The NBA is amidst an era of plentiful talent around the league. In a league where every year there are handfuls of snubbed players that miss out on the all-NBA teams or in the all-star games. Most NBA teams have two or more NBA stars on their roster, and any given year either player could be an MVP candidate. Even this year, there are players breaking records and having tremendous seasons but are on losing teams.
Players such as Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook are having great seasons. However, for a player to be an MVP candidate, their team must have a winning record. As most MVP winners are from the top two seeds in each conference, the NBA has started to give out the award to those who are most deserving. In 2017 for example, Westbrook won the MVP award averaging a triple-double. Although the point guard averaged a triple-double, it was rare that the award was handed to a team that finished sixth in the Western Conference.
This year could provide the same scenario, as some candidates are not in the top two seeds of their respected conference. This season has shown a parody of players from young to old, former MVPs, and newly spoken candidates.
There are five major candidates this season, but there are three that should be honorably mentioned. The first honorable mention is Donovan Mitchell. The four-year pro has been nothing less than spectacular for the Utah Jazz. Mitchell is lifting the Jazz to the best record in the NBA but has yet to be as dominant as others on this list to be considered as a top-five candidate. Most of the Jazz’s success is through the depth of their team.
The second honorable mention is James Harden. The Beard is on the Brooklyn Nets, where he is accompanied by other all-stars. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving make the Nets a superpower in the NBA. Although Harden has taken a step back in recent years in scoring output, his playmaking and efficiency are still amongst the best in the league. The main cause for Harden not being in the top five is due to the other star power on his team. Irving and Durant when they are healthy take away from Harden’s usage.
The final honorable mention is the former back-to-back MVP winner in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo has not slowed down from recent years, but with a slow start from the Milwaukee Bucks and from some voter fatigue the reigning winner will see a slip in votes. Giannis is still the most dominant player in the league and could see a jump into the top five by the end of the season.
#5 Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
The former back-to-back MVP from 2014-2016, is having yet another magnificent season. Curry has been scoring left and right to help this struggling Warriors team stay above .500. He has been dropping incredible numbers: Games of 62 points, 57 points, 53 points, and 20 games of scoring 30 or more points. Curry has been nothing but electric this NBA season. Take him away from the Warriors, and the team would be fighting for the number one pick in the next draft.
The veteran point guard has been the light for this franchise for years and is currently carrying a team out from the grave. Although Draymond Green has had a resurgence as of late, the Warriors have been heavily relying on the guard. Curry takes every important shot, creates the comeback and lead of games through his ridiculous shooting. Currently, the superstar is shooting above 42% from three. An incredible start for a player who averages nearly 12 attempts a game.
#4 LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron at the age of 36 is averaging historic numbers. James has been performing like an MVP, leading the Lakers to at one point one of the best records in the NBA. James is still dominating physically, being able to compete with players ten years younger than him. The forward is shooting very efficiently and is having one of his better shooting years from three.
Although LeBron did go down with an ankle injury in March, his MVP contention has dropped. The forward is still expected to miss another week or two, and with missing more than 15 games it could be hard to see the former MVP crawl back up to win the award.
#3 Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid has been the biggest threat to any defender. The big man has been playing as forcibly and dominant as a player since Shaquille O’Neal. The center is unstoppable in the paint and has been very deadly from three this season. Having stat lines such as 50 points, 17 rebounds, and 4 blocks. 40 points and 19 rebounds and two blocks, and multiple games of 40 or more points are nothing to just marvel at.
The Center has been the leading reason for the 76ers rise to the Eastern Conference. The center has not been outplayed this season by an opposing player and has completely shut down opposing bigs. Embiid should also be considered a defensive player of the year candidate. Although just like LeBron, the center had missed a few weeks due to injuries. Causing a sliding effect to his MVP chances. Although Embiid has returned and is continuing his dominating performances.
#2 Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard may be the most slept-on player in the NBA. Everyone acknowledges that he is amongst the best in the league. However, Lillard still never receives any credit compared to others. Lillard has been a force in Portland, and this year alone he has taken yet another step. The veteran guard has been carrying an injury-riddled Trail Blazer team to a possible high seed in a contested Western Conference.
His efficient shooting and dominant pace of basketball is incredible to watch. Lillard, in the same respect as Curry, has been able to carry a team on his back. The talent around him is injured, and Lillard has been the best player in the fourth quarter this season. His clutch playstyle has led this team to a great record and is deserving of the runner-up position for MVP. If Lillard has a few more games of 50 or more points and more dominant fourth-quarter victories, the guard could win the award.
#1 Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Jokic is taking the league by storm. The center already has 12.0 points in the win share column. That is more than Westbrook during his MVP season. Jokic is on the verge of averaging a triple-double, which would be a first for a big man. Averaging incredible shooting splits on top of this is just unheard of for someone of his size. The Nuggets are also fighting for the top seeds in a loaded Western Conference.
Jokic might be unstoppable this year, leading his team in almost every stat. The center is leading the team in steals, points, rebounds, and assists. Jokic has been nothing but dominant offensively, as he is the playmaker and main ball handler for the Nuggets. Even defensively the center has taken a larger role and has been slowing down opponents.
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