NBA MVP Watch: Sleepers for the Second Half of the Season

Story posted March 3, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jakob Schnur

With the first half of the 2020-2021 NBA season coming to a close as All-Star Weekend approaches, the race for the title of league MVP is getting clearer and clearer with every game.

LeBron James and Joel Embiid are currently the two favorites and have been the front runners for this award for some time now, while Nuggets center Nikola Jokic isn’t far behind and continues to impress.

Other stars whose names have been mentioned in the MVP conversation are Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic.

Durant would likely be in the same tier as James, Embiid and Jokic if he didn’t miss an extended period of time due to injury and the league’s health and safety protocols, while the other players are on teams that are somewhat underperforming, dropping them in the rankings.

While these players have been getting the most attention for the award, they aren’t the only candidates, as multiple other players have been picking up steam lately and could propel themselves into the MVP conversation with continued elite play in the second half of the season.

James Harden

Harden had a rough start to the season. He looked out of shape, was acting like a bad teammate and seemed more focused on forcing his way out of Houston than actually playing good basketball. However, since being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, Harden has returned to his same old dominant self.

He is currently averaging 25.3 points, 11.3 assists and 8.7 rebounds with Brooklyn while accumulating seven triple-doubles in this span as well.

With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant both missing extended periods of time this season, Harden has been leading this Nets squad and currently has them tied for first place in the East.

Jayson Tatum

Heading into this season, Jayson Tatum was considered a favorite for the MVP award, but the Celtics underwhelming play has hurt his chances of living up to this hype.

But even with their rocky performance, Tatum has still been a star and currently has Boston sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

In 30 games this season Tatum has topped 30 points nine times and even topped 40 once.

Jaylen Brown’s breakout this year is a major reason why the Celtics are still in a good position to make the playoffs and can’t be ignored, but this is Tatum’s team and if he can continue to play to his full potential and produce wins for his squad, he could very easily make a run at the MVP.

Julius Randle

Are the Knicks good or is the East just bad?

Either way, the 18-18 Knicks are off to their best start since the 2012-2013 season in which they were the second seed in the playoffs. While new head coach Tom Thibodeau deserves a fair share of credit for the Knicks’ success, the all-star level play of Julius Randle has been what’s keeping them in a playoff position.

Randle is averaging career highs in points (23.1), rebounds (10.9) and assists (5.5) while shooting over 40% from three-point range for the first time in his career en route to his first All-Star selection.

While Randle’s stats are impressive, they’re not quite on the same level as some of the other players previously mentioned, but if Randle can step up his play even more after All-Star break and lead the sorry Knicks franchise to their first playoff appearance in seven years, how can he not be in the conversation for Most Valuable Player?


Jakob Schnur is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jks6463@psu.edu.