The penultimate NBA MVP race rankings are here, and while things jumble around a bit, those at the top aren’t going anywhere.
Falling out of the race: LeBron James (No. 9) – Only just returned from his high ankle sprain after a 20-game absence, and doesn’t seem close to 100 percent in the two games he’s played.
James Harden (previously No. 3) – Has played exactly 4:22 on an NBA court since March 31 and isn’t close to returning.
9. Donovan Mitchell (previously No. 5)
Season stats: 26.4 PPG 4.4 RPG. 5.2 APG. 43.8 FG%, 84.5 FT%, 21.4 PER
Mitchell has missed his last eight games with an ankle sprain and is expected to miss about another week. But he’s had a very strong season. Here’s hoping he returns healthy for the postseason.
8. Chris Paul (previously unranked)
Season stats: 16.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 8.8 APG, 49.4 FG%, 38.4 3FG%, 93.3 FT%, 20.9 PER
The Suns are tied with Utah for the top spot in the West, and Paul is the straw that stirs the drink. He is playing at a high level, which is remarkable, as he’ll turn 36 years old later this week. Perhaps he’ll disqualify himself from the “Best players never to play in the NBA Finals” list in a month or so.
7. Damian Lillard (previously: No. 8)
Season stats: 28.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.6 APG, 43.6 FG%, 37.8 3FG%, 92.7 FT%, 24.5 PER
Lillard hangs on in the countdown, although his shooting numbers continue to slide; he’s at 38.6 percent from the floor over his last 18 games. Portland could be an early playoff upset victim if Lillard can’t find his shot soon.
6. Kawhi Leonard (previously: No. 6)
Season stats: 25.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.1 APG, 51.6 FG%, 87.8 FT%, 26.9 PER
Leonard’s foot injury ended up costing him nine games, but he did return over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Clippers are just 4-4 in their last eight games, just about completely out of the running for the one-seed.
5. Stephen Curry (previously unranked)
Season stats: 31.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.8 APG, 48.6 FG%, 42.6 3FG%, 91.6 FT%, 26.1 PER
The Warriors are headed for the play-in tournament in the West, but don’t blame Curry. He’s been dynamite over the last five weeks, averaging 36.5 points per game, six points a game more than anyone else in the league. He scored 20 in the fourth quarter of a 49-point night against the Sixers two weeks ago.
4. Luka Doncic (previously: No. 7)
Season stats: 28.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.9 APG, 48.6 FG%, 72.8 FT%, 25.9 PER
Doncic continues to crank out numbers and carry the Mavericks to wins. Dallas is 6-2 over the last two weeks, behind Doncic's 28.9/8.4/10.3 averages. The Mavs will be an interesting playoff matchup for whomever draws them in the first round.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo (previously: No. 4)
Season stats: 28.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 6.1 APG, 56.5 FG%, 68.3 FT%, 28.8 PER
There were concerns when Antetokounmpo played just 46 seconds against the Rockets before rolling his ankle. All he did his next game was drop 49 points and eight rebounds in a statement game against the Nets. While a third straight MVP looks unlikely, he won’t be out of the conversation for the MVP anytime in the foreseeable future.
2. Joel Embiid (previously: No. 2)
Season stats: 29.3 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 51.2 FG%, 85.4 FT%, 30.8 PER (2nd in NBA)
Embiid’s season averages have been affected recently by blowouts; the Sixers won three straight games by a total of 97 points, and Embiid didn’t play more than 25 minutes in any of them. He's still currently the most unstoppable force in the NBA.
1. Nikola Jokic (previously: No. 1)
Season stats: 26.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 8.5 APG, 56.8 FG%, 86.0 FT%, 31.1 PER (Leads NBA)
You see the numbers he has put up this season, but the most important stat on his resume is zero – the number of games he has missed. The other eight players on this list have missed an average of 10 games apiece. It’s no contest. The MVP belongs to the Joker.