NBA Award Watch: 2021 Most Valuable Player

The 2020-21 NBA season is roughly a third of the way through as we enter February. At this point in the season, there have been quite a few players that have performed at a level above the rest of the league.

Last season, Giannis Antetokounmpo won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award for the second straight season. While he certainly will be considered to win it for a third straight season, he’s got plenty of competition. The NBA has seen an emergence of the big man this season, with most of the guys in the MVP race playing the forward or center position.

A third of the way through the 2020-21 season, we broke down our top five MVP candidates.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

28.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.1 SPG

Only Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird have ever won three straight NBA Most Valuable Player Awards. While the odds are against him, Antetokounmpo will have the chance to be the fourth player to ever accomplish this.

While his numbers are down from a season ago, there’s no denying the massive impact he makes for the Bucks every single night. Both offensively and defensively, Antetokounmpo is typically the best player on the floor at any time. His fate of winning this award may come down to if he can once again lead Milwaukee to the best record in the NBA.

Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)

29.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.4 BPG, .434 3P% 

Kevin Durant is coming off of an Achilles injury looking as good as he ever has. After missing the entire 2019-20 season, he’s been one of the most lethal scorers in the league all season long and is second in the NBA in points per game.

Leading the star-studded Brooklyn Nets, Durant will have the opportunity to push for his third NBA championship since 2018 while also winning an MVP award along the way. With his size and length, there’s really nobody who can slow him down when he puts his mind to scoring.

Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

29.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG, .400 3P% 

When it comes to pure dominance, Embiid has taken the cake this season. To this point, nobody has even able to slow him down offensively. He’s averaging a career high in points per game as well as three-point percentage.

On the glass, Embiid has been among the best in the NBA while also being one of the best defenders in the league. He’s averaging over one steal and block per game and has been the defensive anchor that the Sixers have needed, leading them to a top-three defensive rating this season.

LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

25.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, .381 3P%

While he hasn’t won an MVP award since the 2012-13 season, he’s deserving of being in the conversation every single year. This year is no different, as he has been one of the best players in the league even in his 18th NBA season at age 36.

While his numbers aren’t the best they’ve ever been, the impact he’s made and the efficiency that he has played with have been impressive. Coming off of an NBA title, James once again has the Lakers looking like a clear favorite to win another this season. When LeBron James is on the floor, the Lakers are nearly impossible to beat. He’s also shooting one of the best three-point percentages of his entire career.

Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

26.5 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, .381 3P% 

After putting his talent on full display once again in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, helping the Nuggets to a Western Conference Finals appearance, Jokic has continued to improve in the 2020-21 season. At the center position, he averages the most assists per game (8.7) in the league.

When it comes to the modern NBA big, Jokic is exactly what a team is looking for. Not only can he pass, but the 25-year-old can score from anywhere on the floor. Whether he attacks you in the paint with his craftiness around the rim, or steps out and shows you his range, good luck slowing Jokic down offensively.