Sixers star Joel Embiid sits atop the latest Most Valuable Player ladder published by Michael C. Wright at NBA.com. Embiid was also Dan Devine’s choice for first half MVP in a half-season awards roundup for Yahoo Sports this week.
There’s certainly no question that Embiid has submitted an MVP-caliber performance when he’s back on the court. He’s leading the NBA in scoring for a third straight season with a career-high 35.0 points per game to go along with 11.4 rebounds and a career-best 5.9 assists for the 28-13 Sixers. On Saturday, he scored 30 or more points for a 20th consecutive game, becoming only the third player in NBA history to achieve that feat (Twitter link).
But Embiid has also missed 10 of Philadelphia’s 41 games so far, putting him on track to sit out 20 for the season. Maintaining that pace would mean he’d fall short of the 65-game minimum required for end-of-season award winners, making him ineligible for this year’s MVP award, as we covered in detail yesterday.
Even if Embiid does reach that 65-game minimum, he may not be a runaway choice for MVP, given that several other NBA superstars are having transcendent seasons for contending teams.
Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic has been providing the defending champion Nuggets with his usual All-NBA caliber production, including 25.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per night.
Jokic has also played in 42 of 43 possible games, logging 348 more minutes more than Embiid so far. That’s not an unimportant detail, given that the 29-14 Nuggets have a +11.0 net rating when their star center is on the court, compared to a -7.5 mark when he isn’t — Jokic’s ability to stay on the floor has been crucial to the team’s success.
The surprising Thunder are a half-game ahead of Denver in the standings at 29-13, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been fueling that ascent by putting up career highs in points (31.1), assists (6.3), and steals (2.2) per game to go along with a 54.9% field goal percentage. Like Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander has only missed one game this season and has led his club to a +11.0 net rating during his minutes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s elite production has become routine by this point, but his incredible production – 31.2 PPG, 11.4 RPG, and 6.0 APG with a .609 FG% – shouldn’t be overlooked. The 29-13 Bucks have a -4.6 net rating when Antetokounmpo isn’t on the court; that mark increases to +7.3 when he’s playing.
Mavericks guard Luka Doncic has boosted his scoring average to a career-best 33.6 points per game this season while also contributing 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds, with a .485/.376/.778 shooting line. Dallas will likely have to improve its place in the standings to help earn Doncic a real shot at this season’s award though — currently the team sits in sixth place in the West with a 24-18 mark.
Conversely, while Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has certainly had an impressive statistical season so far (26.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.4 APG, .472/.367/.812 shooting), his numbers aren’t quite as gaudy as the ones posted by the players mentioned above. But his team has a 32-10 record, which is the best in the league. ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins referred to Tatum on Friday as his pick for first half MVP (YouTube link).
Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, and Kings center Domantas Sabonis are a few of the other players hovering on the fringes of the MVP race, but they’re dark-horse candidates for now.
We want to know what you think. If you were voting for an MVP based on the season to date, who would you pick? Is Embiid’s missed time a deciding factor for you or has he been valuable enough in his 31 games to earn the top spot on your ballot?
Vote below, then head to the comment section to share your two cents!