MVP Race: Damian Lillard is climbing after his recent stellar play

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

MVP Race: Damian Lillard is climbing after his recent stellar play

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MVP Race: Damian Lillard is climbing after his recent stellar play

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Each week, HoopsHype’s staff gives the Top 10 candidates for this year’s Most Valuable Player award. This list highlights stars who are in the mix for the 2019-20 MVP award due to their impressive play.

Which stars have stood out? Here are our latest MVP rankings:

10. BEN SIMMONS, PHILADELPHIA

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 16.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 8.2 APG, 2.1 SPG, 58.4 FG% 

This season has been a rollercoaster for the Philadelphia 76ers, who have gone on several hot and cold streaks. The point forward has made 271 field goals in the restricted area this season, which ranks fourth-best in the league. His unique size has helped him pull down rebounds on 5.5 percent of his squad’s missed field goals, per Cleaning The Glass, which is the best rate among point guards. Simmons also has defensive rebounds on 31.7 percent of opponent’s missed free throws, also the best among point guards. On the defensive end, Simmons is averaging an NBA-best 2.1 steals per game. He also leads all players in both loose balls recovered (87) and deflections (190) this season.

9. JIMMY BUTLER, MIAMI

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 20.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 45.3 FG% 

Jimmy Butler has found a perfect home on the Miami Heat. The five-time All-Star is averaging 1.46 points per possession in transition, which ranks No. 1 in the league (minimum: 100 possessions) in 2019-20. He just put up a season-high 39 points per game against the Philadelphia 76ers. His career-best assist rate (28.6 percent) puts him in the 96th percentile among all NBA wings. Butler has been a fantastic hustler, too. He currently ranks sixth-best in steals (1.8 SPG), sixth-best in deflections per game (3.6) and sixth-best in loose balls recovered per game (1.6) thus far.

8. KAWHI LEONARD, L.A. CLIPPERS

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 27.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 46.5 FG% 

Once again, Kawhi Leonard is having a sensational season on both ends of the court. The biggest issue is that he has only played 38 games, though the Clippers have won 30 of those. He is averaging 2.1 steals per game since January, tied with Simmons for the best in the NBA. The Clippers have scored 120.4 points per 100 possessions with Leonard on the court since December 1. That gives Leonard the second-best offensive rating among all players in the league (minimum: 25 minutes per game) during that span.

7. NIKOLA JOKIC, DENVER

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 20.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 51.5 FG%

Denver’s Nikola Jokic has been one of the most multidimensional players in the league over the past few seasons. He is shooting 43.7 percent on jump shots, which ranks Top 10 among all players who have taken at least 400 jumpers thus far. The center ranks second-best in the NBA on field goals made (77) within five to nine feet of the basket. His field goal percentage (61.6 percent) is the best among those with more than thirty attempts. He has recorded 10 triple-doubles in 2019-20, which ranks third-best in the NBA. His assist percentage (34.5 percent) and assist-to-usage rate (1.19) are both in the 100th percentile among all big men, per Cleaning the Glass.

6. LUKA DONCIC, DALLAS

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 28.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.4 FG%

The second-year superstar has been sensational for the Mavericks, leading Dallas to an impressive 62.0 winning percentage this season. His team has played very well even when they are not playing at home, as we recently noted. The guard has averaged 29.1 points per game on the road, second-best in the NBA. Doncic has scored 13.9 PPG as the ballhandler in pick-and-roll possessions, per Synergy Sports, which ranks third-best in the league. As a primary playmaker, his assist percentage (53.8 percent) ranks second-best behind only LeBron James among those with at least 100 minutes played. He leads the league with a dozen triple-doubles so far this season.

5. ANTHONY DAVIS, LA LAKERS

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 26.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.4 BPG

Davis is shooting 210-of-280 (75.0 percent) in the restricted area, which is the best among all players who have had at least 200 attempts this season. The big man is averaging 1.12 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports, which ranks second-best among those who have finished at least 800 possessions this season. Davis has more loose balls recovered per game (1.9) than anyone who has played at least ten games. The Lakers are currently 33-9 (.786 percent) in games when their superstar acquisition has played.

4. DAMIAN LILLARD, PORTLAND

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 29.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.1 FG% 

Since our last MVP Race update, Portland’s Damian Lillard is averaging 39.0 points with 5.8 three-pointers per game. The Trail Blazers have three wins and just one loss during this stretch, helping bounce back from a rough start to the season. Lillard is also leading the league in scoring with 34.3 PPG since January 1. He has hit 66 three-pointers from at least 28 feet, which is over five feet from beyond the NBA’s three-point line. That is over a dozen more than anyone else in the league has made in 2019-20. He is averaging 1.13 points per possession, per Synergy Sports, which ranks No. 1 overall among those who have finished at least 800 possessions this season. Lillard also leads all players with 757 points scored as the ballhandler in pick-and-roll possessions.

3. LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 25.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 10.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 49.3 FG%

Knowing that narrative plays a big role in MVP voting, the momentum is there for the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James. He currently leads the league with 10.7 assists per game. The 35-year-old superstar is also putting up a career-high 2.1 three-pointers connected per game, including five three’s in less than three minutes against the San Antonio Spurs last night. He keeps putting up monumental performances, putting up outstanding numbers while also helping elevate the play of another star teammate in Davis. The more he keeps winning for the Lakers, the better the odds he will have of winning his fifth Most Valuable Player Award.

2. JAMES HARDEN, HOUSTON

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 35.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 43.6 FG% 

Harden has connected on 208 non-corner three-pointers, over twenty more than anyone else has hit thus far. The guard leads the league in jump shots (313) in 2019-20. He has once again been fantastic creating his own shot, too. Only 14.6 percent of his three-pointers have been assisted, which is the best among all players in the NBA. Harden has scored 16.2 points per game on isolation possessions, per Synergy, which is nearly ten points more than any other player in the league. In fact, his 762 points scored on this play type is more than any other team besides his own Houston Rockets. To put that in perspective, the Milwaukee Bucks lead the Eastern Conference with just 386 points scored in isolation.

1. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, MILWAUKEE

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

STATS: 30.1 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 55.4 FG%

He is averaging 8.7 points per game when operating in a transition offense, per Synergy. That ranks No. 1 overall in the NBA, over a point and a half more than anyone else thus far. He has the second-most dunks (141) and the most double-doubles (41) among all players in the league in 2019-20. His rebound percentage (18.8 percent) ranks Top 10 among all players who have averaged at least 20 minutes per game. Most important, though: Milwaukee is currently outscoring opponents by 14.4 points per 100 possessions when he has been on the court so far this season. That ranks as the best among those who have averaged at least 25 minutes per game.

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