It’s nonetheless early within the 2020-21 season, but there have been superb performances each night time throughout the NBA. And, due to these performances, followers have began to see which stars are have shone brightest and separated themselves from the pack early within the MVP race.
And so, every week at Basketball Insiders, we will probably be having a look at our high candidates for the MVP award — listed below are a number of that caught our consideration by way of the primary week of play.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Regardless of a rollercoaster begin to the 12 months, Antetokounmpo is the MVP frontrunner by way of the primary week of play. The Milwaukee Bucks have had a curious begin, shedding by 20 to the New York Knicks, continuing to set the NBA report for Three-pointers in a near-50-point win over the Miami HEAT simply to lose to the identical crew the very subsequent day.
And but, Antetokounmpo has continued to dominate each night time whereas the Bucks’ highs have been excessive, as evidenced by their record-breaking efficiency towards Miami. Elevated teammate play ought to assist him win extra down the stretch and Antetokounmpo will seemingly push for a triple-double on most nights. It additionally helps that Antetokounmpo is defending the award in a 12 months the place his prime competitors hasn’t pushed too far ahead fairly but.
2. Stephen Curry
Curry kicked off 2021 with a bang, giving followers the primary 50-point recreation of the season after which some, going off for a career-high 62 factors. Coming into the sport, Curry and the Golden State Warriors seemed to be in a lull regardless of Curry averaging properly over 25 factors per contest. Now, with Draymond Inexperienced again in motion, the Warriors ought to push for a playoff spot if Curry can proceed to go off.
Curry is averaging 32.Three factors, 6.2 assists and 1.2 steals per recreation on 45.eight% taking pictures from the ground. Many throughout the NBA panorama pointed to the Warriors’ chilly begin and claimed that Curry couldn’t carry this roster to the playoffs. Clearly, he took discover, and can seemingly do every thing in his energy to assist muster this crew into the postseason.
Three. Trae Younger
Younger has slowed down within the final couple of video games, however there’s no denying the sheer influence he has had on turning across the Atlanta Hawks’ tradition. The Hawks are Four-2 and Younger is averaging 28.2 factors and eight.Three assists per recreation on respectable effectivity.
There are two massive assessments that can decide the legitimacy of Younger’s MVP marketing campaign: the primary being whether or not or not he can win towards more durable competitors, the second being the consistency with which he can get to the free throw line.
For the primary level, three of the 4 Hawks wins have come towards groups that weren’t anticipated to be excellent this 12 months: the Chicago Bulls, the Detroit Pistons and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bulls might feasibly make the play-in match within the East, however that’ll be an uphill battle. Detroit is a pleasing shock with its competitiveness however continues to be 1-5 whereas the Grizzlies have been with out Jaren Jackson Jr.
The fourth win got here from a recreation towards a Brooklyn Nets crew that simply misplaced Spencer Dinwiddie and is at the moment Three-Four. If Younger can come away from a stretch subsequent week that sees the Portland Path Blazers, the Phoenix Suns, the Utah Jazz and the Philadelphia 76ers with quite a few wins, it’ll increase his MVP inventory tremendously.
As for the second level, Younger has struggled with attending to the foul line not too long ago and it has noticeably affected his scoring output. Within the first 4 video games, Younger averaged over 15 free throw makes an attempt per recreation and averaged 33 factors. Within the final two video games, nonetheless, he’s averaged simply 4 free throw makes an attempt and put up simply 18.5 factors per recreation.
Clearly it’s a small pattern measurement. However, if this pattern continues, it’s going to have an effect on Younger’s MVP eligibility going ahead.
Four. Joel Embiid
It is likely to be a shock to some to see Embiid this excessive. And, whereas it’s early within the season, Embiid has the Philadelphia 76ers tied with the Phoenix Suns for greatest report within the league. Embiid has been merely unstoppable, lastly armed with a roster that fits his skillset.
Embiid is at the moment averaging 25 factors, 12.6 rebounds, 2.eight assists and 1.Four blocks per recreation on 53.9% taking pictures from the ground and a 40% clip from deep. Mix that with the truth that the Sixers are 5-Zero when Embiid performs, with their solely loss being a 24-point blowout towards the Cleveland Cavaliers with out him, and his MVP case is rock strong.
It’s nonetheless too early within the season to find out whether or not or not Embiid will stay this excessive for lengthy, however a unique teaching tradition and teammates like Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris have helped spark what appears to be a 76ers turnaround after they disenchanted final 12 months.
5. James Harden
Harden would seemingly be increased on this record if the state of affairs relating to his commerce demand wasn’t so murky and if he had extra video games below his belt. Alas, Harden has solely appeared in three video games because of recreation postponements and COVID-19 tracing protocols.
When the Rockets are totally wholesome, nonetheless, the lineup is loaded with its guard and middle rotations. Between John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, who each look wholesome, Harden and Christian Wooden, who might legitimately play his method into the All-Star Recreation if he continues his play, Houston has the gamers to spice up Harden’s case even additional.
Nevertheless, the complete lineup has performed in only one recreation collectively, a three-point win over the Sacramento Kings. And, whereas Harden has appeared in simply three video games, he’s nonetheless averaged 37 factors, 5.Three rebounds and 11 assists per recreation whereas taking pictures a virtually 50/40/90 line — fairly spectacular to say the least.
Even when Harden will get traded this season, with numbers like these, there’s no method he doesn’t shoot up this ladder because the 12 months goes on.
6. LeBron James
James is clearly timeless and the Los Angeles Lakers don’t seem like taking any breaks as they boast a 5-2 report with a seemingly improved roster from final season. Gone are Danny Inexperienced, Avery Bradley and JaVale McGee and in are Wesley Matthews, Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell.
This crew is likely one of the greatest James has ever performed with and he’ll do every thing in his energy to capitalize on the power of one of many deepest groups within the league. James will perennially be on this dialog and can in all probability transfer up the ladder because the season goes on.
Honorable Point out: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown
Whereas gamers like Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant are certain to stand up these rankings because the season goes on, there’s a pair that deserves mentioning proper now: the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — two gamers which have gone above and past for the Celtics to start out the 12 months within the absence of Kemba Walker.
The Boston Celtics, very like all different Jap Convention groups, have struggled to place their greatest foot ahead and sit at a Four-Three report after a near-loss to the Pistons, a crew that Boston had already misplaced to on New 12 months’s Day.
Nevertheless, each Tatum and Brown have seemed stellar to start the 12 months, with Tatum knocking within the game-winner towards Detroit and Brown hitting his career-high of 42 factors towards the Grizzlies. Each gamers are at the moment averaging what could be career-highs throughout the board.
Tatum is averaging career-highs in factors, rebounds and assists per recreation with a career-low in fouls per recreation whereas Brown is averaging career-highs in factors, assists, steals and blocks per recreation on a ridiculously good 59.eight% from the ground and 42.5% clip from deep.
If both of these gamers’ strains can stand out because the norm, both or each will probably be within the MVP dialog.
As beforehand talked about, it’s nonetheless early within the season — our ladder might look utterly completely different as quickly as subsequent week as a bunch of various gamers sit simply outdoors the dialog. That mentioned, you should definitely try subsequent week’s version to see if any of these guys can garner some severe consideration.