With the candidates at the top of the list dealing with injuries of late, the MVP race gets a serious shake-up, and a new leader on top.
Falling out of the countdown: Stephen Curry (previously No. 8)
While Curry deals with a tailbone injury, the Warriors are fading fast from the postseason picture. They’ve lost six of seven.
9. Donovan Mitchell (previously unranked)
Season stats: 25.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG. 5.5 APG, 44.0 FG%, 84.7 FT%, 21.3 PER
Utah has the best record in the NBA, and Mitchell’s efforts can’t go unnoticed anymore. The team has won its last nine, and Mitchell has led the way with 28.1 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting from the floor and 51.6 percent from three-point range. .
8. Kawhi Leonard (previously: No. 9)
Season stats: 25.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.9 APG, 51.3 FG%, 87.6 FT%, 27.0 PER
The Clippers and Leonard turned things with six straight wins but have dropped their last two. His long-range shooting has really dipped; he’s at just 31.6 percent from beyond over his last nine games.
7. Damian Lillard (previously: No. 6)
Season stats: 29.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.7 APG, 44.8 FG%, 38.2 3FG%, 93.6 FT%, 26.5 PER
Lillard has had a very up-and-down couple of weeks, as has his team. He had a four-game run shooting 34.2 percent from the floor and 19.4 percent from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Blazers bracketed a four-game winning streak with embarrassing losses to Dallas (by 40 points) and the Bucks (by 18).
6. Luka Doncic (previously: No. 7)
Season stats: 28.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.9 APG, 48.7 FG%, 73.8 FT%, 26.3 PER
Doncic was on fire before suffering a back injury that cost him two games last week. The Mavericks have won the last six games Doncic has played in, all on the road.
5. LeBron James (previously: No. 2)
Season stats: 25.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.9 APG, 51.3 FG%, 70.3 FT%, 24.7 PER
James is still dealing with a high ankle sprain that could take him off this list entirely in a couple weeks. The Lakers are 3-4 in the seven games James has missed so far and are now fourth in the West and fading.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo (previously: No. 4)
Season stats: 28.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 6.2 APG, 56.5 FG%, 68.7 FT%, 29.0 PER
The Bucks hit a bump in the road after their eight-game winning streak; they lost their next three before starting a new streak, beating the Lakers, Blazers and Kings. In a recent two-game series against the Celtics, Antetokounmpo totaled just 29 points.
3. Joel Embiid (previously: No. 1)
Season stats: 29.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 52.3 FG%, 85.2 FT%, 31.4 PER (Leads NBA)
He’s relinquished the top spot in the countdown because of his 10-game absence with a bone bruise in his left knee. He’ll have plenty of work to do to retake No. 1.
2. James Harden (previously: No. 3)
Season stats: 25.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 11.1 APG, 46.3 FG%, 87.0 FT%, 24.8 PER
After a win earlier this week, he said to reporters, “I am the MVP.” Difficult to argue that point right now. The Nets are 21-2 in their last 23 games, and Harden sat out one of those losses. Over that span, Harden is averaging nearly a triple-double (27.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 10.9 assists).
1. Nikola Jokic (previously: No. 4)
Season stats: 26.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 8.4 APG, 56.7 FG%, 86.7 FT%, 31.2 PER (2nd in NBA)
Jokic has the top spot by a fingernail right now. He has just been so consistently great all season long, and the Nuggets are moving up fast in the Western Conference playoff race. His 12 triple-doubles this season are bettered only by Russell Westbrook (Harden also has 12).