Who will be the NBA MVP?

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Vasileios Michaelides

For the first time in quite a while, the award for Most Valuable Player in the National Basketball Association is up in the air.

In a season that has been COVID-stricken and injury-riddled, there is no clear-cut winner as of right now. A case can be made for more than five players:  LeBron James, Nikola Jokić , Joel Embiid,James Harden, Stephen Curry or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Someone has to win the award and as the saying goes “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and the NBA MVP is no exception this season.

Let’s break these candidates down one by one, starting with the most likely winner, the Denver Nugget superstar center: Nikola Jokic.

The Joker has been, well, an absolute monster this year and nothing less than fantastic. So far, according to ESPN, Jokic is averaging 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 8.8 assists with 1.5 steals this season.

He is also shooting the ball incredibly well with a 57% field goal percentage and an impressive 42.9% from three point range which is a big improvement for Nikola since last year he was shooting a mediocre 31.4%.

As we can see, Nikola has the stats on his side by basically putting up a triple double on phenomenal efficiency but also has the Nuggets playing winning basketball by making his teammates, like the newly acquired Aaron Gordon, better.

One of the most eye-catching stories to come out of the Nuggets locker room as of late is how appreciative Gordon is of the big man saying that the buckets he gets now are the easiest of his career. This just speaks to Nikola’s excellent passing and playmaking. He is undoubtedly the best big man passer in the entire league. Overall, Nikola Jokic is the complete package, or for this, the complete case for the MVP. He has the numbers, the wins, a good story but also the ability to make everyone around him better, which is what makes him so valuable.

Right below Jokic on the MVP pecking order is Joel Embiid. Now, Embiid is the man that the majority of NBA fans,  coaches and players would pick to win the award. However, he was also sadly stricken by the injury bug.

The big man went down with a knee injury that kept him out for a little over two weeks. He has recently returned though and has continued his MVP caliber style of play.

On the season, Embiid is averaging 29.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists, as well as 1.5 blocks on 51.8% shooting, all according to ESPN. He has, arguably, been dragging the Philadelphia 76ers and keeping them at the one seed with help from guys like Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris.

Those are two excellent players to have, but they can’t take control of a game like Embiid can.. He has hit multiple big shots and has come up big down the stretch of many games for the 76ers this season. One thing that can’t be measured are all the important intangibles it takes to win and the competitiveness of the player. Embiid has the drive to win and then some.

When the game is on the line or when things go south, the Philadelphia 76ers can turn to their superstar big man.

Another player on the long list of MVP candidates is James Harden. The Beard has brought the Brooklyn Nets to new heights. Ever since his arrival the Nets have only dropped a handful of games. When he has played, James has been nothing short of great.

On the season, according to ESPN, Harden is averaging 25.4 points, 11 assists, 8.7 rebounds with 1.3 steals on 46.7% shooting from the field. An efficient nightly triple double threat can’t be overlooked.

Harden has also played the majority of his games without the help of his superstar running mates: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Essentially, he has often led a bunch of players who would usually not even start on an NBA team to victory.

Harden has proven many wrong by not messing up the locker room chemistry and even the on-court chemistry. If anything, he has actually made the Nets better and has put their ceiling through the roof.

If the Nets do not win the championship this year, they might arguably be the biggest bust of a team of all time. Overall though, for an MVP case, James Harden has a good one.

Like the rest of the candidates, he has the stats, the wins and he elevates his teammates as seen through his excellent passing game in and game out. However, the narrative surrounding Harden may hinder his claim to the award.

He does have two other superstars on his team and who could forget what happened in Houston earlier this season when Harden forced the Rockets to trade him by missing many games in the beginning of the season?

One guy that nobody is talking about for MVP is Stephen Curry.

The things this man can do with a basketball are just unfathomable. He is truly a basketball trailblazer that has changed the game forever.

Earlier in the week he also passed the late great Wilt Chamberlain as the highest scoring Golden State Warrior ever.

So far this season Curry is putting up 30.4 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds with 1.3 steals while shooting an incredible 48.5% from the field and 41.6% from beyond the arc at great volume, all according to ESPN. More importantly though, he is the epitome of elevating others and that is evident every time he is not on the court.

Whenever Steph does not play, the Warriors really struggle and sputter. When he does play though, the Warriors flow in a much better way and are capable of defeating the league’s best teams including the Denver Nuggets and the Milwaukee Bucks.

When talking about the most valuable player to any team in any sport, Wardell Stephen Curry has to be in the discussion.

Another player not getting the love he deserves this season is Giannis Antetokounmpo. What more can be said about the man who’s won an MVP in back-to-back seasons as well as a Defensive Player of the Year award?

If he had not won the past two MVP awards, he would be running away with this year’s trophy.

The Greek Freak is averaging nearly 29 points, 11.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.1 steals on 56.5% efficiency, so far this season, according to ESPN. He also has the Bucks in third place in the Easter Conference, just three and a half games back of the top seeded Sixers as of writing this, after a slow start.

The downside about this though is that fans are so used to his excellent plays that it has just become a given now and voter fatigue has set in. People want a new toy to prop up and award the MVP. That is why Giannis will, probably, not win his third consecutive MVP.

The Bucks also don’t get much coverage, being a small market team, so Giannis’ incredible plays can sometimes go under the radar. After all, it isn’t all roses for Giannis because he has yet to address his poor three-point shooting.

When that happens, he will, undoubtedly be the best player in the league. For now though, he’s a top five player who will consistently be in the MVP conversation. The narrative for him is just not in his favor this season.

Now, getting to the most overlooked player in the league, Donovan Mitchell needs to be considered for the MVP. He’s  not on many MVP radars, but he’s got the classic MVP case of being  the best player on the best team in the league.

Mitchell has been on one lately, dropping 25+ points a night while leading the Jazz to win after win which includes a 24 game winning streak at home that was only just ended earlier this week.

According to ESPN, Donovan is averaging 26.6 points, 5.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and a steal per game thus far.

He doesn’t get much love or recognition from the ESPN’s and TNT’s of the world as he is not on superstar level like the rest of these candidates, but he does deserve a mention for his excellent play and for how much winning his team has done this season. With that being said, it’s unlikely Mitchell will be named MVP.

Last but not least, the king himself, LeBron James. Now, before LeBron got injured he had a good chance of running away with the award, or at least being in the top two with Joel Embiid who was also unfortunately injured.

LeBron was arguably on the best team at the time, putting up incredible stats, winning games, elevating teammates, and he also of course, had a great narrative.

The man is 36 year old! In his eighteenth NBA season and still playing at an MVP level.  However, the basketball Gods did not look down upon him and smile while LeBron was doing what he does earlier this season. Instead, they gave him a high ankle sprain that has  kept him out a week or so and will also keep him sidelined for another three weeks, minimum.

As much as injuries  suck, they get taken into consideration in these award races.

In the 41 games he’s played this season, LeBron is averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists and one steal a game, according to ESPN. As usual, these are great stats from LeBron , but, most importantly, those stats have translated into wins.

We’ve been accustomed to expect greatness from LeBron and he has delivered once again this season, but durability is always very important in the NBA, and this season he just doesn’t have it.