To finish up the Award Rankings, it’s time to analyze the candidates for the Most Valuable Player Award. This is the most prestigious award the NBA has to offer for performances throughout the regular season.
The MVP Award is given to the players who had the best regular-season campaigns in terms of individual statistics and helping their team win. These five players had the most impressive seasons and are in line to rack up votes for the Most Valuable Player Award.
No. 5 | Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
There was a lot of pressure put on Anthony Davis once he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. This is because although he experienced individual success with the New Orleans Pelicans, there was little team success. It’s safe to say Davis has lived up to—and even exceeded—expectations in his first season with the Lakers. Davis paired with LeBron James has proved to be one of the most dominant duos in recent years. Davis has clearly put his stamp on the Lakers this season, which has allowed them to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
In his first season with the Lakers, Davis has put up a monstrous stat line. He’s averaging 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Davis’s points and rebounds numbers are enough to lead the entire Lakers team. Davis’s size, athleticism, and shooting touch makes him deadly whenever he possesses the ball. This allows James and Davis to form a daunting pick and roll game, which helps break defenses apart. Beyond his offensive contributions, Davis is also the favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year award, as he’s averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals this season. Davis’s well-rounded game has enabled the Lakers to post a top-five defensive and offensive rating during the regular season.
Now with the Lakers, Davis is getting a feel for experiencing real team prosperity in the NBA, as he’s been one of the key factors in the Lakers’ winning ways. Davis will hope to continue his dominant play once the season resumes as he’s on a quest for his first NBA championship.
No. 4 | Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
The favorite for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award has quickly risen to stardom in the NBA. In only his second NBA season, Luka Doncic finds himself firmly in the top five for the MVP race. Along with Doncic’s productive individual numbers, the Mavericks are on the doorstep of clinching a playoff berth. Even while playing in the tougher Western Conference, Doncic was able to show off his skills and dominance so early in his NBA career.
In his second NBA season, Doncic is averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists. Doncic’s numbers are good enough for him to have the sixth-highest scoring mark and the fourth-most assists per game this season. Although his three-point percentage has decreased, Doncic’s shooting has overall been more efficient despite the added responsibility on the offensive end of the floor. Doncic isn’t known for his defense, but he still recorded 1.1 steals per game for the Mavericks. Continuing on his stellar season, Doncic has been the engine that has enabled the Mavericks to achieve the highest offensive rating in the NBA.
It’s scary to see how good Doncic has been in just his second NBA season. The numbers Doncic posted this early in his career are jaw-dropping, and it can be argued this has been the best second season a player has had in NBA history. Doncic has earned himself a spot in the top five for the MVP voting, and he’ll try to continue his magical season with what could be his first trip to the playoffs.
No. 3 | James Harden, Houston Rockets
James Harden continues to amaze by putting up video game numbers for the Houston Rockets. Nowadays, Harden’s abilities are often taken for granted and he is criticized for his game style that involves forcing his way to the free-throw line. This doesn’t stop Harden from producing each game and season at an unprecedented rate over his time with the Rockets. Harden’s performance this season has been more than enough to secure his sixth top-five finish in MVP voting.
This year, Harden has put up 34.4 points per game. His scoring numbers are the highest in the NBA, along with this being Harden’s third straight season averaging over 30 points per game. Harden produces across the board, not just in scoring, as he dishes out an average of 7.4 assists per game and grabs 6.4 rebounds per game. Both Harden’s scoring and assists numbers lead the Rockets. Harden’s contributions on the offensive end led the Rockets to post the league’s second-highest offensive rating. Harden’s been able to enhance his impact on the defensive end, too, as he’s accumulated 1.7 steals per game and a career-high 0.9 blocks per game.
Harden has reminded us once again why he’s one of the best players in the NBA. Even while adjusting to playing with Russell Westbrook at this point in their careers, Harden was still able to put up ridiculous stats. The one factor preventing Harden from making this year’s voting for MVP a true three-man race is that the Rockets are currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference, which is much lower than what was projected prior to the season.
No. 2 | LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Lebron James’s first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was disappointing as it included James missing significant playing time due to a groin injury. However, his second season could not have gone better so far with the playoffs coming up shortly after the season resumes. Even in his 17th NBA season, James appears to be playing at the peak of his powers and is in a position to try and win his fourth NBA championship.
Going into the season, the Lakers decided to use James more as a point guard, as he would be the team’s primary ball-handler. As James adjusted to this new role, he’s put up 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game. James’s 10.6 assists per game is the most in the league, and he’s the only player this season to average over 10 assists per clash. This has also been one of James’s best defensive seasons since he left the Miami Heat. Even though his defensive numbers are similar to recent seasons, his overall impact has been greater and helped the Lakers post the third-best defensive rating. Anthony Davis deserves extra praise for the Lakers’ defensive success this year, but James has earned more commendation for the Lakers having the fifth-best offensive rating.
Truthfully, this year’s MVP battle is more of a 1A and 1B as opposed to being ranked first and second. James was playing his best basketball of the season right before the regular season was suspended, as he was in the midst of taking the lead in the MVP voting. However, some believe that the season’s suspension stopped James from being able to catch up to the No. 1 spot to win his fifth MVP trophy. Whether he wins the MVP or not, James has had an MVP-worthy season and he’s hoping the Lakers can re-establish their momentum and chemistry to ignite a championship run.
No. 1 | Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Following up on an MVP season, it appears Giannis Antetokounmpo has put together another MVP-caliber year. For the second straight season, Antetokounmpo has dominated the regular season, which has allowed the Bucks to earn the most wins in the NBA both seasons. Antetokounmpo’s past two regular seasons have arguably been the best in the NBA, and he’s eager to take on the challenge of rebounding from his shaky performance in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Antetokounmpo’s numbers this season consist of 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. All three of these are team-highs for the Bucks this year. Besides just leading his team in points and rebounds, his marks for these stats each rank third in the league. Antetokounmpo’s points and rebound averages are also his career-highs, as he finds a way to get better year in and year out. Although inconsistent, Antetokounmpo has been working on his jump shot and his steady improvement has led to him converting more frequently on open looks. Once Antetokounmpo is able to connect on his jump shots, it often helps in expanding the Bucks’ offense and providing better looks for his teammates. Antetokounmpo’s impact isn’t limited to the offensive end, either, as he ranked second for the Defensive Player of the Year award. This allows Antetokounmpo to influence each facet of the game and makes him one of the league’s most complete players.
Antetokounmpo has led the charge for the Bucks’ regular-season success the past two years, and his dominant regular season has him on pace to grab his second consecutive MVP honors.