NBA MVP rankings: Joel Embiid ranks top two and a Nikola Jokic stat you have to see to believe

As the trade deadline approaches, the NBA MVP race is still wide open, and the task of finding a separation between so many top contenders continues to be a difficult task. That said, Nikola Jokic becomes the fairly universally accepted favorite to win that third straight, something that hasn’t happened since Larry Bird in the mid-’80s.

Below is my MVP rankings coming into play on Monday, January 23.

1. Nikola Jokic

What I’m about to tell you might go down as the most insane stat you’ve heard in this season which has been full of insane stats: Nikola Jokic has shot at least 50% from the field in the 41 games he has contested this season. In his last two MVP seasons, the most consecutive games he had without a shooting effort below 50 was nine. Again, he’s 41 straight to start this season. Absolutely crazy. And yet, it is the story of what is, at present, the most effective shooting season in NBA history.

Embiid is rising fast in this run alongside the Sixers who become the No. 2 seed in the East. He’s averaging 35 points per game since Dec. 1 on 42%+ 3-point shooting. During that span, the Sixers outscored opponents by 8.7 points per game in his minutes. That’s the best points differential of anyone on this list not named Jokic. He’s become a mid-range machine again while increasing his frequency at the edge and he’s the best defensive player on this list, as evidenced by Philly’s No. 7 overall defense down more than seven points per 100 possessions when he is seated, by CTG.

The Mavericks have lost seven of 10 and I think a top-four seed, at a minimum, is a requirement for Doncic to have a realistic chance of becoming MVP given the strength of the field. He is by far the worst defensive player on this list, which, again, in a tiebreaker situation is a real factor. Or at least it should be. That said, no team is more dependent on its star than Dallas is on Doncic, who, don’t get me wrong, has been incredible all season: 33 points per game. Has his 3-point percentage of 38 since Dec. 1. Only Giannis and Embiid reach the free throw line further. Off-Chart Usage. Definition of an MVP.

Over the past seven weeks, among players with any realistic consideration for the MVP, only Jokic has recorded a more positive points-per-game differential in his minutes than Durant’s plus-8.3. Per Inpredictable, Durant has taken 58 clutch shots this season — defined as having a “high impact” on a game’s outcome — and he’s rocking just under 60 eFG on those shots.

Short of Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo (who fell into the top five of the MVP race in my opinion), Durant has a case as the most impactful superstar defender in the league, while being in the middle of a historically effective mid-range shooting. season and operating as one of the most efficient pick-and-roll players in the league. If anything, Durant’s recent absence only bolsters his MVP case as a Nets lost their first four without him to bad teams.

Tatum followed up a 51-point gem against Charlotte with a 19-rebound performance against Golden State, Boston’s two wins. It’s a good illustration of Tatum’s ability to lead his team to the league’s best record in all sorts of ways. He is as complete a player as we have in the league.

Boston is still a positive team when Tatum is seated (plus-9.1 on; plus-2.2 off), which can’t be said for any of the other guys on this roster when they’re seated. Denver, for example, goes into the tank when Jokic sits. The Sixers are a point differential virtual replica of the Celtics when Tatum plays, but go minus-2.5 and fall off a cliff defensively when Embiid sits. Tatum having great teammates shouldn’t penalize him in the MVP race, but it could potentially be a tiebreaker for some voters on a close call.

Always in the race

Leave a Comment