2020-21 SBF NBA MVP Ladder 1.0

EARLY on in a new NBA season, it can be hard to distinguish which MVP challengers are legitimate and which ones will eventuate lose momentum. The usual suspects once again dominate the top rungs of the new NBA MVP ladder, but there are plenty of fresh faces putting forth some serious numbers through the early going. As COVID-19 induced interruptions have forced some games to be paused, we do have a 10+ game sample size for almost every team, which is more than enough data to break down the initial MVP contenders.

IF you like what you read be sure to check out more SportsbyFry articles by hitting this link. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest NBA articles and follow my fan pages on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to never miss a minute of the action!

Click here to subscribe on iTunes (Feel free to leave a rating and review to help me move up the charts 👍)

Honourable Mentions: Jaylen Brown, CJ McCollum, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant

10. Bradley Beal, Wizards (3-8)

Season Stats (10 games): 34.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.0 APG; 49.4 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 87.4 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
THE league’s leading scorer so far, Bradley Beal has one significant number working against him. 8. Eight losses in 11 tries have Washington once again anchored to the bottom of the standings with the third-worst record in the entire NBA. There’s only so much one player can do to help a team win and Beal is in such good form it would be criminal to leave him out of the top-10. Now it’s time for him and the Wizards to chalk up some W’s if he wants to get serious in this race.

9. Domantas Sabonis, Pacers (7-4)

Season Stats (11 games): 22.2 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.8 APG; 55.6 FG%, 36.0 3P%, 84.2 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
I tossed and turned over which Pacer deservesd to be the MVP candidate, with both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon excelling for Indiana to start the 2021 campaign. Averages of 22/12/6 have Sabonis nudging out his teammate, with the Lithuanian local already managing to post a triple-double and a 20/20 stat line in his first 11 matches. After missing out on the season restart in Orlando, Sabonis is out to propel Indiana to greater heights this season. So far, so good.

8. Jayson Tatum, Celtics (7-3)

Season Stats (10 games): 26.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.8 APG; 47.4 FG%, 43.8 3P%, 88.9 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Before being diagnosed with COVID-19 and causing Boston to postpone their last three matches, Jayson Tatum was reaffirming his place as one of the best scorers in the league. It feels like Tatum has been getting buckets for a decade, but the 4th year forward is proving his leap into superstardom last season was no fluke. His earliest possible return looms as Jan 22nd against Philly and there is still enough of the season left for Tatum to mount a case as a top tier MVP hopeful.

Image from latimes.com

7. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (8-4)

Season Stats (11 games): 26.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 5.5 APG; 52.0 FG%, 29.6 3P%, 61.8 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Voters aren’t likely going to pick Giannis Antetokounmpo as the MVP for a third straight time this year, despite his per-game averages only taking a slight dip. Annually choosing the same player for the league’s highest individual honour becomes mundane and repetitive after a few seasons (see LeBron James), however, that doesn’t mean the Greek Freak is entirely out of the race. The arrival of Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis and D.J. Augustin has forced the team to make some tweaks and changes, but it may benefit the Bucks in the long run. If they can run away with the best record in the conference (or better still the league), then we may see Antetokounmpo gather steam for the award as the season winds down.

6. Paul George, Clippers (8-4)

Season Stats (11 games): 25.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.5 APG; 49.7 FG%, 51.6 3P%, 90.9 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Kawhi Leonard has increased his scoring capacity in the last few games, but Paul George has clearly been the best Clipper through a dozen contests. His per-game numbers look similar to usual, but George’s shot-making and creativity on offence have him building momentum as a realistic challenger. Of the 81 players who have attempted at least 50 shots from behind the arc so far this season, Paul George is blazing ahead of the pack as the only player knocking down more than half of his attempts. 3PT% aside, the Clippers are set up to once again win a healthy number of games, which only bodes well for the swingman who finished 3rd in MVP voting as recently as 2019.

5. Luka Doncic, Mavericks (6-4)

Season Stats (9 games): 26.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 8.3 APG; 46.5 FG%, 27.3 3P%, 77.5 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Still the sexy pick and the bettors favourite to win this year, Luka Doncic’s slow start to the season has him sitting in the middle of the pack right now. Some big box scores have boosted his averages in recent times, with Doncic originally starting the season shooting just 2-21 from distance, but there’s no doubt Luka will be one of the hot candidates for the award all season long. By the time you read the 2.0 MVP update, I wouldn’t be surprised if Doncic had worked his way back into NBA shape and fixed his shooting numbers with even the slightest increase in output from his sophomore season making Luka hard to stop.

4. Steph Curry, Warriors (6-5)

Season Stats (11 games): 27.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.4 APG; 43.0 FG%, 36.9 3P%, 93.2 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Before the season I said Steph Curry was going to have to score 35 a night for the Warriors to matter and make a postseason push. Well, I wasn’t entirely wrong with Curry averaging 34.7 PPG in six Warriors wins, however, a pedestrian 19.8 PPG in their five losses highlights his lack of support. Golden State’s lead snipper has already dropped a career-best 62 points AND had the worst shooting night of his career through 11 games – a roller-coaster storyline that I only expect to continue for the entire year. It’ll make it hard for him to mount a believable MVP case, but every hot shooting night that translates to a Warriors victory will help his claim.

3. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (5-6)

Season Stats (11 games): 24.3 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 10.5 APG; 57.6 FG%, 41.2 3P%, 82.1 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
I am well aware the Nuggets are currently under .500, but that doesn’t mean Nikola Jokic should be considered as a fake MVP threat. In each of his 11 games so far this year, Jokic has at least posted a double-double with four triple-doubles to his name too, and as we all know, lofty averages are one of best ways to aid an MVP case. The problem for Denver and their stellar center lies in their five wins from 11 tries, however, this Nuggets team has the depth and firepower to quickly go on a run. If this squad can resolve their defensive issues and get more stops (see Jokic’s 7 steals vs. Brooklyn), then expect the All-NBA calibre big man to mount a viable argument as the most valuable player for 2021.

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers (8-4)

Season Stats (10 games): 26.6 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.1 APG; 54.4 FG%, 38.7 3P%, 86.0 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
We’ve wondered for years now what it would look like if Joel Embiid stopped drinking milkshakes and eating burgers and finally got his body right. There are no updates on his diet, but Philly’s center currently looks like the most dominant player in basketball with no signs of slowing down. His most recent outing (albeit with just eight Heat and Sixer players able to suit up) is a prime example of what Embiid is capable of when he’s clicking on all cylinders – scoring 11 of his 45 points in overtime to claim a valuable win. Putting up near career-best figures in every major stat, Embiid will need to maintain this pace to stay in the mix for MVP honours.

1. LeBron James, Lakers (10-3)

Season Stats (11 games): 24.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 7.5 APG; 48.3 FG%, 38.6 3P%, 70.3 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
The best player on the best team; it should be simple right? While a plethora of players are presenting their early-season MVP cases, LeBron James still beats out all challengers for the No. 1 ranking. The Lakers haven’t missed a beat since winning the 2020 championship, with James, once again, the catalyst for L.A.’s success. At 36 it would be unfair to expect LeBron to improve on his per-game averages and the already four-time winner will be eager to capture his 5th ring over his 5th Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Although, there’s no reason why he can’t claim both…

Banner from bleacherreport.com

Leave a Reply