NBA rumors: Steve Nash: Nikola Jokic is the MVP

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The Jump: Significance of @New York Knicks turnaround this season? "We had to make a commitment to play for each other and to work hard. Julius Randle has had an MVP type season" —Thibodeau #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #NewYorkForever pic.twitter.com/6K1WoNvdm8
Asked about the recent MVP talk, Randle said: “For sure, I’m not going to shy away from it. For me, it’s about getting better from game to game, improving as a player. I’m not focused on it. The praise obviously is great and everything but I’m not focused on it. All I’m worried about is getting better, keep leading the team game to game. Our team, I feel like we can compete against anybody.” They have proven that across April and now early May, but the final four games of this trip will be the tell-all – the Nuggets, Suns, Clippers and Lakers with LeBron James.
Randle is averaging 24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists and shooting a remarkable 42.7 percent from 3-point range. A little better passer, Jokic is averaging 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 8.5 assists and shooting 40.9. percent from 3. “I’d put him at the top as well,” Gibson said of Randle. “You look at the body of work Julius has put together on a night-to-night basis. Being really professional, especially in a tough market. People understand how tough it is to play in New York and bringing a winning mentality back to the Knicks. Julius has earned credit for the MVP race. He deserves it.”
Harrison Wind: Malone: "I think the fact that we have played as well as we have without Jamal is just another endorsement of Nikola Jokic's MVP candidacy. To put a team on his back. To be a top-10 offense and defense without Jamal Murray. That has been really fun to watch."
Take a regular, 82-game season. It’s widely accepted that a player should play in about 75% of games – at least 62 games – to be considered. Bill Walton won MVP with the fewest games played – just 58 of 82 games in 1977-78. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has played in 45 of his team's 64 games, and if he plays in the remaining eight games, he will have played in 73.6% of Sixers games. Embiid is an MVP favorite. But where does that leave Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James? His chances to win a fifth MVP have diminished, at least according to oddsmakers, because he missed 20 consecutive games due to injury. But James returned on Friday, and if he plays in every game the rest of the season, he will have played in 51 games – or 70% of his team’s games.
Jokić has put up a phenomenal season and the Nuggets finishing strong has put some distance between him and the closest contenders: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. If Embiid had played the same number of games as Jokić while maintaining his level of production, our model has this coming down to the wire. But, as it stands, Jokić is the clear-cut favorite. Note that the scores may be slightly deflated (in comparison to historical seasons above), and expect these scores to rise slightly as the final games are played and we update the data.
Charles Barkley has been saying for months that Chris Paul should be in the NBA MVP conversation. Radio personality Colin Cowherd recently put Paul atop his list of MVP candidates. "Next to LeBron James, nobody in the NBA has the ability to change your basketball team's win-loss standings. Nobody, expect Chris Paul," Cowherd said last week on his show "The Herd."
Cowherd not having Joel Embiid in his top five is puzzling, considering the Philadelphia 76ers center is averaging 30 points and 11.1 rebounds per game on 51.3% shooting for the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, but what does Paul have to say about his growing MVP talk? "I appreciate it," Paul said as the Phoenix Suns (42-17) prepared to continue their five-game road trip Sunday at the East-leading Brooklyn Nets (40-20) in a national TV matinee (ESPN, 3:30 ET).
Shams Charania: 76ers star Joel Embiid sits down with @Stadium: “There’s no doubt (I’m MVP). I’ve been dominant all season. I’m not going to stop.” On motivation from feeling disrespected and frustrated last season, Shaq’s criticism “opened my eyes to actually realize that I can be that guy.” pic.twitter.com/Ud3O2APOkV

http://twitter.com/ShamsCharania/status/1385269701954125824
Jeremy Lin talked with Emmet Ryan of BallinEurope about Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, and more, at the Collision conference, organized by Web Summit, which is being held virtually and staged out of Toronto, Canada. “What he’s doing is ridiculous. The end of the season will be interesting. He’s definitely a front runner right now and Denver is playing really well,” he told BallinEurope regarding Jokic’s position in the race for the NBA season’s MVP award, “The only other person I’d put into consideration is Steph Curry, what he’s doing is historic. There are good candidates on the Sixers and the Jazz but, to me, it’s still Jokic.”
The Jump: "I mean, I gotta be. I gotta be. I probably won't get it but whatever." - @Stephen Curry on whether he believes he should be the MVP this year h/t "The @RexChapman Show" (@basketbllnews) #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #DubNation pic.twitter.com/lG4nnLTbkG
Ryan Ward: Some drastic changes over the last 3 weeks in the odds for NBA MVP, via @betonline_ag: LeBron: 10/1 on April 1. Now: 33/1 MVP Fav: Nikola Jokic was 10/13. Now: 2/7 Embiid: 17/2. Now: 3/1 Steph: Off the Board. Now: 10/1 Giannis: 10/1. Now: 16/1 Harden: 9/4. Now: 25/1
Deonte Burton: It’s blasphemous to say Stephen curry isn’t the best shooter we ever seen, not to mention the best offensive point guard we’ve seen ever not to fu#king mention top 10 all time ever to play!!! He would be my mvp! And it’s not even close!!!
While Jokic is miles ahead of the field, his point total is right in line with where the winners landed each of the past few seasons. What is different, however, is that there is no clear second-place finisher. Since the league shifted to the current voting format in 2017, second place has earned at least 738 points. Embiid, who received five of the remaining 11 first-place votes, was second with 401 points -- not much more than half of that typical amount. Antetokounmpo (no first-place votes, 375 points), the two-time reigning MVP, was a close third, with Damian Lillard (two first-place votes, 67 total votes, 283 points) in fourth and Harden (one first-place vote, 62 total votes, 231 points) in fifth.
James, meanwhile, went from getting more than half of the first-place votes in the last straw poll to getting none this time. He was left off nearly two-thirds of the ballots entirely, garnering just 37 total votes and 105 points. He was just ahead of Chris Paul, who had two first-place votes and 98 total points, with Kawhi Leonard (80 points, including one first-place vote) in eighth, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (28 points) in ninth and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (26 points) in 10th.
Duane Rankin: Kings coach Luke Walton said there "is room" to put Chris Paul in the MVP conversation. Paul on his way to his 17th double-double this season. Has nine points and eight assists as #Suns have 84-77 lead with 6:51 left in the 3rd quarter.
StatMuse: Nikola Jokic is currently leading the NBA in PER, WS, WS/48, BPM, VORP and is the betting favorite to win MVP. If he does win it, he would be the lowest drafted player (41st) in NBA history to do so. The current record is 15th, held by Nash and Giannis. (Submitted by @shawnqjx) pic.twitter.com/WlkysoeGk6
Playmaking—Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-best 6.4 assists—has been an area of growth for Giannis, something team officials attribute to the game continuing to slow down for the 26-year old two-time reigning MVP. “The pace that he is playing at is different,” Bucks GM Jon Horst said in a telephone interview. “He’s playing with more control. He’s picking his spots. That’s the kind of thing you only get through maturity.” Regarding the MVP race, Horst offers the strongest possible endorsement. “He is a better player this year than in the years he won,” says Horst. And while GM-supporting-star is hardly an objective take, there is evidence backing it up. Antetokounmpo is in the top-five in offensive and defensive win shares—only Jokić can claim that—and one of two players (Jokić, again) averaging at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
After dropping 44 points in a win over the Pistons on Friday night in Detroit, James Harden said that he doesn't simply believe he belongs in the Most Valuable Player award conversation -- he should sit atop the list. "Do I feel like I belong in it? I feel like I am the MVP," the Brooklyn Nets star said. "I mean, it's just that simple. I don't want to be speaking individually on myself. I am just going to leave it at that."
Either way, there's little question that James and Embiid suffering injuries helps the MVP candidacy of Nikola Jokic, the other top contender based on advanced statistics. And it continues to crack open the door for the past two winners, Antetokounmpo and Harden, whose chances were written off early in the season. Most importantly, the injuries are a reminder that we shouldn't be in a hurry to pick an MVP before the season is near completion.
The impact of injuries is a key reason it's dangerous to start to draw MVP conclusions too early in the season. Staying on the court is a key part of value within an individual regular season. Historically, 10 games missed has been about the cutoff for MVP consideration. The last player to miss more than 10 games in an MVP season was Allen Iverson in 2000-01 (11). Before that, you have to go back to Bill Walton in 1977-78 (an unprecedented 34) for the previous example. (No MVP between Walton and Iverson missed more than seven games.)
But there are also new names that have emerged as the season moves to the home stretch. Perhaps the emerging star to keep an eye on is Dame Lillard in Portland, whose odds somehow lengthened from +1800 to +2100. The Blazers’ star is single-handedly raising the oft-injured Blazers’ roster to the upper tier in the conference.
Harrison Wind: Nikola Jokic on Malone endorsing him for MVP: "It's nice. The guys are trusting me. The coaches are trusting me. The front office is trusting me. The Kroenke family (is trusting me). It's really nice to have such a big group of people behind you, trusting you." "It's cool."
LeBron James has been awarded the NBA's MVP award four times in his career, tied with Wilt Chamberlain for the third most all time, but one of his teammates, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, says James should have double that. At least. "The NBA MVP is a very political award," Kuzma said after the Lakers' 116-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday. "Bron should have been the MVP at least eight, nine, 10 times. Everybody knows that."
When asked about Kuzma's claim, James admitted he felt he has been snubbed in the past, but he wouldn't specify how many he felt he deserved to win. "I should have more than four, I believe," James said. "But ... I don't sit around thinking about it or crying about it, or whatever the case may be. I just try to come in the next season and be the MVP and be talked about [for] it again. I bet a lot of the greatest that played this game feel like they should have more as well, if you ask any one of those guys.
"It's a mistake on the voters' part to go season after season without voting the best player in the league MVP," Vogel said. "You know what I mean? That's the simplest way to put it. There's been other players that have been deserving, but he's been the best player in the league for as long as I can remember. Maybe since his second, third year in the league. It's just one of those things that's unfortunate. It's not right. And he should get it this year. He's doing it every night and no one is as deserving."
Jusuf Nurkic: Babo is THE MVP!!! @Dame_Lillard
As we cross the halfway point of the NBA season, we are set up for what should be the most raucous and divisive MVP race since Russell Westbrook's win in 2017 -- and one of the most unusual in NBA history. A lot of voters -- this one included, as I have an official ballot -- try to compartmentalize by considering only the discrete 82 games (or now 72) of each season. We give the award every season; it is for that specific season. What happened last season shouldn't factor in. What might happen in the playoffs is irrelevant.
The discourse surrounding last year's top two finishers -- the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James -- was primed to get messy and interesting and maybe a little edgy in the media even before Harden and two behemoth centers crashed the MVP race. Antetokounmpo has won the past two MVPs, outpointing James easily last season. Antetokounmpo's statistical case was almost unassailable -- at least according to almost every publicly available statistic. He also won Defensive Player of the Year. The Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA.
As our Brian Windhorst noted last month, James has not won MVP since 2013. You can explain away each individual season. I've had an official ballot in every season starting in 2013-14, and have not voted James as MVP in any of them. At the time, each vote felt fine -- close in some seasons, but fine. I don't regret any of them now. In totality, it still seems undeniably stupid that that guy we all recognize as the best player alive has not won MVP in eight years. It just does.
The Lakers are plus-9.1 per 100 possessions with James on the floor, and minus-4.4 when he rests -- the second-fattest on-off gap among the major candidates, trailing only Embiid. That sustained during the Lakers' slide without Anthony Davis; the Lakers are plus-20 with James on the floor since Davis went on the shelf, and minus-31 with James on the bench, per NBA.com By historical standards, James is having an MVP-level season -- just not a no-brainer MVP season. As of now, it would rank midtier among all 65 prior NBA MVP seasons: almost exactly in the middle in points per game, 49th in Player Efficiency Rating, 61st in win shares per 48 minutes.
A similar sentiment may help James in this season's voting. Harden is the "new team" guy -- the Garnett/Barkley/Nash of this season's race. But the barrier to winning his second MVP should be very high for Harden considering the nature of his exit from the Houston Rockets. The eight games he played there constitute 11% of this season -- a non-trivial share. They will constitute an even greater percentage of Harden's individual season, because he has missed a few games. He put up numbers in those eight games, but if you watched them, you know Harden was disengaged. Opponents outscored the Rockets by 6.6 points per 100 possessions with Harden on the floor during his final Houston stretch -- and won the minutes Harden rested by almost the same amount, per NBA.com. You can't erase that from his candidacy for an award based on play in this particular season.
The Nets have outscored opponents by six points per 100 possessions with Harden on the floor -- good, but not incredible. They are about even in the 308 minutes Harden has played without both Irving and Durant, according to NBA.com. Harden has done a nice job carrying Brooklyn bench units. Steve Nash has entrusted Harden with the most solo minutes among his three stars, and Harden is maybe the best equipped among them to thrive in those situations.
Harden has been brilliant as a Net. He's already second in franchise history in triple-doubles, which is both amazing and a little funny. Someday, the voting body might buck precedent and award MVP to someone traded in-season. I'm skeptical Harden is or should be that player. Just getting on the ballot is going to be hard -- for Harden, Lillard, Curry, and others. Everything will change if Durant continues to miss major time, or if Irving does -- and Harden lifts the Nets. Even then, Harden winning seems a stretch given what Jokic, Embiid, and James are doing. With or without Harden as a serious candidate, the next two months figure to give us a rollicking MVP debate.
StatMuse: Should Giannis be in the MVP conversation? - More PPG than Jokic - More RPG than Embiid - Higher FG% than Durant - Higher eFG% than Harden - Higher TS% than Lillard - Higher PER than LeBron He has the highest +/- out of all the above players. pic.twitter.com/1G2RdIOZ1I
The Utah Jazz have the best record in the NBA at 27-7 and yet when it comes to MVP, neither Donovan Mitchell nor Rudy Gobert are given much consideration. Jordan Clarkson, the clear front-runner for the Sixth Man of the Year award, is the latest guest on the “Posted Up with Chris Haynes” podcast. The 28-year-old guard is averaging a career-high in points (18.1) and shooting 37.1% from behind the arc.
In this episode, he discussed the two stars being overlooked for MVP and how the team is unbothered by not receiving acknowledgment. “It doesn’t come up but we definitely praise [Mitchell and Gobert] saying, ‘Yo, you should be in that NBA conversation’ and stuff like that,” Clarkson said on the “Posted Up” pod. “That’s the only conversation that comes out of that. But in terms of worrying about if we’re getting noticed or any of that, I don’t think any of that really seeps into any of our heads. We’re kind of just focused on one thing and that’s winning games and keeping this thing rolling. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t be in the conversation, but hey, it is what it is. We’re just trying to prove people wrong and get better. That’s it.”
The Lakers swoon has led some, including The Athletic’s Sam Amick, to consider the ramifications a month without Davis might have on James’ bid for a fifth NBA Most Valuable Player award. “Put it to you like this,” Davis said. “I know that that man does not care about MVP awards. He cares about championships. So if he loses the MVP and wins the championship like he did last year, he doesn’t care. So that’s what his mindset is, he’s not focused on MVPs. He’s focused on Finals MVPs.”
Tim Reynolds: Just now, @Mark Cuban was asked on @Morning_Joe if Luka Doncic is the MVP: "If the Mavs go forward in the playoffs, yes," Cuban said. "But we've got a long way to go."

http://twitter.com/kevinlove/status/1362558386496286722
It's been eight years now since James won his fourth MVP. His pursuit of a fifth, which would tie Michael Jordan and Russell for second most behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's six, has been complicated. He has an opportunity over the next month to solidify his standing with the Lakers slated to play without Anthony Davis sidelined with aggravated tendinosis in his right Achilles. If James carries the Lakers through during this post-Super Bowl period, when the high-profile made-for-TV games launch -- his play has been typically strong this season anyway -- he will have an important pillar in any MVP argument firmly on his side: narrative.
To gauge where the race stands at this point in the season, ESPN asked 100 media members to participate in an informal poll that mimics the postseason awards voting. To make the balloting as realistic as possible, there are at least two voters from each of the league's 28 markets, as well as a cross-section of both national and international reporters. Like with the NBA's official vote at the end of season, voters were asked to submit a five-player ballot, and results were tabulated using the league's scoring system: 10 points for each first place vote, followed by seven points for second, five points for third, three points for fourth and one point for fifth.
While James currently has the inside track in his push for a fifth MVP trophy to go with what he hopes will be a fifth NBA championship this summer, garnering 54 of a possible 100 first-place votes, the race to this point in the season is as competitive as any in recent memory, with a pair of centers -- Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid and Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic -- right on his heels.
James was named on 99 of 100 ballots and finished with a total of 760 points, leading Embiid (23 first-place votes) by just 95 points. The last MVP race to have a final margin that small came in 2004-05 when Steve Nash edged Shaquille O'Neal by 34 points. Jokic was third, garnering 18 first-place votes and a total of 596 points.
Durant, after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles, finished fourth in the voting with 272 points, and appeared on 75 ballots, while Leonard (153 points, 64 ballots) finished fifth. Antetokounmpo, the two-time defending MVP, was a distant sixth, getting a handful of votes as he appears very unlikely to win a third straight time. Doncic, the preseason favorite, received only two third place votes, as his glossy statistical resume was easily overwhelmed by the Mavericks' underwhelming record.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is now the NBA MVP betting favorite or runner-up at most sportsbooks, thanks to an unexpected commitment to the regular season that has led the Lakers to the league's best record. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook was the first operator to make James the favorite, posting 4-1 odds Monday night after the 36-year-old rallied the Lakers to a comeback road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. James finished with 46 points on 19-for-26 shooting, including 7-for-11 from 3-point territory.
TJ McBride: PJ Dozier did not mince words when talking about how good Jokic has been. “He has MVP numbers every night.” Dozier also mentioned Nikola “Cookie Monster” Jokic’s dedication to to defense as a reason for his MVP case.
Brad Townsend: On @The Jump, @Luka Doncic was asked by Rachel Nichols if he thinks he can win MVP. "I think I can do it," but quickly adds that that isn't his first goal. "My first goal always is to win the championship."
Luka Doncic has separated himself from Giannis Antetokounmpo and emerged as the consensus favorite to win the NBA regular-season MVP at U.S. sportsbooks, and bettors are flocking to the Dallas Mavericks' young superstar. On Nov. 10, Doncic and Antetokounmpo opened as +550 co-favorites at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Since then, Doncic has attracted twice as many bets -- and twice as much money -- as any other player to become the solo favorite at +400.
Brad Townsend: Per @BetMGM, these players have received the most legal wagers for the NBA's Kia MVP award: Who is the most popular future pick to win Kia NBA MVP this season? @Luka Doncic – 14% of all bets Nikola Jokic – 9% LeBron James – 8% Kevin Durant – 7% Joel Embiid – 7%
Luka Doncic has separated himself from Giannis Antetokounmpo and emerged as the consensus favorite to win the regular-season MVP at U.S. sportsbooks, and bettors are flocking to the Dallas Mavericks' young superstar. On Nov. 10, Doncic and Antetokounmpo opened as +550 co-favorites at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Since then, Doncic has attracted twice as many bets--and twice as much money--as any other player to become the solo favorite at +450.
Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks' two-time reigning regular-season MVP, has dropped a notch back at +500, followed by Lakers stars Anthony Davis (+800) and LeBron James (+850). Doncic has attracted more bets at William Hill than Antetokounmpo, Davis and James combined. At sportsbook operator PointsBet, one out of every three bets placed has been on Doncic, who capped a breakout second NBA season with an electrifying playoff performance in the bubble in Orlando. "I thought he should have finished higher than he did last year in the [MVP] voting," said Jeff Sherman, a longtime NBA oddsmaker for the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.
Who will win MVP this season? 1. Luka Doncic: 4 2. Nikola Jokic: 2 T3. Damian Lillard: 1 T3. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1 With James already making nods toward prioritizing the pursuit of a fifth ring over chasing a fifth MVP award after a short offseason, he didn't receive a vote. Instead the leader was that guy in Dallas, Doncic. Multiple voters said that Antetokounmpo, who has won in each of the past two seasons, would suffer from voter fatigue.
Damian Lillard opened up about the possibility of being in the NBA MVP conversation in the 2020/21 season. Lillard said this can happen if the Portland Trail Blazers are a ‘winning team’. “I feel like if we’re a winning team and we’re in that top two, top three — then I think it’s definitely a real possibility. Maybe because I had a good run in the bubble and I had a good run before I hurt my groin last year [right before the All-Star break]. It was pretty much the last probably 30, 35 games of the season,” Lillard said, via Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest.
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