With the 2020-21 season hitting its stretch run, we’re seeing injuries impact who might win the game’s top individual honor. That includes both LeBron James and Joel Embiid. Meanwhile, star players on mid-tier teams are being let down by their supporting casts.
Can Giannis Antetokounmpo win the award for a third consecutive time? Will James Harden come away with the award after an early-season trade to the Brooklyn Nets? Check below for our most-recent NBA MVP rankings updated on a weekly basis.
Updated: May 3, 3:12 PM EST
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (LW: 1)
With Jamal Murray sidelined to a torn ACL, Jokic has taken that opportunity to prove himself as the odds-on NBA MVP favorite. Denver is a shocking 9-1 since Murray went down. This multi-dimensional force is averaging 26.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists on 59% shooting from the field during that span. Should these Nuggets continue their upward trajectory over the final eight games while maintaining their status as a top-three seed out west, Jokic will come away with the hardware.
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 4)
Having just returned from a knee injury that cost him 10 games, Embiid’s MVP candidacy has obviously taken a hit. Missing that amount of games in a 72-game schedule is going to be impactful. With that said, Embiid’s performance when on the court has him as the second-best candidate behind Jokic. He’s averaging 29.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 51% for a Sixers team that boasts the best record in the Eastern Conference.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 3)
There’s only been three players to ever win the NBA MVP three consecutive times. That list is limited to all-time greats Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Larry Bird. Still only 26 years old, Giannis could join that exclusive club in 2020-21. While initially unlikely, Giannis has done everything to keep his name in the conversation. Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 57% shooting from the field. Due to injuries everywhere around the Association this season, the Greek Freak is a top NBA MVP candidate with two weeks or so to go in the regular season.
4. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (LW: 6)
We can no longer ignore the best player on a team that’s a legit NBA title contender. Yes, we’re talking about the Phoenix Suns. That’s a thing in 2021. Phoenix finds itself at 46-18 and tied for the best record in the Association. For his part, Booker has been dominating of late. He’s averaging 26.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 48% shooting from the field over the past 32 games. It’s not a coincidence that the Suns have lost only seven of those games.
5. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets (LW: 2)
As of right now, Harden has to be one the NBA MVP favorites heading into the stretch run. Since being acquired from Houston in January, he has been absolutely dominant while leading the NBA’s best team during that span. Harden is averaging 25.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11.0 assists on an eye-opening 47% shooting in 34 games with the Nets. Unfortunately, his candidacy is marred by the fact that Harden has missed the past 14 games with a hamstring injury. It’s hard to imagine that type of absence leading to continued contention down the stretch.
6. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (LW: 7)
The Dallas Mavericks’ status as a mid-tier playoff contender complicates Doncic’s candidacy for the NBA MVP, much like what we’re seeing with the aforementioned Stephen Curry in San Francisco. However, Dallas has turned it around as a team by winning six of its past eight games and currently finds itself in a three-way tie for the fifth seed. During that eight-game span, Doncic has been otherworldly — averaging 29.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 9.5 assists. This has him ascending our rankings heading into the stretch run.
7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (LW: 5)
It appears that Curry took note after missing from this list in our most-recent update. In all seriousness, the two-time NBA MVP has been absolutely brilliant since returning from a tailbone injury. Historically brilliant. Over the course of his past 17 games, Curry is averaging 36.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 46% shooting from distance. The Warriors are also 10-7 during that span and find themselves pretty much guaranteed a spot in the play-in tournament. The issue with Curry winning a third career NBA MVP award is the Warriors’ status as a .500 team.
8. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (LW: 8)
At 46-18 on the season, this Jazz team is similar to the Hawks squad that won 60 games back in 2014-15. It is unlikely to have a top-end NBA MVP candidate. That’s primarily because of the balance Quin Snyder has on offense. Even then, we can no longer ignore Mitchell. Leading the best team in the NBA, he’s averaging 26.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Unfortunately, Mitchell has joined others with the injury bug — missing the past eight games with an ankle ailment.
9. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (LW: 9)
As you can see, King James continues to fall in our NBA MVP rankings. It’s no fault of his own. The game’s best player was sidelined 20 games to a high-ankle sprain before just recently returning. That’s just not going to help when it comes to the league’s top individual award, especially during a truncated 72-game season. It’s clear that James is among the most-valuable players in the Association given the Lakers’ struggles without him. He will be until the legend opts to retire. Even then, we can’t have him any higher with the future first ballot Hall of Famer missing such a large chunk of the season and still dealing with an ankle issue.
10. Julius Randle, New York Knicks (LW: NR)
If you had told us several months ago that a Knicks player would be in the top 10 of our NBA MVP rankings, we’d have laughed you off quicker than those who believe James Dolan is a good owner. But here were are. With about two weeks to go in the regular season, New York is currently the fourth seed back east with a 36-28 record. For his part, Randle has morphed into a true star in the Big Apple. He’s put up a stunning stat line of 24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. The dude is also shooting 42% from distance while averaging an NBA-high 37.4 minutes per game. Whew.