Midseason MVP Race

Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

 

Let’s start by saying that my MVP race is anything but a popularity contest. With approximately half of the season completed, the amount of games a player missed will factor in. For that reason, as crazy as it sounds, Stephen Curry (played 31 of 42 games) is left off my list – especially due to the caliber of his teammates. That could (and probably will) change as more time elapses.

 

10. Damian Lillard (POR) — 23.48 PER, 9.4 EWA, 25.8 PTS (38.4 3P%), 6.1 AST, 4.5 REB

Team Record: 26-17, 4th West

Big-game Dame always seems to find a way to keep Rip City right in the thick of things. His statistics in terms of field goals made and attempted per game have been nearly identical each of the last four seasons. He has become the epitome of a consistent franchise player and has also provided invaluable leadership to the Blazers.

 

9. Kawhi Leonard (TOR) — 26.94 PER, 9.6 EWA, 27.1 PTS (50.2 FG%), 7.9 REB, 1.9 STL

Team Record: 32-12, 1st East

Leonard’s rest nights on the second half of back-to-backs have limited his opportunity to seriously compete for winning the award. At the very least, he has already proven to be more meaningful to this team than DeMar DeRozan was. That isn’t a knock on DeRozan because he did so much during his time in Toronto. It’s just that Leonard is simply on another level.

 

8. LeBron James (LAL) — 26.44 PER, 9.3 EWA, 27.3 PTS (51.8 FG%), 8.3 REB, 7.1 AST

Team Record: 23-20, 8th West

This ranking might sound absurd to some. James’ nine missed games should be taken into consideration. In addition, the fact he’s now in the Western Conference makes life that much more complicated. James is still bringing out his inner-superhuman as the Lakers would likely peak at absolute mediocrity should Julius Randle have stayed put and LBJ ended up elsewhere.

 

7. Nikola Jokic (DEN) — 26.09 PER, 9.9 EWA, 19.2 PTS (50.1 FG%), 10.2 REB, 7.5 AST

Team Record: 28-13, 1st West

Jokic is changing the way the game is played at the center position. He is the modern day “point big man”. Jokic isn’t like Kemba Walker in that he is forced to carry a below-average supporting cast. He has lots of help from Jamal Murray to Gary Harris to Paul Millsap and etc. Although it might not be solely because of his improvement on that end, the Nuggets’ defense has strengthened his case.

 

6. Anthony Davis (NOR) — 31.09 PER, 13.7 EWA, 28.9 PTS (51.2 FG%), 13.3 REB, 2.6 BLK

Team Record: 20-23, 13th West

Only two MVP winners in history have been part of a team that finished with a losing record: Bob Petitt of the 1955-56 St. Louis Hawks and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the 1975-76 Los Angeles Lakers. I don’t see that happening again anytime soon. Davis’s individual play absolutely warrants MVP consideration. However, the league is too competitive to make that scenario all that possible.

 

5. Paul George (OKC) — 23.29 PER, 9.3 EWA, 26.7 PTS (38.3 FG%), 8.0 REB, 2.2 STL

Team Record: 26-16, 3rd West

George is having by far the best statistical year of his career. One key in my opinion is PG-13 attempting just as many shots as Russell Westbrook. I think that benefits OKC in the long-run for offensive balance purposes. George is also the anchor of the league’s most efficient defense. Although he is beside one of the generation’s most prolific scorers in Westbrook, George has never been on a team stacked with offensive talent.

 

4. Kevin Durant (GST) — 25.61 PER, 11.3 EWA, 28.2 PTS (50.7 FG%), 7.3 REB, 6.1 AST

Team Record: 28-14, 2nd West

Durant’s dispute with Draymond Green hasn’t become an afterthought but the Warriors have moved on to basketball. I expect them to move on to taking games more seriously as the second half of the regular season gets underway. Like I mentioned in a previous article, Durant or Curry can lead this team to victory. Most of the time, however, the duo works together.

 

3. Joel Embiid (PHI) — 25.63 PER, 10.1 EWA, 26.9 PTS (49.0 FG%), 13.5 REB, 1.9 BLK

Team Record: 27-16, 4th East

LBJ’s departure has made way for Embiid to dominate more. He was doing that before but his dominance now without LBJ and the old Cavs becomes more significant. Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler are both all-star caliber players themselves. However, Embiid is often most useful as the go-to guy and it’s clear he’s the rock of the franchise.

 

2. James Harden (HOU) — 29.21 PER, 12.8 EWA, 34.1 PTS (39.0 3P%), 8.7 AST, 6.1 REB

Team Record: 24-17,  5th West

Harden has been on a tear since the beginning of December, averaging over 37 points since that time. Kobe Bryant is the most memorable recent superstar to score like this. There have been a lot of those guys such as Bryant, James, Durant, Dwyane Wade, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, etc. Harden does it in Kobe-like fashion because he’s out there to put on a show every game to achieve greatness.

 

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) — 29.08 PER, 11.2 EWA, 26.6 PTS (58.1 FG%), 12.8 REB, 6.0 AST

Team Record: 29-12, 2nd East

Harden and Greek Freak might be neck-and-neck for the award. Harden might even be the more popular choice to win because he makes 30-point games against prime opponents look effortless. The Greek Freak still lacks a consistent outside jumper but makes up for that in other areas such as penetration, playmaking, explosiveness and overall defense.