Race of 10 for MVP? From LeBron and Jokic to Lillard and Doncic

The fight for the best award is especially open and includes classics like Durant, Curry and Giannis and new contenders like Mitchell.

Race-of-10-for-MVP?-From-LeBron-and-Jokic-to-Lillard-and-Doncic
The fight for the MVP is wide open, with more applicants than in previous seasons, after more than a third of the course completed and the calendar approaching the break that divides the two sections in which this Pandemic Regular Season was organized , and it seems that it will have (on March 7, in Atlanta) All Star Game on its axis.

The debate is always lively… and inexhaustible. The criteria eventually become personal: should only individual numbers tip the balance? How much should we weigh the collective success? As soon as there is not a single very clear candidate (and it is an exception when there is, in reality) personal tastes, philias, phobias, different points of view also appear ...

Right now, there are several levels in a career that can still be seriously disrupted. It would be these (or so we think ...):

THE BIG FAVORITES RIGHT NOW

LeBron James (Lakers): 25.5 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists. For many, the great favorite. For some, not so much if the narrative is separated from the real merits. Yes, LeBron is 36 years old, he has not missed a game and it is obvious that he wants a fifth MVP. How much that counts is debatable. But it is not that he continues to offer an eternally huge performance, deciding games and carrying the weight of the Lakers, more now with the physical problems of Anthony Davis. As every year he adds weapons to his legendary repertoire, the clearest this time is his percussion from the triple: he shoots almost 7 per night with a 38% accuracy. Something unthinkable in the early part of his career. A myth.

Joel Embiid (Sixers): 29.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Tough tour through the West for the Sixers, who have lost in Portland and Phoenix and play tonight in Salt Lake City against the intractable Jazz. That leaves Doc Rivers at 18-9, still in command in the East but with a worse balance than three teams in the West and nearly identical to the fourth, the Phoenix Suns. Embiid is at the best level of his career, with his overwhelming power in attack and a decisive incidence in defense.

Nikola Jokic (Nuggets): 26.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists. Perhaps the big favorite if you look exclusively at your individual performance. He leads the Nuggets in all major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks) and only the ups and downs of his team, which is now seventh in the West, take away the advantage in this race for being the best of the course. On a historical level as an attacking player and on his way to signing the best season of a center in average assists.

ONE STEP FROM THE FIRST STEP

Kevin Durant (Nets): 29 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists. There is no better example of recovery after a very serious injury. After missing all of last season following his Achilles tendon fracture in the 2019 NBA Finals (Raptors-Warriors), Kevin Durant is playing at an astonishing level, as good as the best we've ever seen in one of the greatest talents ever. And his Nets, with all their adjustment problems and things, are less than three games behind the Sixers in the East. Durant, between COVID and physical problems, has already missed nine games. But if he continues at this (superhuman) level and the Nets end up attacking the top spot in the East ... He plays point guard, guard, forward, power forward and center, he does everything right and literally scores how and when he wants. From another dimension.

Kawhi Leonard (Clippers): 26.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5 assists. Little is being said about the Clippers, and that is surely the best thing for the Angelenos after their vaunted and ultimately dire last season. But Tyronn Lue is giving identity and chemistry to the block, Paul George (now injured) has recovered his best level… and Kawhi Leonard is in his best physical version since the best times in the Spurs. A rock with more continuity and energy than last season and a player, as always in tune, of amazing efficiency: getting better and better as a passer and in the best numbers in shooting (51.3% from the field, 39% on triples) of his career. And the Clippers are quietly the third best team in the NBA, just a step away from the neighboring Lakers.

Stephen Curry (Warriors): 29.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists. The Warriors (14-13) are in the playoff spot in the West (or play-in, rather). In modest format without Klay Thompson, the big reason they are positive is, without a doubt, the best Stephen Curry, at the level (or above) of his double MVP (2015, 2016) including the first unanimous designation in history . After almost a year without playing due to the combination of a wrist injury and the pandemic, and now at 32, Curry is in a wonderful maturity in which he leads, carries the full weight of his team and keeps the scoring magic intact. with those streaks of impossible triples that are only available to him. The level of the Warriors takes away options, but his level is MVP, without a doubt.

Damian Lillard (Blazers): 29.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists. With another heroic action in the game against the Mavericks, Lillard (30 now) has 33 baskets to give his team a last-minute lead, more than anyone in the NBA since he arrived in 2012. The Blazers have suffered again. a plague of casualties (Nurkic, McCollum, Collins…) and yet they are fifth in the West with a creditable 16-10 and prestigious triumphs against the royalty of the NBA. The reason is Lillard, at a colossal level again and for which the balance of his team should not be a handicap but a very favorable point: he supports these Blazers and has them as, despite everything, one of the teams with the best balance in the NBA. Cool gamer.

FOR NOW, ONE STEP BEHIND

Donovan Mitchell (Jazz): 24.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists. The Jazz season is extraordinary: 22-5 and 18 wins in 19 games after starting with a low 4-4. Quin Snyder's team's game is so coral that it stands out to a right now unstoppable block above the individualities. But the brightest is Mitchell, increasingly comfortable as a franchise player and who would fit a very simple mold for the MVP: the best of the best team. There are those who believe that Rudy Gobert, with a huge impact in the games, deserves to be in the race for MVP beyond being very favorite to win his third Defender of the Year award.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): 28 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists. Giannis is the MVP of the last two seasons and, although it is not entirely fair, that wear counts ... especially if he is doing great games, but a little less. If he is doing extraordinary things ... but what we have seen him do better in the past seasons. In addition, the Bucks are not leading the East this time, not for now, on a more irregular course than in the past and in which Budenholzer tries to build an attack less dependent on Giannis thinking about the traps that the playoff rivals will set them again . Still, the Greek numbers speak for themselves again.

Luka Doncic (Mavericks): 29.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists. As soon as he has stabilized the shot of three after a bad start to the season from long distance, Doncic breaks scoring records and leads a Mavs who started off horrible, also hit by COVID, and are re-engaging in the West. Doncic himself was ruled out (for now) from this fight for the MVP. But his case is another of those in which the balance of his team should not go against him: it is better not to think where these Mavericks would be without the Slovenian. For now he is an outsider in the fight, but if he continues to play as in recent weeks and his team definitely picks up tone…



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