MVP Race: Chris Paul enters the Top 9

MVP Race: Chris Paul enters the Top 9

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MVP Race: Chris Paul enters the Top 9

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As we get close to the final month of the regular season, the 2020-21 NBA MVP picture only appears to be getting clearer, as the player we’ve had at No. 1 for weeks saw his lead in the top spot grow in this edition of the series.

Below, you can check out the Top 15 players in our MVP rankings for 2020-21, as voted on by our entire team at HoopsHype.

1
Nikola Jokic (Denver)

Despite the team suffering injuries, the Denver Nuggets have still won five of six games thanks to the MVP favorite, Nikola Jokic, and his still-outrageous form.

In that stretch, Jokic averaged 26.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 8.2 assists while shooting 59.0 percent from the floor.

This weekend, Jokic talked about all of the injuries impacting the Nuggets right now, bringing up the league’s need to protect the players more:

Jokic is absolutely right, as the NBA’s insane schedule for the second half of this season has clearly led to a ton of injuries across the league – way more than usual.

Nevertheless, for anyone looking to make a case for Jokic as this year’s MVP over one of the other frontrunners, StatMuse did a good job breaking it down with this graphic:

 

For the latest Nikola Jokic rumors, click here.

2
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)

The Philadelphia 76ers have now lost four games in a row, partly due to the major absence of Ben Simmons with the flu, and in their latest outing, they were also without Joel Embiid, who sat out with shoulder soreness.

Those two factors led to Embiid losing first-place MVP votes this week among our writers, and to Jokic having an even stronger hold at the No. 1 spot in the race.

Regardless, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said this weekend that had it been a playoff game, Embiid would have played against the Milwaukee Bucks in the game he missed, so nothing to worry about with the big man going forward.

He should be back soon.

For the latest Joel Embiid rumors, click here.

3
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)

After missing nearly two weeks of action due to injury, Giannis Antetokounmpo has come on quite strong recently, averaging 28.6 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals over his last five games, though the Bucks are just 2-3 in that stretch.

Antetokounmpo recently passed Glenn Robinson on Milwaukee’s all-time leading scorer list, a feat he didn’t even know he accomplished when it first happened (via USA Today):

“Oh, that’s why they were cheering today?” Antetokounmpo asked after the game. “That’s why they were cheering. Dang, I just realized that. So, it’s a great compliment. “Gotta keep working hard. It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint, so I gotta keep working hard and keep believing in myself, keep polishing my skills, keep having great teammates that love to be great, a great coaching staff. It’s good. It’s just a lot of hard work that paid off, but gotta keep moving forward.”

Antetokounmpo now ranks second among Bucks’ all-time leading scorers, trailing just some guy named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That’s solid company for the Greek Freak to be in.

For the latest Giannis Antetokounmpo rumors, click here.

4
Stephen Curry (Golden State)

The NBA’s current scoring leader (at 31.3 points nightly), Stephen Curry carried his ridiculous level of form into the last week, with the former two-time MVP averaging 34.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists and shooting 42.6 percent from three over his last four games.

Curry is almost single-handedly, at least on offense, carrying the Golden State Warriors into the 2020-21 playoff picture by way of the play-in tournament, as the team has won seven of their last nine games, giving them a 4.5 game lead over the 11th place New Orleans Pelicans.

It’s going to be very exciting to see what kind of damage a Curry-led Warriors team can do in the playoffs.

This weekend, Curry set the record for most three-pointers made in a single calendar month with 85 and counting. He had the following to say when asked what’s going through his mind these days when he shoots the basketball (via ESPN):

“When you’re in this type of rhythm, nothing. It’s the best way to explain it,” he continued. “It’s just trying to get a decent look, get your feet underneath you, and then the rest is muscle memory, confidence and just creativity, so just trying to be in the moment as much as possible. When you’re missing, that’s when you start thinking about mechanics, you start thinking about other stuff, those thoughts creep in your head. But when you’re in a flow, in rhythm, there is not much going on upstairs. It’s nice.”

You can see that when Curry plays at this current level, as the 33-year-old is making it look easy right now.

For the latest Stephen Curry rumors, click here.

5
Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)

Kawhi Leonard has played once in the Los Angeles Clippers’ last eight games due to foot soreness and he was ruled out for tonight’s game against the Clippers.

What we did learn about Leonard recently that’s interesting, however, came via CJ McCollum, who revealed that Leonard is actually another NBA superstar who’s a wine aficionado (via Robb Report):

As tension built before the heated deliberations, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers—known as much for his off-the-court silence as for his on-the-court excellence—approached Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and pulled him aside. “Hey, that wine you gave me was good,” McCollum recalls Leonard telling him. “A lot of people don’t know I drink wine, and I don’t know a lot about it, but I know that s— was good.”

Beautifully said, as is the norm for Leonard.

Nonetheless, outside of the Top 4 spots in these rankings, the 2020-21 MVP race really cools off, so Leonard keeps his spot at No. 5 this week despite not playing much over the last 14 days.

For the latest Kawhi Leonard rumors, click here.

6
Luka Doncic (Dallas)

After an inconsistent run of form earlier this month, the Dallas Mavericks have now won three games in a row, including important back-to-back victories over the Los Angeles Lakers.

In that span, Luka Doncic averaged 26.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 10.0 assists and 1.7 steals, over a stretch that has helped give Dallas breathing room over the Portland Trail Blazers to avoid the play-in tournament.

The Mavericks are now 1.5 games ahead of Portland for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

For the latest Luka Doncic rumors, click here.

7
Damian Lillard (Portland)

After missing three games due to a hamstring issue, Damian Lillard has now been back for the Blazers’ latest three outings, though, unfortunately for Portland fans, that hasn’t changed things in the win-loss column for the team, as the Blazers have now lost five games in a row, all by a combined 19 points.

Even more concerningly for Portland is the fact that Lillard still doesn’t look like his usual borderline MVP-level self; since returning, the six-time All-Star is averaging 24.0 points and 5.0 assists on paltry shooting splits of 34.7 percent from the floor and 29.0 percent from three.

Needless to say, the Blazers absolutely need to help get Lillard back on track if they want to avoid the play-in tournament or a first-round playoff exit. His putting up consistent superhuman-level performances is that vital for Portland’s success.

For the latest Damian Lillard rumors, click here.

8
James Harden (Brooklyn)

Early last week, the Brooklyn Nets announced James Harden had suffered a setback in his hamstring injury recovery, one that could reportedly keep him out until after the playoffs have begun.

Luckily for the Nets, they have Kevin Durant back in the fold, along with Harden’s backcourt mate, who we’ll discuss a bit later, playing at an extremely high level right now.

Still, Harden will be hugely important for the Nets’ title chances, so his progression towards returning will be key to monitor going forward.

For the latest James Harden rumors, click here.

9
Chris Paul (Phoenix)

More and more people nationally have taken notice of Chris Paul’s MVP chances recently, and that was reflected this week in our rankings, as Paul has reached the No. 9 spot, the highest he’s been all season to this point.

Over his last four games, Paul has averaged 21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 9.3 assists while shooting over 51.0 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Paul’s addition has been instrumental in helping the Phoenix Suns turn the corner as a franchise in 2020-21- who could have foreseen they’d be 42-18 at this point in the season and second in the West? – and, even despite his huge contract, he’s been performing at a level indicating it might not be that much of an overpay for the almost-36-year-old.

For the latest Chris Paul rumors, click here.

10
LeBron James (LA Lakers)

Though it’s still unclear when exactly LeBron James will be back, Los Angeles point guard Dennis Schroeder recently said he’d heard it could be relatively soon.

Either way, The Athletic recently did a good job breaking down James’ injury and why the Lakers have been wise to be so cautious in bringing the four-time league MVP back (via The Athletic):

What are the risks associated with having had a high ankle sprain versus a regular ankle sprain? Jeff Stotts: So the regular ankle sprain involves the ligaments on the side of the ankle. The high ankle involves different ligaments altogether. It involves the distal tib fib joint, which is the distal ends of our two lower leg bones and there’s a ligament that goes across the top, there’s a couple other ligaments that stabilize that area. And that really forms what we call the ankle mortis, which is kind of a roof that goes over the talus of the ankle. And so we’re talking about overall integrity and stability of the ankle itself. It’s why they take longer to recover from. It’s why their resulting time lost games is greater and it’s why you need to be patient with the injury. You want to make sure that the ligaments are as strong as possible. Stability in the ankle is good. We want to make sure everything around the joint is ready to go, and that can be difficult because everything in the ankle might feel OK, but your ankle stabilizer’s not as strong, you end up having a reoccurrence or new injury.

Still, it appears we could be seeing James donning the purple and gold sooner rather than later, which will be important for a Los Angeles team that has lost five of their last seven games.

For the latest LeBron James rumors, click here.

11
Rudy Gobert (Utah)

Simmons’ absence has made Rudy Gobert’s hopes of winning his third Defensive Player of the Year award all the more realistic. The big man is averaging 14.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game this season for a Utah Jazz team that sits first league-wide in record at 44-16.

For the latest Rudy Gobert rumors, click here.

12
Julius Randle (New York)

The New York Knicks have won nine games in a row, their second-longest win streak of the past 25 years. Julius Randle has been an absolute stud in that stretch, averaging 30.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 45.3 percent from three. Who – if anyone – could have seen this coming from the Knicks and Randle prior to this season? Truly impressive stuff.

For the latest Julius Randle rumors, click here.

13
Zion Williamson (New Orleans)

Over the weekend, Zion Williamson became the second player since Michael Jordan in the past 40 years to reach 2,000 career points in their first 80 games. The Pelicans may not have things figured out quite yet, but their future looks extremely bright with Zion and Brandon Ingram at the helm.

For the latest Zion Williamson rumors, click here.

14
Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn)

The Nets have remained No. 1 in the East despite missing so much time from Durant and Harden thanks to Kyrie Irving, who is having one of his best career seasons this year. In his last seven games, Irving is averaging 25.4 points, 9.0 assists and 2.1 steals.

For the latest Kyrie Irving rumors, click here.

15
Devin Booker (Phoenix)

Along with Paul, Devin Booker has also been extremely important for the Suns’ huge turnaround this season. The explosive 2-guard is averaging 25.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists on the year. Booker recently told ESPN that the Suns aren’t satisfied with merely being this season’s feel-good story, but that they want to ‘win it all,’ which actually may not be totally unfathomable considering how good they’ve been in 2020-21.

For the latest Devin Booker rumors, click here.

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