Baker's Dozen - MVP Rankings Update

With less than one month remaining in the regular season, it's time to revisit the race for the MVP award. Back in late January our MVP rankings were as follows:

  1. Joel Embiid
  2. LeBron James
  3. Stephen Curry
  4. Nikola Jokic
  5. Luka Doncic
  6. Damian Lillard
Now let's take a look at our rankings as we enter the stretch run to the playoffs:
  1. Nikola Jokic - With Jamal Murray out due to a season-ending ACL injury, the stage is now set for Jokic to seal the deal for his first NBA MVP. He's been at the forefront of the rankings for the entire year, averaging 26.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg & 8.8 apg while leading Denver to the 4th best record in the West at 36-20. He's one of the slickest passing big men in NBA history already and is lethal with his decision-making in the half-court sets. His basketball IQ is off the charts and his ability to read defenses is akin to an All-Pro Quarterback picking apart a helpless secondary. Despite the fact that Murray was one of his favorite targets, Jokic will continue to find his cutting teammates in space and lead the Nuggets into the playoffs. One of the biggest things Jokic has going for him is that he hasn't missed any games during the season, proving to be durable (he's played a minimum of 73 games in each of his first five seasons in the league), while the rest of his MVP rivals continue to miss games. 
  2. Stephen Curry - In his eleventh season in the NBA, Curry is averaging a career-high 31.0 ppg and is dragging the Warriors towards the playoffs. There's no doubt that Draymond Green has picked up his play as the season as gone on, but it's clear to all that Curry remains the engine that makes Golden State go. The Dubs went 1-4 during a recent five game absence from the former two-time MVP and have gone 6-4 in the ten games since his return - Steph is averaging a cool 39.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.5 apg while sinking a ridiculous 6.8 3P per game in that stretch. Golden State sit in 9th place in the Western Conference and it's tough to see them dropping out of that spot while the best shooter in NBA history continues to preform at an MVP level. If the Warriors can climb a few spots in the standings, Curry may yet garner additional votes in the MVP race. 
  3. Joel Embiid - The big fella from Cameroon is still in the MVP race, but is down a few spots due to missing 12 of 14 games from mid-March to early April. In his six games since coming back, he's averaged 31.2 ppg & 9.8 rpg in five wins for the 76ers. He's the most dominant player in the Eastern Conference when he's healthy, and is the biggest reason for the 76ers success this year. However, at this point of the season he has only played in 38 of his team's 56 games - a trend that has has plagued his entire NBA career thus far. It's tough to be the league's MVP when you only play in 70% of your team's games, regardless of how good you are. 
  4. Luka Doncic - This week's game against the Grizzlies is a great example of why Luka will win the MVP award one year (and potentially multiple times in his career). After a lackluster 1st half in which the Mavericks were down by three, with Doncic having only scored 4 points, he picked it up in the 2nd half and scored 25 points, including his unreal buzzer beater to win the game. He has the ability to will his team to victory, using a variety of different tools at his disposal. He can pick teams apart with his passing ability, get into the lane and disrupt defenses as well as shoot the long-range ball (he's shooting a career-best 36.1% 3P this year). When you have a player like Doncic on your team, you're never out of a ball game. Keep in mind that this is still only his third year in the NBA and he will continue to evolve and get better as he gets older. His time to win the MVP will come... just not this year. 

Around the Association...

Line of the Week: De'Aaron Fox (one of my favorite players in the league) deserves a shoutout for putting up 43 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists against the Pelicans, and Russell Westbrook is in the midst of a nice triple-double stretch, but this week's winner is Steph Curry. In a game that saw him become the Warriors' all-time leading scorer, Curry put up 53 points (14/24 FG, 10/18 3P & 15/16 FT) while adding in 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a win over the Nuggets. Unreal. 

The Wizards are Rolling: Don't look now, but the Washington Wizards are making a run towards the play-in tournament. Winners of four in a row, and six of seven, Washington is getting the most out of Westbrook during the seven game stretch (22.8 ppg/13.9 rpg/12.6 apg) as well as Bradley Beal, who continues to hold onto the league lead in scoring by the slimmest of margins. The Wizards are presently in a three-way tie for 10th spot in the Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls, but have two games in-hand on the Raps. Can the Wizards keep streaking behind their two stars? 

Check out previous columns: 

March 30, 2021: Trade Deadline Recap

Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports