The NBA season is another month down and we are facing out the clear favorites to win the MVP award. With so much star power in the league, it has come down to a five-man race that could be stretched to as much as 10 players. With that said, these 10 players are playing at the highest level and are deserving of consideration now that we are past the All-Star break.
About a month ago, the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Brooklyn Nets were contending for the top spots in their respective conferences. The Utah Jazz has risen to the top, while the Los Angeles Clippers are making noise too. With their star power, there are a few other strong individuals that are making a case for MVP too. Let's take a look at the current favorites to win MVP.
28.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 9.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG
The Dallas Mavericks are currently the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and that has a lot to do with Doncic. His stats are eye-popping but they appear to be stat suffers for a team that is just three games over .500. If the Mavericks move up through the Western Conference, then Doncic will receive more recognition. He is currently ranked fourth in assists per game behind one other MVP candidate. When Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double, the Thunder had a better record at the time, which explains why Doncic is not getting as much love since the team is just 21-18.
10. Stephen Curry
29.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Curry ranks fifth in the league in points and leads the league in three-pointers made (4.7) per game. He is narrowly beating out Portland Trail Blazers teammates CJ McCollum (4.6) and Damian Lillard (4.4). Curry is in a similar situation. The Warriors are the No. 9 seed as we speak as are 21-20 overall this season. Curry has carried the Warriors well without Klay Thompson. It's sad to see the Warriors waste a prime season from Curry. If the NBA gave a Comeback Player of the Year, Curry would definitely have won it given he played just five games last season.
9. Jimmy Butler
21.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.6 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG
The Heat had a horrid start but have begun to find their footing. The defending Eastern Conference champions are now the No. 4 seed in the East with a 22-19 record. That shows you how watered down the East is this season but at one point the Heat were the No. 11 seed in the rankings. With a healthy team, the core is starting to play well. Butler's rebounds and assists are incredibly impressive as he continues to outwork his opponents. Butler will receive a few votes based on work ethic alone.
8. Kawhi Leonard
26.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Leonard ranks fourth in the league in steals per game, which is no surprise if you follow the former Defensive Player of the Year. This is one of the best offensive seasons for Leonard. He is knocking on the door for a career-high in points per game. His field-goal percentage (51.2%) is career-high, while his assists are the most ever too. If the Clippers can regain the No. 1 seed, we will see Leonard move to the top-5 conversation. For now, as the Clippers sit with the No. 4 seed, Leonard is on the outside of the top contenders.
7. Kyrie Irving
27.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Remember when Irving nearly walked away from basketball? The Nets are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers with the best record in the East. Irving is having one of his best offensive seasons now that he moved to shoot the guard. While his points are career-high, Irving will need to do a little more in other statistical categories to move up in the rankings.
6. Damian Lillard
30.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
This is a perfect example of what happens when your team is middle of the pack and your game is one-sided. Lillard's presence on the defensive end is invisible, which hurts his overall impact towards MVP. The Trail Blazers are No. 6 in the West as we speak. That's why Lillard is sitting at No. 6 on the rankings despite his impeccable offensive numbers. He is second in the league in scoring, third in three-point field goals made, and ranks in the top-10 in assists. By the way, did you see his 50-point outburst the other night as he willed his team back to a comeback victory? Unfortunately, he continuously gets dinged due to his team's overall performance.
5. LeBron James
25.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG
If Anthony Davis didn't get hurt, the Los Angeles Lakers would likely be at the top of the West. Instead, LeBron is trying to keep the Lakers at the top by himself with a surrounding cast. The Phoenix Suns overtook the No. 2 seed, which hurts his overall stock. James is putting up another great year on offense but his defense is what is a game-changer. LeBron ranks in the top-5 in defensive rating and second in defensive win shares. A true-two ay player at 36 years old, who knew? If the Lakers can retake the No. 1 seed, look for LeBron to be back to the top-3 candidates.
4. Joel Embiid
29.9 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.4 BPG
Embiid was the No. 1 contender for the MVP trophy and possibly even leading the chase as we entered March. Due to an injury and COVID-19 exposures, he has not played since before the All-Star break. With a lack of games, that hurts his stock, especially during a season where COVID-19 has impacted teams. Embiid's numbers are MVP-worthy. The 76ers are contending for the No. 1 overall seed. Embiid just needs to get back on the court.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
29.1 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 BPG
Nobody has three-peat an MVP since Larry Bird from 1984 to 1986. If the Bucks can surge back to the No. 1 overall seed in the East, you can book that Giannis will win the MVP award for the third straight season. Giannis ranks fifth in offensive win shares, third in defensive win shares, and seventh in defensive ratings. He is nearly averaging 30 points per game as a center. The Bucks are two games out from Philly and Brooklyn. This is going to be a fun chase down the stretch.
2. Nikola Jokic
26.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG
The Joker has the Nuggets rolling as of late. The Nuggets went from outside the playoff conversation to the No. 5 seed in the West. While we just dinged Lillard for not having a team near the top, the difference for Jokic is that he is playing on both sides. Jokic is averaging one of the best double-doubles in the league but is also facilitating. At 6-foot-11, Jokic is averaging 8.6 assists per game and is tied with Kawhi Leonard for fourth in the league in steals per game. Jokic leads the entire league, including Lillard, with 7.1 offensive win shares. On the defensive end, he ranks top-5 in defensive win shares. He is representing a true MVP on both sides.
1. James Harden
25.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 11.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Harden might be the only exception to the defensive rule because he is nearly averaging a triple-double. He recently became the fourth player to ever record 100 or more triple-doubles in his career. By the next two months, he could very well be the third player to ever average a triple-double in a season, joining his ex-teammate Russell Westbook in history. His numbers since leaving Houston have been off the charts. Harden leads the league in assists and leads all shooting guards in rebounds per game. He has helped keep the Nets afloat in the East while Kevin Durant continuously misses games due to a hamstring. There's no question that his game is at an MVP level right now.
Unless otherwise indicated, all stats courtesy of NBA.com (March 18, 2021)