By Nick Sligh
The field for the NBA MVP has definitely seen a fair amount of change over the past few months. Headlined with Luka Doncic’s minor injuries, James Harden’s shooting slump, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s consistency and Damian Lillard’s surging dominance, the top contenders look pretty different than they did early in the season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Giannis has just been incredibly solid from the start of the season all the way up to now. Averaging 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, his dominance on the court just continues to show. He leads the team that currently sits with the best record in the entire NBA at 41-7. Antetokounmpo holds a fairly large lead as the favorite to be the league’s MVP at the moment.
LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
LeBron’s greatness continues to shine in his 17th season in the league. Averaging a career-high 11 assists per game, LeBron has been a facilitator and one of the primary forces behind the Lakers’ great success so far in the season. As the top seed in the Western Conference with a 36-11 record, the Lakers are in a position for a potential finals matchup between Lebron James and MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
It can often be difficult to make an argument for somebody from a team with a losing record to be one of the top three MVP contenders, but Damian Lillard’s astounding play as of late puts him into this conversation. Despite a very poor start from the Trail Blazers on the season, things are beginning to improve in terms of team success. Much of this can be attributed to Lillard’s astonishing dominance over the most recent stretch of games. Lillard is averaging 29 points and eight assists per game for the season, and he’s playing right near the most efficient level that he has played at in his entire career. Also, he has just become the first player in NBA history to average 45 points per game and 10 assists per game over a six-game span. If Portland can continue to improve, and Damian Lillard keeps playing at this level, it is going to be hard to keep him out of the MVP conversation.
Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
Although LeBron’s play accounts for a great share of the Lakers overall success, Anthony Davis also has played a very significant role. The Lakers’ leading scorer, Davis has been a huge lift offensively, averaging 27 points at career-high levels of efficiency. Much more than just a sidekick to LeBron, AD has proven that he can be the go-to player for the Lakers when needed. Davis has been so good this season that a reasonable debate could be made for him to be the Lakers most valuable player thus far (yes, even over LeBron).
Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
Luka’s recent fall in the MVP race is largely out of his control. Having missed multiple games already with an ankle injury, Luka will now miss an upcoming stretch of games with an injury to the same ankle. When Luka has been on the court, he has been electric this season. Averaging 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, Doncic’s stat line is truly something special, especially for a second-year player. Given that he isn’t even 21 years old and is putting up these numbers, the only thing holding Luka back at the moment are these minor injuries.
Contact Nick Sligh nick109 ‘at’ stanford.edu.