Since opening night, the MVP race has been one long game of musical chairs. And although we've reached the point of the season where the MVP picture is becoming clearer, it's still far from over.
Stephen Curry started the season in the No. 1 spot on our ladder but was caught by Kevin Durant entering the New Year. Durant has since missed a large chunk of time with injury while Curry went through an extended slump, paving the way for Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo to rise to the top… for now.
It's been a three-man race for a few weeks, but which one of Embiid, Jokic and Antetokounmpo is the front-runner? Are Curry and Durant still in the mix? What about DeMar DeRozan, Chris Paul and Ja Morant?
Let's take a closer look at the MVP race heading into the All-Star break.
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It speaks to how much talent there is in the NBA right now that each of these players deserves MVP consideration:
- Ja Morant, Grizzlies
- Devin Booker, Suns
- Luka Doncic, Mavericks
- Stephen Curry, Warriors
- LeBron James, Lakers
- Jimmy Butler, Heat
Any of them could spearhead a blistering closing stretch and catapult to the top of the MVP standings. Take for instance, Ja Morant. The Grizzlies have the NBA's third-easiest remaining schedule. Could that open the door for a top-two finish and surge of support for Morant?
Likely? Perhaps not. Possible? Absolutely. On to the top five.
5. Chris Paul, Suns
Paul is putting together another remarkable season. Now in his age-36 campaign, he's averaging a career-low 14.9 points per game but is leading the league in assists (10.7). He's recorded the sixth-most double-doubles, trailing only a group of big men.
Paul remains one of the league's best closers as well. Only nine players have scored more points than him in the clutch and he leads everyone in assists. He's been incredibly efficient in those situations, shooting 56.4 percent from the field while committing only five turnovers.
It's actually mind-boggling how good both Paul and Devin Booker have been with the game on the line.
Hurting Paul's case is that he's not the only MVP candidate on his team. As our Benyam Kidane recently detailed, Booker should be getting more attention for the season he's having and how it's helped the Suns run away with the best record in the NBA. You can't go wrong with either of them in this spot, but I side with Paul a little more in the MVP conversation.
4. DeMar DeRozan, Bulls
[NBA Getty Images]
DeRozan went three straight seasons without being named an All-Star. Not only has he snappe stephen curry jersey new york d that streak with his selection as an All-Star starter, but he's worked his way into the MVP conversation.
DeRozan has been one of the few constants for the Bulls, who remain in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference despite Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Zach LaVine each missing extended time with injuries. He's appeared in all but four games to the tune of a career-best 28.1 points to go along stephen curry jersey the town with 5.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Impressive as those numbers are, it's how DeRozan has gotten them that has stood out. No player has scored more points than him in the fourth quarter, and only Joel Embiid (120) has scored more points than him (111) in the clutch.
Shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 90.0 percent from the free throw line in those situations, DeRozan has been a cold-blooded assassin down the stretch of cl NBA Hardwood Classicsose games.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
The Bucks haven't been quite as dominant a NBA Backpacks and Bags s the last few seasons, but that shouldn't take anything away from the season Antetokounmpo is having. In addition to averaging the second-most points of his career (29.4), he's been good for 11.3 rebounds and a career-best 6.0 assists on a nightly basis.
Offensively, Antetokounmpo looks like he's growing more and more comfortable picking his spots as a scorer, and he continues to level up as a passer. Defensively, he remains one of the most imposing players in the league, picking up 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals per contest while holding opponents to a stingy 50.4 percent shooting at the rim.
Antetokounmpo going for 44 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in a w NBA Socks in over the Lakers last week was a good reminder that he might be the best player in the league.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee losing to Portland by 15 points in a game Antetokou NBA Shoes and Footwear nmpo sat out with ankle soreness was a good reminder of just how valuable he is to this team on both ends of the court.
2. Joel Embiid, 76ers
Embiid got off to a relatively slow start this season and was sidelined for nine straight games in November with COVID-19, but he's been nothing short of dominant since.
The numbers: 31.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals on .501/.351/.820 shooting splits over his last 36 games. He has 23 30-point games during that stretch, including eight 40-point games, the most recent of which came against a Cavaliers team that has the league's fourth-best defense on the season.
Oh, and Embiid also grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out 10 assists in that game, becoming the first player on the 76ers to record a 40-point triple-double since Wilt Chamberlain back in 1968.
Embiid now ranks second in scoring (29.3) and eighth in rebounding (11.2) on the season. He's having the best season of his career as a facilitator, averaging a career-best 4.5 assists per game alongside a career-low 2.9 turnovers per game.
Embiid's play has the 76ers within striking distance of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference despite the fact that their second-best player, Ben Simmons, has yet to play a game this season. With James Harden now in Simmons' place, the 76ers are going to make a real run for the top spot, which would only boost Embiid's case.
1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
[NBA Getty Images]
The Nuggets have been without their second and third-best player for pretty much the entire season, and yet they own a top-six seed in the Western Conference and are only a few games behind the fourth-seeded Jazz in the standings.
They have Jokic to thank for that.
The big fella's numbers are almost identical to the ones he posted last season when he was named league MVP. The on-off numbers are flat-out ridiculous: Denver goes from being outscored by 10.4 points per 100 possessions with Jokic on the bench to outs NBA Western Conference Champs coring its opponent by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the court.
For context, that's basically the difference between the Suns, who have the best net rating in the league, and the Pistons, who have the worst net rating in the league.
While there's a lot more to someone's MVP case than advanced numbers, it is rather telling that Jokic leads the way in pretty much everything — PER, VORP, RAPTOR, win shares, you name it — some by a massive margin.
It looks like this MVP race is going to go down to the wire, but Jokic has an ever-so-slight edge on Embiid and Antetokounmpo … for now.
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