The MVP debate has really started to heat up as the NBA reaches the mid-way point of the season.
Front-runners have started to distance themselves from the pack, while dark horses have started to appear.
James has shown no signs of slowing down, even in his 18th season.
Embiid appears to be entering his prime with improved conditioning.
And Jokic has been a one-man offense for the Denver Nuggets.
But of these top three, who is the favorite?
LeBron has been the best player in the world for a decade-plus and should probably have more than his 4 MVPs.
.@ShannonSharpe on who's the MVP for the 1st half of the season:
"The best player in the NBA is LeBron James, but given what Joel Embiid did last night, that was unbelievable. I'm going to say Embiid has a slight lead in the MVP race." pic.twitter.com/uTSw75TyZF
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) March 4, 2021
He is always in the discussion, but his consistent greatness has been overlooked by voters.
Awarding him the MVP this year would be like a lifetime achievement award.
But lifetime achievement awards aren’t given out as MVPs.
As far as the MVP race is concerned, Joel Hans Embiid should be leading the pack.
James Missed Opportunity with Davis Out
Through the first 28 games of the season, LeBron probably was the MVP front-runner.
He didn’t miss a single game – averaging 25.5 PPG, 8 APG, and 8 RPG across 34.6 MPG while slashing .498/.381/.710.
But then Anthony Davis got injured and has been missing the last 9 games leading into the All-Star break.
James had a chance to distance himself from the pack if he could put the Lakers on his shoulders and carry them until AD returned.
While LeBron’s counting stats didn’t drastically fall off, LA struggled as a team.
Lakers since the Anthony Davis injury, not counting last night when LeBron sat out: pic.twitter.com/PWzPTUejK7
— Jason Timpf (@_JasonLT) March 4, 2021
James’ 27 PPG, 7.1 APG, and 8.1 RPG weren’t enough, with the Lakers going 3-6 and falling to T-3rd (James was inactive for 1 of the losses).
This 9-game stretch could have been huge for LeBron’s MVP case.
If he had kept the Lakers treading water in 2nd place without his co-star, that would’ve been big in the voters’ eyes.
Instead, he conceded ground to Embiid and Jokic.
Players who both finished out the first half strong.
Embiid Has Been Brilliant
No disrespect to Nikola Jokic, but Embiid has been the better player this season.
But his impact on the defensive end is minimal.
Joel is a monster on both ends of the court for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Through his first 30 games this season, @sixers @JoelEmbiid has 905 points, 348 rebounds and 41 blocks. The only other players to post 900/300/40 through 30 games since blocks were first tracked in 73-74 are:
Bob McAdoo (1974-75 and 1975-76)@kaj33 (1974-75)
— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) March 4, 2021
He is nearly unguardable on offense while being able to guard everything on defense.
His presence alone deters opponents from entering the paint.
Since sitting out of the Utah game on February 15th, Embiid would average 31.6 PPG, 13.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 1.8 BPG across the final 8 contests before the break.
This was all capped off by a dominant showing against supposed DPOY candidate Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz.
A game that saw Embiid score 40 points, grab 19 boards, make numerous defensive stops, and hit the game-tying 3 to send the game to OT.
It was maybe his best performance of the year.
Joel Embiid absolutely dominated Rudy Gobert tonight.
— Did The Sixers Win? (@DidTheSixersWin) March 4, 2021
Basketball fans always knew the Sixers’ center was capable of play like this.
He just needed to focus on his conditioning to stay healthy.
Joel has only missed 6 games this year while averaging 33 MPG – nearly tied for his career-high.
His elite play on both ends of the court is a major reason the Sixers are the #1 seed in the East for the first time since the 2000-2001 season.
Current MVP Rankings
If Embiid continues his sensational play in the second half of the season and the Sixers clinch the top seed in the East, there shouldn’t be much debate on the MVP.
But as it currently stands, there are a few players who could make a second-half push.
James and Jokic have already been mentioned and will remain in the discussion until the year ends.
Others to keep an eye on include a few former MVPs and the pre-season favorite for the award.
Stephen Curry is having an incredible year for the Golden State Warriors.
He’s putting up numbers similar to his ’15-’16 campaign when he was the unanimous winner.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the back-to-back award winner and seems primed to a late-season surge.
Voter fatigue may hurt his case this year.
Luka Doncic is continuing his rise to superstardom, averaging close to a triple-double with 28.6/9/8.4.
He will need to drag the Mavericks higher than their current 8 seed to get consideration, however.
And finally, James Harden has been playing lights-out for the Nets.
Since arriving in Brooklyn, he has helped the Nets kick their offense into hyperdrive.
They’ve won 10 of their last 11, sit in 2nd place in the East, and Harden is a massive reason why.
The Nets have won 10 of their last 11 games. James Harden in that span:
Making his case for MVP. pic.twitter.com/T2qLmH9Z4r
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 4, 2021
Team success always factors into MVP discussions.
Considering individual numbers and winning, here is how my MVP rankings shake out.NEXT: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. LeBron James: (Who's Better?)