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NBA MVP Race 2020-21: LeBron James leads latest February Power Rankings

Los Angeles Lakers leader LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers leader LeBron James
ANALYST
Modified 16 Feb 2021
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As we approach the halfway point in the 2020-21 season, the NBA Power Rankings for MVP are heating up with the three favorites - LeBron James, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic - separating themselves from the chasing pack.

With the league's ever-changing landscape, we can expect conversations and favorites for the award to adjust as teams rise and fall. The NBA's best side often includes the MVP, as was seen with Giannis Antetokounmpo's recent dominance.

And this year may be no different, with the LA Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers currently among the league's best sides.


2020-21 NBA Power Rankings: Grading the current favorites for MVP

In ESPN's first straw-poll of MVP voting, LeBron James led the way among the media's favorites to win the award. The LA Lakers veteran has had a blistering start to the season, as too have dominant centers Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.

This article will take a look at who we believe are the current leaders in the NBA Power Rankings for the Most Valuable Player and how they have landed there.

While the leaders cannot be debated, those competing outside the frontrunners are up for debate. They could make their way into the top three of the NBA Power Rankings come the end of the month.


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#5 Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.

Luka Doncic makes it into our NBA Power Rankings, closely ahead of the likes of Steph Curry and reigning holder of the award, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Coming into the season, the young guard was the favorite to win the trophy and has recently started to show his ability after a slow start. Doncic is averaging close to a triple-double (29.1 points, 9.4 assists, 8.6 rebounds) per game, having registered seven so far.

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The Dallas Mavericks started the season cold as Doncic took a while to get going and heat up. However, the Mavs have won four of their last five games, with their superstar playing some of the best offensive basketball the franchise has ever seen.

Now that Kristaps Porzingis is healthy, we can expect to see Doncic rise up the NBA Power Rankings for MVP as his numbers improve.


#4 Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant.
Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant's game has changed. And although the star forward has had to miss games this season due to fatigue and the league's health and safety protocols, he is still firmly among the favorites in the NBA Power Rankings.

As one of the Brooklyn Nets' leaders and arguably the star around whom the current team has been built, Durant has picked up where he left off prior to his Achilles injury in 2019.

The 32-year-old is averaging his highest points per game (29) since his MVP season in 2013 and is shooting a career-high 43.4% from downtown.

After a three-game absence, Durant returned to the Nets squad in his first game against the Golden State Warriors since he left the franchise. The forward dropped 20 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds in the encounter. His adapted style of play was praised by former teammate Draymond Green after the game.

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It's only fair to expect Durant's performances to improve as the season progresses, and this could see him rise further up in the NBA Power Rankings.


#3 Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.

The first of our three favorites in the NBA Power Rankings for MVP is Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Without the Serbian, the Nuggets would likely be struggling outside the playoff positions, given the Western Conference's competitiveness.

Jokic helped his side secure a payback victory over the Lakers and LeBron James on Sunday, with the center outscoring his MVP rival.

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At 25, Jokic has a bright future ahead of him and has taken his game to a dramatically higher level this season. Amidst Denver's slow start, Jokic remained consistent and is currently averaging career-high numbers across the board.

Without Jokic on the floor, the Denver Nuggets' offensive rating drops from 119.8 points per 100 possessions to 100.4. This dependency justifies the reasoning for his place in the top three of our NBA Power Rankings.


#2 Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Joel Embiid competes against Miami Heat.
Joel Embiid competes against Miami Heat.

Narrowly ahead of his positional rival, Joel Embiid comes in at second in our NBA Power Rankings. Embiid's ranking can be attributed to the Philadelphia 76ers' current record and his all-round improvement.

The All-Star center missed Philadelphia's recent loss against the Utah Jazz. The 76ers have struggled in Embiid's absence, and Doc Rivers' side will be hopeful of finding a way to win without their talisman.

Embiid has the 76ers atop the East with an 18-10 record. He is averaging career-high points and efficiency from both the field and the free-throw line.

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If the 76ers continue their current trajectory, then it is likely Embiid will remain a fierce contender to LeBron James for the MVP award. As we've seen previously, winners of the award quite often come from one of the league's best sides. However, Embiid has his work cut out if he is to rise to the top spot of our NBA Power Rankings.


#1 LeBron James

LeBron James dunks for the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron James dunks for the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his 18th year in the league, LeBron James leads the way in our NBA Power Rankings. King James looks hungrier than ever to win not only his fifth title but also his fifth MVP award.

At 36, James is leading the way for his teammates by averaging 34.6 minutes per game. The legend is currently leading the Lakers in both points and assists.

With Anthony Davis facing another stint on the sideline, we can only expect James' NBA MVP stock to rise in the coming weeks. When his co-star was ruled out previously, LeBron produced some of his finest performances this season, leading the Lakers through two overtime wins.

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James must have felt aggrieved after being overlooked in the NBA MVP race in previous seasons. However, he is the firm favorite on betting sites and in the media for the award this time around.

The future Hall of Famer is set to lead All-Star voting yet again as he continues to adapt his game and make himself impossible to guard.

Published 16 Feb 2021, 23:24 IST
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