NBA: Who Is This Season’s League MVP?

The 2020-21 NBA season has seen several players around the league raise their game to extremely high levels and making solid cases for being named the season’s most valuable player. The NBA Most Valuable Player Award is an annual award that is given to the best player from that season while taking into account, team record, individual statistics, broken records, etc.

The award will typically be decided from a pool of two or three players who are all worthy of the award, but ultimately only one will win. The current holder of the trophy is Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, who has won the past two awards in 2019 and 2020. The award is voted on by a panel of members from the media who cover the NBA, and because Antetokounmpo has won the last two, he is unlikely to be selected for a third straight year.

This article consists a short list of three of the best players from the current NBA season, all of whom are worthy of a potential MVP selection. The list will take into account team records, player performance, and narratives that support/hurt their chances of being named MVP.

PHOENIX, AZ – DECEMBER 8: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns poses for a portrait during content day at the Verizon 5G Performance Center on December 8, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

3. Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns  

Season Averages: 16.2 PTS, 4.5 TRB, 8.9 AST, 49.2 FG%, 39.2 3PT%

Chris Paul is widely considered to be one of the best point guards to ever come into the NBA. The recently turned 36 year-old point guard is in his first season with the Phoenix Suns, after being traded to the team during the NBA’s shortened offseason from the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is the 16-year veteran’s fifth team in his hall of fame career, in which he has never been named league MVP.

When looking at Paul’s stats his numbers don’t immediately jump off the board, but his impact on the Suns franchise in only one season has been nothing short of amazing. When he came to the Suns the team was coming off a 34-39 season, where they narrowly missed the playoffs despite going 8-0 in the Orlando Bubble.

By adding Paul, the Suns have improved their record to 48-20, with four games remaining on their regular season schedule. Behind Paul’s leadership, the franchise has qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and currently hold the second best record in the entire league.

After his career as a Los Angeles Clipper concluded in 2017, it looked like Chris Paul’s days as an NBA all-star were likely over. He had a brief two-season stint for the Houston Rockets where he found some team success, but was hampered by injuries in both seasons before being traded to the Thunder.

It was in Oklahoma City last year where Paul proved why he’s still considered one of the best players to ever play the game, making his first All-Star and All-NBA teams since 2016. He carried that momentum into this season where he is one of the most efficient playmakers in the league again and is also a prime candidate for the league MVP. He has had multiple great games where he showed he still has a lot in the tank, including a season-high 34 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists in a win against the Dallas Mavericks in early February.

Paul has had a complete resurgence in the back half of his NBA career and it has been amazing to watch this season. Although he likely won’t win the award this season due to our other two candidates, he should expect to receive an All-NBA first or second team selection following the conclusion of the regular season.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 28: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after their 105-103 win over the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on October 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

2. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers 

Season Averages: 29.2 PTS, 10.7 TRB, 1.4 BLK, 51.6 FG%, 37.7 3PT%

Joel Embiid is having nothing short of a stellar season for the Philadelphia 76ers. The seven-foot center is only in his fifth season of playing after missing his first two seasons due to injury and has consistently been one of the best centers in the league ever since he stepped on an NBA court.

This season he is averaging career highs in points, free throw, field goal, and three-point percentages, making a great case for league MVP recognition. Under new head coach Doc Rivers, the 76ers currently sit at the top of the eastern conference at 47-21 with four games remaining before the playoffs tip-off.

In his three career playoff appearances, the 76ers have only reached the conference finals once back in 2019 and have found little success in their other two runs. This season however, the franchise has a great shot at making the NBA Finals, with a better rounded supporting cast around Embiid, and a coach who caters better to the team’s other top players in Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris.

Embiid has been off to the races ever since the beginning of the season and has been dominating opposing teams all year long. He posted a career high in points with a 50-point outing along with 17 rebounds, on February 19th in a 112-105 victory against the Chicago Bulls.

Despite his very successful season so far, it hasn’t been without its hiccups for the 76ers superstar. Embiid was the frontrunner for the MVP award around the midway mark in the season before he got injured. He went down with a left knee bone bruise on March 12th and missed three weeks of play before returning to the court, picking up right where he left off.

It was an unfortunate injury that potentially derailed his MVP campaign, which voters take into account. Embiid has had a history of being injury-prone so far in his career, but had been fairly healthy this season up until the knee injury. He has played in 49 of the 76ers’ 68 games this season, which is not horrible considering his past injuries, but between the knee and nagging back issues he’s dealt with since January, the odds are no longer in his favor.

DENVER, COLORADO – JANUARY 19: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets plays the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Pepsi Center on January 19, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

1. Nikola Jokić – Denver Nuggets 

Season Averages: 26.4 PTS, 10.8 AST, 10.8 TRB, 56.6 FG%, 40.2 3PT%, 86.3 FT% 

Nikole Jokić of the Denver Nuggets is currently running away in the MVP race. He is the only MVP candidate on this list who is averaging career highs in every major statistical category. He has been outstanding all season long and is seemingly improving his game from week to week.

Jokić is often regarded as the best passing big man in NBA history, which is a high honor considering the Serbian center is in his sixth season in the NBA. He was drafted by the Nuggets in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft, 38 selections after Embiid, but did not join the team until the 2015-16 season. Jokić likely being named league MVP will make him the first second-round pick to win the award in more than 40 years.

Although he has always been known as more of a pass-first player, Jokić has stepped up in the scoring department posting a +6.4 point differential from last season. He set a new career high in points when he put up 50 points in a loss against the Sacramento Kings on February 6th. His shooting skill, height, and passing ability make him an ultimate offensive threat that is difficult for any team in the NBA to stop.

After his running mate, star point guard Jamal Murray suffered a torn ACL in his left knee back on April 12th, Jokić led the Nuggets to a 10-4 record, which qualified them for the NBA playoffs outright, without having to participate in the play-in tournament which was a concern following Murray’s injury.

Jokić’s career season and consistency in the final stretch of the season has made him the leading candidate to win MVP despite Paul and Embiid’s tremendous seasons. He has also been much more durable this season compared to Embiid, playing in all 68 of Denver’s games. This is especially impressive given the fact that Denver played in 19 playoff games in 2020 and had a shorter offseason than 28 of the other teams in the league.

Along with all of the other historical feats Nikola Jokić has accomplished this season, he has also contributed 15 triple-doubles, which is a very high number for someone of his stature. He is generational talent who is expected to win the 2020-21 MVP award, and will continue to dominate the league for years to come. Although the Denver Nuggets’ championship aspirations are slim due to Murray’s absence, it is still unwise to bet against the 26 year-old superstar.

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