A Look at Every MVP Candidate’s Case for Winning

SGA and Jokic

Getty Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nikola Jokic

Joel Embiid officially became ineligible to win any end-of-season aways under the NBA’s new 65-game rule, when he missed his 18th game of the season on February 10th. With Embiid now officially out of the race, let’s take a look at the case for everyone else who is still battling for the honor.

Before diving into each candidate, it feels necessary to take a moment to acknowledge what Embiid was accomplishing on the court this season before his unfortunate meniscus injury.

Embiid was averaging 36.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. The only player to ever average 35 or more points, 10 or more rebounds, and 5 or more assists in a season was Wilt Chamberlain in 1963-64. In most people’s eyes, Embiid was the clear MVP.

However, with him no longer in the picture, voters will likely be choosing from the following pool of players: Nikola Jokic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and a few others.

To remove personal bias from which players are examined, the candidates were taken from the NBA’s official MVP Ladder.

Top Three

Nikola Jokic

The Joker is putting together another incredible season in which he is averaging 26.1 points, 12 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. Jokic does a little bit of everything, he is currently the only player in the league this season with at least 1,300 points scored, 600 rebounds, and 400 assists. And it is not like he is just barely reaching those benchmarks either, as he currently has grabbed 637 rebounds and dished out 474 assists.

The Nuggets offense runs through the big man, who has already won the MVP twice. He leads the entire league with 100.3 touches per game, and the Nuggets are over 20 points better with Jokic on the floor per 100 possessions.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SGA and the Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the most exciting stories in basketball this year. While many expected them to take a leap this season, few expected them to be this good.

A huge reason for why the Thunder currently sit in second place in the Western Conference is the play of SGA. He currently is second in  the league in Estimated Plus-Minus, a composite metric that estimates a player’s impact per 100 possessions, and is first in estimated wins added.

Looking away from composite metrics, SGA leads the league in total steals by a wide margin (115), and has the third-highest field goal percentage (54.6%) among players who have taken at least 900 shots this year.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Greek Freak is somehow still improving. Among high-volume shooters, Antetokounmpo has had the greatest leap in field goal percentage from last season, according to a recent analysis from Heavy.

The former-MVP is on pace to be the only player in NBA history to average 30 or more points per game while shooting 60% or better from the field. To put it simply, Antetokounmpo is unstoppable. The only thing that could hurt his chances is is Milwaukee isn’t able to improve after the All-Star break.

Outside Looking In

Luka Doncic

Doncic is one of the best offensive players in the league. He is currently averaging a league-best 34.2 points per game, to go along with 8.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists.

He is a master at getting to the rim, shooting 76.1 percent on 4 attempts in the restricted area per game. He is one of four place with an Estimated Plus-Minus of +7 or better, and is third in the league in estimated wins added. He has the Mavericks playing some of there best basketball of the year, as they are heading into the All-Star break on a six-game winning streak.

Jayson Tatum

Tatum is the best player on the best team in basketball. The Celtics sit at 43-12 heading into the All-Star break, up six games on the second place Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tatum is averaging 27.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists and is playing his best ball of the year.


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