Who will take home the coveted Most Valuable Player award?
The MVP race is heating up! The league’s top stars are battling it out, with a few candidates standing out more than the others. We’ve got a couple of familiar faces from last year’s MVP race, in addition to some new entries into the ladder. This should be fun.
As you should know, the MVP Ladder does not only factor in stats and individual performance, but also team success as well. I will also be taking into consideration who I believe the voters will vote for, if the season ended today. Keep in mind, this is not a reflection of any other writer in the site’s MVP Ladder, but mine alone. With that being said, let’s jump into it.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
2018-19 Stats: 35.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 8.5 apg, 2.0 spg, 43.8% FG, 86.5% FT, 37.3 mpg
After starting out the season slow, the reigning MVP has been nothing short of incredible. He’s is currently leading the league in points per game by nearly 7 ppg, and has recently just passed 17 straight games with more than 30 points, including a back-to-back 57+ point performance. With the injuries to both Chris Paul and Clint Capela, Harden has decided to put the team on his back, leading the team to a 25-19 record. Voters may find his absurd free throw attempts per game numbers surprising, and voter fatigue may also come into play as a factor into Harden’s MVP case. Nonetheless, he’s been having a historic season that everyone in the league is surely taking note of.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
2018-19 Stats: 26.4 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.5 bpg, 55.0% FG, 33.0 mpg
Giannis has been one of the most consistently great players this season. Giannis’ scoring ability, coupled with his amazing court vision and athleticism, have been so effective all season long. Head Coach Mike Budenholzer has done a great job of developing a system that revolved around Giannis’ strengths, utilizing the spacing brought by his teammates. Together, Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves with a league-best 32-12 record.
3. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
2018-19 Stats: 27.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.9 spg, 50.4% FG, 36.8% 3PT, 35.0 mpg
After missing out most of last season, Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors, where he is once again proving himself to be a top player in this league. His elite combination of both offense and defense has been key in the Raptors’ success so far. The Raptors are not too far back for first in the league, as they sit at a 34-13 record. Kawhi could be the missing piece to the Raptors’ playoff struggles, so this may finally be the year they make it into the Finals.
4. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
2018-19 Stats: 19.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 7.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 50.2% FG, 31.1 mpg
Jokic has been nothing short of impressive all season long. Despite the Nuggets’ injury problems, he’s led them to a 31-14 record, good for 2nd in the Western Conference. The Nuggets entered the seasons with high expectations, which they’ve surpassed, and Jokic has been a big part of that. Once again, he has improved from last season while showing his elite playmaking prowess at the center position
5. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
2018-19 Stats: 27.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 7.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8% FG, 34.6 mpg
The King has missed a couple of Lakers games recently due to a groin injury, and his impact on the Lakers has been showing. The Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10 games, totaling a 25-22 record in total. LeBron may be 34 years old, but he doesn’t look like he’s gonna drop off anytime soon. Together with the Lakers young core, this should be an exciting team to watch for years to come.
6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
2018-19 Stats: 29.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.2 spg, 49.2% FG, 45.4% 3PT, 92.5% FT, 34.4 mpg
Steph Curry has been enjoying his best season since his historic 2016 MVP year. Once again, he is putting up incredible numbers on elite efficiency. His leadership and playmaking are one of the main reasons why the Warriors continue to stay at a high level, and he is proving his doubters wrong to go with it. The best shooter of all time doesn’t look like his shooting is going anywhere.
7. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
2018-19 Stats: 26.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.3 spg, 44.2% FG, 38.6% 3PT, 36.0 mpg
Russell Westbrook, the 2017 Kia NBA MVP, seems to have given up the role of the Thunder’s primary scorer to George, who hasn’t been disappointing. George has been averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and steals per game, capped off by an incredible game-winner against the 76ers just last week. He had a run of incredible games earlier in the season, and while he may have cooled off, is still putting up great numbers. PG13 is heavily considered to be one of the DPOY front runners as well, so it’s safe to say he’s having his best season yet, on a team that sits at a 27-18 record.
8. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
2018-19 Stats: 27.0 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.0 bpg, 49.0% FG, 80.0% FT, 33.5 mpg
Embiid has been amazing so far, as the Big 3 of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler have led the 76ers to a 30-17 record. Embiid is one of the best two-way big men in the league, and has been consistently great on both ends of the floor. His efficiency is a little low for a big man, but his ability to impact the game makes up for it. The Sixers are only 4th in the East, so if they were higher, then he’d be much higher on this list as well.
9. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
2018-19 Stats: 23.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.8 spg, 1.6 spg, 49.9% FG, 41.3% 3PT, 84.9% FT, 32.4 mpg
Uncle Drew started off the season slow, but is now riding high. His dazzling moves and incredible scoring ability make him a fan-favorite among NBA fans, and his clutchness ranks him near the top of the league. Kyrie and the Celtics only have a 28-18 record, which only ranks 5th in the East. However, the team is looking revitalized after a poor start, in which team morale seemed to be a problem at times. Irving is one of the best scorers in the league, and it’s exciting to see him blossom into the great leader and teammate that he wants to be.
10. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
2018-19 Stats: 26.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 44.5% FG, 90.2% FT, 35.3 mpg
Lillard has been great this season, but once again isn’t getting the attention he should be getting. He’s had a couple of high-scoring games, leading the Trailblazers to a 28-19 record alongside backcourt partner C.J. McCollum. The Trailblazers currently sit at 4th in the Western Conference, proving doubters who thought that they wouldn’t even make the playoffs wrong. Lillard has also been subject to criticisms, especially after his lackluster playoff series last year against the Pelicans, as the Trailblazers were eventually swept despite being the 3rd seed. Lillard has always played with a chip on his shoulder, so the rest of this year should see him performing at the top of his game.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
Kevin Durant (GSW), Russell Westbrook (OKC), Anthony Davis (NOP), Blake Griffin (DET), Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN), Bradley Beal (WAS)
Durant and Westbrook have both taken the backseat to Curry and George, respectively, despite still putting up MVP Race-worthy numbers. Davis, Griffin, Towns and Beal are all playing incredible, but find their teams to be performing poorly.