This will be the first time all season that the Top 5 MVP Race is unchanged from the previous edition. It makes sense, as it will be more difficult for anyone to catch this group now that we are entering March. But it is still impressive, because breaking into the top five is still possible. The likes of Jimmy Butler has been working hard all season (apparently), and Kawhi Leonard might end up playing enough games at a ridiculously high rate to feature, and James Harden can still break through – especially if he can win the season battle against Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But for the past two weeks, none of them have played well enough to unseat the following group, and none of last edition’s Top 5 MVP Race have played bad enough to drop out.
1 Giannis Antetokounmpo
He’s just a tall guy that dunks all the time, right? Wrong. Giannis Antetokounmpo might shoot the ridiculous rate from three as a James Harden-type, but The Greek Freak is hitting them at a rate of 37 percent in the past two weeks.
And he has recently been taking the type of shot that Harden would go to lengths to avoid: mid-range. To be fair, Antetokounmpo hasn’t taken many mid-range shots either this season. Up until February 8, just 7 percent of his shots were considered mid-range, according to Stats.NBA.com, but in his most recent five games that has increased to 22 percent. Why? Because he watched Kawhi Leonard destroy his team using mid-range shots last year in the playoffs.
He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal: “I want to shoot that shot more, I want to be comfortable with that shot.”
He didn’t have that shot last year and it potentially cost the Milwaukee Bucks a trip to the Finals. But true MVPs find a way to get better, and that’s why Antetokounmpo is on his way to a second – and this time it might be unanimous.
2 LeBron James
If the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t been very good when LeBron James has been on the bench this season, it makes sense for him to sit against the worst team in the league. He might have chilled on the bench during his team’s 30-point win against the Golden State Warriors but it was well deserved after going for 40 points, 8 rebound and 6 assists in a fun game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
But James has also done it against some contenders in recent weeks. He helped secure a two-point win against the Boston Celtics with 29, 9 and 8, just a few days after recording a triple-double against Western Conference rival the Denver Nuggets.
James is now 35 years old. The Lakers have a real chance to win it all this year and so far he has shown that he isn’t wasting any opportunities.
3 Pascal Siakam
As mentioned in the last edition of the Top 5 MVP Race, the things that’s holding Pascal Siakam back is consistency, and that might still be the case – to the point where he almost slipped down a spot after Jayson Tatum’s hot run in recent weeks. But a 37-point, 12-rebound performance secured a good win over the Phoenix Suns, and the team followed it up with a 46-point win against Eastern Conference rival Indiana Pacers.
A loss against the best team in the league, the Milwaukee Bucks, is nothing to be ashamed of, but 24 points in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets and 16 points against the Brooklyn Nets shows that there is no room for let up.
4 Jayson Tatum
35 points and 8 rebounds is hard to average over a stretch of five games, but that’s exactly what Jayson Tatum did while leading the Boston Celtics for 4 wings and 1 loss.
But the loss was perhaps the most impressive. Against the Los Angeles Lakers in a circled game in the calendar for every NBA fan, it was clear that Boston was letting Tatum run the show on every possession – and it nearly worked. The Celtics forward scored a career high 41, efficiently, and the Lakers didn’t really have an answer for him.
The game was eventually lost by two points, but it showed that while the Lakers might be the best in the Western Conference, there is still plenty of competition beyond the Milwaukee Bucks in the East that need to be taken seriously. And with Tatum leading the Celtics, they are going to be scary for many seasons to come.
5 Nikola Jokic
It’s not been an easy couple of weeks for the Denver Nuggets. Losses to both Los Angeles teams and the Oklahoma City Thunder showed that Nikola Jokic and pals still have a little work to do.
But The Joker’s body of work this season has still been impressive, and holding the second seed in the Western Conference in no joke, especially as the battle with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Jokic’s 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists shows he can do whatever the Nuggets need of him, but, like Siakam, he occasionally doesn’t realise what is required to get the win. Often, Denver will need him to score when he is looking to be a facilitator, or vice versa, and unless the focus and consistency can be figured out, it might be time to drop him out of the top five. For now, however, he hangs on.
Huw grew up in Wales and was too much of a wimp to play rugby. He fell in love with the quiet brilliance of Tim Duncan and ended up a San Antonio Spurs fan. Huw is a Lead Writer for Double Clutch and also contributes to Sky Sports (NBA/WNBA) and Sporting News (FIBA).