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Kia NBA MVP Race: Final Power Rankings - May 17th, 2021

Steph Curry's recent scoring puts him into contention to win the NBA MVP
Steph Curry's recent scoring puts him into contention to win the NBA MVP
ANALYST

Now that the regular season standings are complete, so too are our power rankings for the NBA MVP award.

Although the contest was at first thought to be a three-horse race, there quickly emerged a clear winner in Nikola Jokic. Nevertheless, it may not be the most resounding win for the Serbian center as opinion is still split among the league's analysts.

He played in every game for the Denver Nuggets this year and will be one of the most-feared players in the playoffs for opposition defenses. However, Steph Curry also brought his name into contention recently after his scoring exploits. He became the oldest player in NBA history to win the scoring title since Michael Jordan in 1998 and led the Golden State Warriors to 8th seed in the West.

Combined with Joel Embiid's dominance on both ends of the floor for the Philadelphia 76ers, the final results for the NBA MVP may be closer than some would expect.

2020-21 NBA MVP - Final Power Rankings

Our final power rankings for the NBA MVP award contain the same favorites that have been included in the last three editions. Although there is one final change in the standings, we believe that these five players are deserving of the most votes after analyzing their impact this year.

Luka Doncic, Steph Curry and Nikola Jokic have all been influential in their teams' final positioning. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have each been the best players on two of the best teams.

Let's take a look at where they all fit in our final power rankings for the NBA MVP.

#5 Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic has been electric this year for the Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic has been electric this year for the Dallas Mavericks

MPG - 34.3, PPG - 27.7, APG - 8.6, RPG - 8.0, FG% - 47.9%.

Previous NBA MVP Power Rankings - 5th (-).

The Dallas Mavericks won seven of their last ten matchups, six of which came without Kristaps Porzingis. This was in large part due to Luka Doncic's brilliance as the Slovenian continued to keep the Mavs above the play-in tournament places.

They ultimately finished 5th in the West and will face a first-round rematch against the LA Clippers. Doncic will need to be at his dominant best, as he has been all season, if they are to gain revenge on Paul George and co.

A preseason favorite to win the NBA MVP award, Doncic has been in the running all year, though is likely to miss out having recorded fewer assists and rebounds than he did last campaign. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old has been terrific yet again and finished the season with the third-most 25+ point games behind Bradley Beal and Steph Curry.

#4 Giannis Antetokounmpo

Milwaukee Bucks two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee Bucks two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo

MPG - 33.0, PPG - 28.1, APG - 5.9, RPG - 11.0, FG% - 56.9%.

Previous NBA MVP Power Rankings - 3rd (↓1).

Giannis Antetokounmpo falls a place in our final power rankings not due to any weakness in his game but because of Curry's sheer brilliance. The Milwaukee Bucks leader dropped a monstrous 40 points and 15 rebounds in 35 minutes against the Indiana Pacers this week, though was held to just 15 points against the Heat.

That makes the Bucks' first-round matchup against Miami all the more compelling. Against them this year, Antetokounmpo was held to an average of 16 points and 9 rebounds across three games. However, his dominance in the paint is not to be underestimated.

Antetokounmpo is one of only two players (along with Jokic) to average at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He also has the 7th-best +/- when on the court of players that have played more than 50 games this campaign. Grabbing over one steal and one block in every matchup has also put him in contention to be named Defensive Player of the Year, though like the NBA MVP award, he will narrowly miss out.

#3 Steph Curry

Steph Curry finished the season with the scoring title
Steph Curry finished the season with the scoring title

MPG - 34.2, PPG - 32.0, APG - 5.8, RPG - 5.5, FG% - 48.2%.

Previous NBA MVP Power Rankings - 4th (↑1)

Steph Curry put in one of his all-time great performances on Sunday afternoon to keep the Golden State Warriors in the eighth seed. It was a typically masterful display from the point guard who only had to score five points on the night to win his second scoring title. Instead, he drained nine threes on the Grizzlies defense and finished with 46 points, 31 of which came in the second half.

In his postgame interview that night, LeBron James offered his two cents into the debate, stating that Curry has had the best season of any player in the league. Although he will probably just miss out on his third NBA MVP award, it has been a season for the ages from the 33-year-old.

#2 Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid
Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid

MPG - 31.1, PPG - 28.5, APG - 2.8, RPG - 10.6, FG% - 51.3%.

Previous NBA MVP Power Rankings - 2nd (-).

Joel Embiid has been a close competitor to Nikola Jokic all season in our power rankings and finishes the year as runner-up. Although he has the credentials to be worthy of the NBA MVP award, the Cameroonian has missed too many games due to load management and injury.

When he was healthy, Embiid was utterly dominant. He is a player that is not short of confidence. New coach Doc Rivers has helped get the best out of the 76ers big man, particularly on offense where he had a career-high year.

Embiid finished the season as the highest-scoring center and was 8th for defensive rebounds among all players. He had the fifth-best +/- among those who had played over 50 times (7.9) and the seventh-best defensive win share (0.135), which is the highest of any player on this list.

Most importantly, he showed up in the big games when he had previously struggled. Against the top-3 sides from each conference this year, Embiid averaged 32.7 points and 11.5 rebounds across seven matchups. Annoyingly, in measuring his worthiness for the NBA MVP, he did not partake in either matchup against Nikola Jokic.

#1 Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic has been the standout candidate for the NBA MVP this year
Nikola Jokic has been the standout candidate for the NBA MVP this year

MPG - 34.6, PPG - 26.4, APG - 8.3, RPG - 10.8, FG% - 56.6%.

Previous NBA MVP Power Rankings - 1st (-).

Nikola Jokic is, by most accounts, the recognized winner of the NBA MVP award this season. He has led our power rankings for a considerable majority of the time since the All-Star break and leads all players on this list for minutes and games played this year.

Jokic was instrumental in leading the Nuggets to the third seed in the West, especially after Jamal Murray's injury. In his absence, Denver went 13-5, during which time Jokic grabbed 12 double-doubles and two triple-doubles as one of the most well-rounded players in the league. In fact, the 26-year-old has now joined an elite club with Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain as one of only three players to rank in the top-5 for points, rebounds and assists during a season.

Should he rightfully win the NBA MVP, he will be the first center to do so since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000. He will also be only the third European player to do so after Dirk Nowitzki and Giannis.


Edited by Prem Deshpande
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