average pouring in a career-best 30.5 points a night on pace to be just the second Wizard ever to top 30 PPG (Walt Bellamy ’61-’62). If John Wall can return to the court triumphantly next season Beal’s numbers will undoubtedly take a slight hit, however, the extra W’s Washington chalks up could see him flirt with an MVP calibre season.
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4B. Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets (39-22)
Season Stats (51 games): 27.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.0 APG; 47.1 FG%, 25.0 3P%, 77.6 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
NO player impressed more than Russell Westbrook in the month of February, with the past MVP winner putting forth an eye-popping statistical month. In his eight Feb games, Westbrook was second in the NBA for scoring average, dropping 33.4 points a night to go along with 7.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists each time out. Since the calendar turned to 2020, Westbrook has also been a beast in the paint, pacing the league for scoring inside the keyway at 19.9 PPG. While his stats from a month ago look great, let’s not forget the same Russell Westbrook was causing Houston a lot of pain in the first half of the year, hampering any chance he has of taking out the trophy.
4A. James Harden, Houston Rockets (39-22)
Season Stats (58 games): 34.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 7.3 APG; 43.6 FG%, 35.4 3P%, 86.5 FT%
Last Rank: 5th (1)
WHILE Westbrook has been shining, Harden has taken somewhat of a back seat – a position we aren’t familiar seeing the 2017-18 winner in. Harden still excelled alongside Westbrook, but his new star teammate took a bit of the shine off the Beard’s performances even with the Rockets surging to a 10-4 record since the month of Feb began. Harden (much like his noteworthy teammate) has the individual talent to win this award on an annual basis. However, with both Houston headliners stealing each other’s thunder on any given night an individual accolade is pretty unlikely.
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (42-20)
Season Stats (62 games): 20.7 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 6.8 APG; 53.2 FG%, 32.4 3P%, 81.9 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd (level)
CEMENTING himself as one of the best clutch players in the league, there’s no longer a reason to doubt Nikola Jokic. Sure, the Serbian center doesn’t fit the stereotypical mould of a shredded, muscular NBA phenom, but his nightly highlight reel is as impressive as anyone else in the association. The momentum that Denver and Jokic were building has somewhat stalled and with a tough schedule ahead of them, finishing inside the top-2 for the second straight year seems dubious. Then again, they do have the Joker on their side…
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2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (48-13)
Season Stats (58 games): 25.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 10.7 APG; 49.9 FG%, 34.7 3P%, 69.8 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd (level)
LET’S be realistic, unless LeBron goes nuclear, there’s really no way Giannis can lose the MVP this year. James seems poised to lead the league in assists for the first time ever, but it’ll take more than 10 dimes a game to propel the King over the reigning award recipient – even though the Lakers are toiling away in a tougher conference. Getting a win over Antetokounmpo and the Bucks while dropping 37/8/8 will help his cause, but I can’t see LBJ putting his pedal to the metal for the sake of an individual award.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (53-10)
Season Stats (57 games): 29.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 5.8 APG; 54.7 FG%, 30.9 3P%, 62.9 FT%
Last Rank: 1st (level)
WHAT more can I say about the leagues best player this year that hasn’t already been said? Giannis is putting up one of the best statistical seasons we’ve ever seen, currently posting the 7th highest single-season PER in the history of the league on a Milwaukee team that will most likely finish with the best record in the NBA. You can hate them for being in the East all you want, but as it stands right now, Antetokounmpo going back-to-back as an MVP winner is a near certainty.
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