NBA MVP watch: As Damian Lillard rises, LeBron James and Joel Embiid in danger of falling out

Chris Haynes
·3 min read

*Disclaimer* Any player on a team currently outside of the Top 8 in either conference will not appear in the biweekly Chris Haynes MVP watch.

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo

28.3 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 6.3 apg

BetMGM odds: +1000

Winner of the last two MVP awards, the Milwaukee Bucks star makes the list for the first time this season. It was never an indictment of the play of Antetokounmpo, but the Bucks did not start the season off well. They have since found a groove and are a threat to snatch the No. 1 seed. The Greek Freak is a little late to the MVP party, but he’s not out of it.

Momentum: Upward

4. James Harden

25.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 11.1 apg

BetMGM odds: +500

The Brooklyn Nets have overtaken the Philadelphia 76ers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, albeit just by a half-game. Harden has been the catalyst in this surge and is building a formidable argument as he proclaimed last week that he views himself as the MVP. He may have a point, but there are more games to be played. Whenever Kevin Durant (hamstring) returns, Harden will have time to prove that he’s still the MVP of the league.

Momentum: Upward

(Graphic by Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Graphic by Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

3. (tie) LeBron James/Joel Embiid

James: 25.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.9 apg

BetMGM odds: +900

Embiid: 29.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.3 apg

BetMGM odds: +800

These two candidates are close to falling out of the Top 5 due to extended absences. Embiid has been out since March 12 with a bone bruise in his knee, and James has been sidelined since March 20 with a high ankle sprain. The Philadelphia 76ers are getting their star back this weekend, while the Los Angeles Lakers still have some time before James returns. But time is running out for their MVP cases, especially for James.

Momentum: Downward

2. Nikola Jokic

26.5 ppg, 11 rpg, 8.4 apg

BetMGM odds: -130

The Denver Nuggets center has moved up two slots from my last installment. He’s arguably been the most consistent candidate all season. And he’s receiving help (Aaron Gordon acquisition) at the right time to build on his case. In a very wide-open race, Jokic has as good a chance as any to make history by being the first Nugget to win MVP.

Momentum: Upward

1. Damian Lillard

29.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 7.8 apg

BetMGM odds: +1200

The Portland Trail Blazers’ franchise guard earns the top spot. His durability (even though he’s dealing with a litany of injuries), his unmatched clutch prowess, his load carrying and his leadership have kept the Trail Blazers in playoff contention while their second- and third-best players were sidelined for significant portions of the season. The Norman Powell deal should help Portland climb the standings, and if so, Lillard could snag the franchise’s first MVP award since Bill Walton received the honor 43 years ago.

Momentum: Upward

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