The NBA has reached the quarter mark of its season. Now that the rosters seem to be relatively set, it is easier to see which teams and players will be making their marks on the season. What’s more, we can start to see which players will be in the running for league MVP.
In this weekly ranking, I will present you with my top five MVP candidates. To determine a player’s ranking, there are several factors that will be taken into consideration. First, Player Efficiency Rating (PER) which measures how efficient a player is game-in and game-out. Second, overall stats such as scoring and rebounding. Third, is the player really leading his team or does he have help (i.e. any of the Brooklyn Nets’ Big Three)? Finally, is their team actually winning? Historically, most MVP’s come from teams that at least make it into the playoffs.
So, without further ado, here is Border Fuel’s (my) NBA MVP rankings.
#1- Joel Emiid
Joel Emiid is currently 2nd in the NBA with a 30.13 PER. He ranks in the top ten in points and rebounds thus far through the season. His 27.7 points per game are fourth in the NBA and his 11.1 rebounds per game rank eighth.
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Emiid’s 76ers are currently first in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, a full game up on the second-place Bucks. While Emiid certainly has a great cast around him, he is without a doubt the best player on that team. Giannis Antetokounmpo won the past two MVP awards while being the best player on the best regular season team. If Emiid and the 76ers maintain their level of play, Emiid will be in perfect position to win the award.
#2- Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic is having a fantastic season. Until recently, he was averaging a triple double on the season. While his assist numbers have dropped off slightly, he is still averaging 25.2 points (15th), 11.8 rebounds (8th), and 8.9 assists (3rd). His 30.50 PER is the highest in the NBA this season.
The Denver Nuggets are currently fourth in the West and are riding a five-game winning streak. Much of this is thanks to the play of Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets are coming off a 2020-2021 season which saw them in the Western Conference Finals. If Jokic keeps up his play, he may very well lead them to another.
#3- Kawhi Leonard
Like Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard is silently having a stellar season. While Leonard’s production gets more notice because of the LA market, the soft-spoken superstar quietly goes about his business of being dominating.
Leonard is third in the NBA with a 27.99 PER. His 25.9 points per game rank 13th in the NBA. He is adding 5.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, though neither stat hold considerable ranking. What is considerable, though, is that Leonard ranks third in the NBA in steals (2.0 per game).
Leonard, of course, is teamed up with Paul George, an All-Star in his own right. Despite the tandem, it is clear that Kawhi is the best player on the team. The Clippers are currently second in the Western Conference, a half game behind the Jazz and a full game ahead of the Lakers.
#4- LeBron James
What MVP candidate list is complete without LeBron James? None of them. Simply put, stats such as PER can only tell so much of a story. The fact of the matter is that as long as LeBron chooses to play in the NBA, he will also likely be in the MVP conversation.
LeBron has a PER of 25.00, which ranks 15th in the NBA. He is averaging over 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game. Should he keep this up, it will be the fifth year in a row in which he does so.
Of course, LeBron has teamed up with Anthony Davis on the Lakers. Davis does, to be fair, have a higher PER this season. However, Davis is also missing games to rest legs while LeBron has played every single game. The Lakers are third in the Western Conference and are still favorites to win the Finals.
#5- Giannis Antetokounmpo
Listen, I’m as big of a Bucks’ fan as there is and there is nothing more I would love than to see Giannis win a third-straight MVP. Should he do so, he would join Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird as the only players to do so.
Giannis is having a good season on paper. He is eighth in the NBA in PER (25.93) and is averaging 26.8 points (9th), 11.0 rebounds (9th) and 5.6 assists per game. However, when watching the games, it is clear that Giannis is still learning the new, adjusted Bucks’ offense. Once he figures out how to fit into his new role, these numbers will undoubtedly rise.
Giannis has been playing with fellow All-Star Khris Middleton since he arrived in Milwaukee. This offseason, the Bucks formed their own Big Three by trading for Jrue Holiday, giving Giannis more help than he has had in his career. The Bucks are currently second in the East.