The 2020-2021 NBA season has yet to reach the midpoint, but that won’t stop me from discussing the ever-changing MVP race. Luka Donic began his third season as this year’s favorite, after winning rookie of the year two years ago and coming in second place in the MVP voting last year. The Slovenian-born superstar has had a rough season so far, as his shooting percentage has dropped from all areas on the court and his team, the Mavericks, are currently sitting in 14th place in the Western Conference. While Luka still has plenty of time to turn his season around, he has seemingly fallen out of the MVP conversation. Here’s a look at the players I believe have the best chance of taking home the MVP honors this season.
After missing all of last season with a torn Achilles, the most prolific scorer of our generation (and maybe ever) is back in a big way for the Brooklyn Nets. Durant currently averages the second-most points per game in the NBA, behind only Bradley Beal. What makes his season so impressive thus far is his efficiency. He simply takes fewer shots than the rest of the NBA stars but still manages insane scoring totals. He is on pace for the second-highest shooting percentage of his career as well as the highest assist per game average of his career. Regardless if he wins MVP or not, the Durantula is back and the rest of the league is falling victim to his scoring prowess.
After losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last season, Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are hungry for redemption. Averaging almost a triple-double, Jokic’s stats are mind-boggling. He’s in the top ten in the NBA for points (27.6), rebounds (11.5), and assists (8.6). While his defense and rim protection skills leave a lot to be desired, there is no doubt that Jokic is one of the most talented and versatile scorers in the league. Winning the MVP this season would make him the first center to win the award since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.
Regardless of who you consider the greatest of all time, it’s easy to see that LeBron James is getting the Michael Jordan treatment when it comes to MVP awards. Just like for MJ, you could make a compelling case every season for James to win MVP. He is always among the league leaders in the important statistical categories, is a plus defender, and is usually on a team destined for the NBA finals. This year is no exception for King James. With his teammate Anthony Davis starting off the season slightly rusty, the door is wide open for James to secure his fifth MVP award. He is averaging around 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game and has played in all 25 of the Laker’s games thus far at the age of 36. It just feels like a LeBron year doesn’t it? He is shooting over 40% from three-point range for the first time since 2013, which happened to be his last MVP season. But, as we all know, LBJ couldn’t care less about regular-season MVPs, as he is focused solely on his goal of capturing another NBA championship.
The only other big man on this list, Embiid would also be the first center since Shaq to take home MVP honors. The 76ers star has them sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings thanks to his 29.3 points per game and impressive shooting percentages. He, by definition, might be the most valuable player to his team as the Sixers are 16-3 in games he plays and 1-4 in games without Embiid. A much better defender than Jokic, Embiid hopes his all-around game and team success earns him an MVP trophy at the end of the season.
Already a two-time MVP winner, there was a lot of talk at the beginning of the season that Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors were washed up and had already played their best basketball. Now on a team that looks very different than the title teams of previous years, most notably without Klay Thompson due to injury, Steph is embracing his role as the face of the franchise and the one to take the criticism. Silencing doubters with a career-high 62-point performance early in the season, Curry has been on a tear ever since. Not only does his play look like his prior MVP seasons, his stats reflect that also. His averages for 2020-2021 look eerily similar to his unanimous MVP season in 2015-2016. While the success of his team now does not match the historic pace of his Warriors back then, it would be disrespectful to not consider the greatest shooter of all time in this year’s MVP discussion.