NBA MVP Watch: 3-Man Race After All-Star Break
After a fun All-Star weekend (or All-Star Sunday), the NBA season is ready to get back into gear for the playoff push. Stars like Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo put on a show at the annual showcase, but who is the NBA MVP favorite as we head into the season’s homestretch?
Despite leading the pack for most of this season in the odds department, Lakers star LeBron James has fallen behind Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who is now listed at +200 to win the league’s most prestigious award. James slots in closely behind at +225, just ahead of Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who is at +350 according to Caesars Sportsbook.
Other stars fall much farther off the top three but certainly have their cases as to why they should be in the conversation. Odds aside, let’s take a look at how the final push in the regular season can earn these stars the MVP award.
As mentioned earlier, Embiid is the new favorite to win the award and rightfully so. The big man from Cameroon is averaging just over 30 points a night and is a defensive force for the 76ers.
The key that could lock Embiid in to win the award would be his Sixers finishing first in the Eastern Conference. Right now, the Sixers are leading the race, but the stacked Nets are hot on their heels. Finishing first in the conference has been key to some recent MVP winners, including, most recently, Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose Bucks finished first in the East both times he won the award.
It will certainly be tough for Embiid and the Sixers to hold off Kevin Durant and the Nets, but if they can while Embiid continues his heat, expect the MVP trophy to go to a center for the first time since 2000.
Early on, it looked like the 36-year-old veteran would storm to his fifth NBA MVP award. However, hype has simmered in tinsel town since the injury of superstar big man Anthony Davis.
While James has been remarkable, especially for his age, the Lakers’ play without Davis is certainly enough to keep James away from another MVP. As noted by many fans, the team is stacked from head to toe and remains one of the favorites to win the championship. But without Davis, this squad has lost to teams like the Washington Wizards.
The injury to Davis was always going to hurt the Lakers’ performance, but it also presents an opportunity for James to show analysts that he is still as dominant as they think he is. James will have to turn it up to another level and see more team success if he wants to capture another huge personal accolade.
What Nikola Jokic has done at the center position is nothing short of remarkable. His passing and shooting ability at his size is still amazing to see and continues to impress around the league. However, Jokic’s Nuggets sit just sixth in the Western Conference standings.
After an incredible run in the bubble last summer, the Nuggets came into 2021 with big expectations from fans. Although Jokic continues to put up MVP numbers, the Nuggets have stumbled out of the gate and are just now finding their footing.
Something else that hurts Jokic is the decline in impressiveness of the triple double. Since players like LeBron James, Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook have been putting up triple doubles on a regular basis, the stat has become less remarkable. Jokic averaging these numbers as a center (27.1 points ,11.0 rebounds, 8.6 assists) in any other season would have almost made him a lock to win MVP.
Overall, it has been a fun season to watch so many stars both young and old tear up the association. It will be interesting to see which one of the top candidates can up their play one more notch to leave the voters with no doubt on who the next NBA MVP will be.
Maclain Young is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.