The NBA regular season is already past its midway point, and so it’s that time of the year when we take a look at who deserves the MVP award. This season, there have been four players that have played at a high level leading their team to victory on most nights. These are the players who deserve recognition for how they’ve performed so far as they make a case to win the league’s most valuable individual award. Here are the four players that should be part of the MVP conversation right now.
The NBA’s latest official MVP ladder has Embiid leading the race as he is averaging a career-high 29.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. Embiid has led the Philadelphia 76ers to fifth place in the tough Eastern Conference standings even without his partner-in-crime Ben Simmons by his side. The center has displayed his overall dominant offensive package this season as he’s been scoring in the post, perimeter, and inside the paint.
Even NBA legend and arguably the best center of all time, Shaquille O'Neal, has said multiple times that Embiid does indeed deserve the MVP. O’Neal said that the Sixer is the baddest player in the league and that alone should be the reason why he deserves the award.
"He does have my vote [right now], but there are some cuckoos that say, 'Oh, this team had a better record, so this guy's MVP.' I always thought Most Valuable Player was a single award, which means you're the baddest guy in the league. And the baddest guy in the league right now is Joel Embiid. But they're in sixth place, so hopefully, the media doesn't penalize him if another guy who's close and his team has a better record," O’neal said.
With James Harden on board, the Sixers should climb up the standings, and that can only help Embiid's case. His numbers may dip a bit as his partnership with Harden is established, but the way he's been playing, it will most likely still be an impressive finish of a spectacular season for Embiid.
ESPN basketball analyst Zach Lowe made the case for the Denver Nuggets’ franchise player, saying that his stats alone this season is why he should be in the MVP race. True enough, Jokic has been the Nuggets’ best player and has led them in the Playoff race even without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. on his side.
“... He’s averaging 27 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists on 58% shooting. You don’t need to do advanced math. You don’t need to look up any statistics that have existed since 1975 to make the MVP case for Nikola Jokic. You don’t even have to say they’re plus 10 with him on the floor which is elite and minus 13 with him off the floor,” Lowe said.
Jokic, who won the MVP award last season, was named the Western Conference Player of the Month for January, where he averaged 26.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 9.0 assists in 16 games. That’s almost a triple-double and for a center to be doing that is just remarkable. The numbers will back Jokic’s case for MVP, but at the end of the day, it’ll also boil down to the Nuggets’ overall record at the end of the season. Luckily for Jokic, the Nuggets remaining easy schedule should help him strengthen his case.
The thing with Antetekoumpo is that the league is so used to him putting up 28.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game that it’s no longer a surprise when he does it on a daily basis. While the Greek Freak has already won the MVP twice, it’s still a must to include him in the MVP conversation this season. Milwaukee is just two games behind no.1 in the Eastern Conference standings, so Giannis can still climb up the MVP ladder, especially if he continues to lead his team. Voter’s fatigue might get in the way of Giannis’ chances, but it honestly shouldn’t.
The Golden State Warriors stand second in the Western Conference, primarily because Steph Curry again has competent teammates. Curry, who was leading the MVP race early in the season, is averaging 25.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. He’s had his own shooting struggles lately, but Curry has still found ways to lead his team to victory every night even without Draymond Green and James Wiseman in the Warriors’ lineup. As The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor alluded, Curry may not be scoring at an MVP level, but it’s his versatility that makes him the best player on the court. Curry has been a playmaker and always impacts the game with his shooting gravity.
“Steph isn't the MVP favorite but this stretch is impressive. Warriors are 12-4 since Draymond got injured, they keep winning because Steph has become more of the playmaker they need,” O'Connor tweeted.
Embiid, Jokic, Antetokounmpo, and Curry have been the four most valuable players for their teams this season. This season’s MVP race will be an interesting one as it’ll boil down to which one of these players can continue to play at a high level while leading their team to finish the year strong. Buckle up because the MVP race should be a fun one to monitor as the regular season closes.