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NBA MVP watch: It's Joel Embiid’s award to lose at the All-Star break

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 bi-weekly Chris Haynes MVP watch.

5. James Harden

25.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 11.1 apg

BetMGM odds: +1600

For a team to have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Harden, it takes sacrifice. And one clear sacrifice might be a legitimate shot at winning the MVP award due to the Brooklyn Nets having too many superstars on one team. But Durant (hamstring) hasn’t played in a game since Feb. 13, and Harden has been the clear-cut best player and leader during this KD-less period. Brooklyn is currently the hottest team in the NBA, winning 10 of its last 11 games entering the break and stand only a half-game back of the Sixers for the top spot in the conference. When KD returns, it’s unknown how Harden’s role will change but for the time being, he’s carrying the Nets and has officially entered the MVP discussion.

Momentum: Upward

4. Nikola Jokic

27.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 8.6 apg

BetMGM odds: +400

The Denver Nuggets have been inconsistent all season and it has had something to do with injuries and players being placed into health and safety protocol. But the one consistent has been The Joker. The offense goes through him on virtually every play and for this crazy season, it is out of necessity. Completing the first half of the season in the sixth spot will keep Jokic’s MVP chances alive, but he’ll likely need to gain ground in the standings to climb higher.

Momentum: Steady

3. Damian Lillard

29.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 8.0 apg

BetMGM odds: +1800

The Portland Trail Blazers went through a tough period, coughing up four consecutive games last week and Lillard’s MVP candidacy took a hit. But they’ve since righted the ship and enter the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak. In his last two games, Lillard dominated the fourth quarter to beat Golden State and then ended the first half of the season torching Sacramento for 44 points. Portland is fifth in the Western Conference standings without CJ McCollum (foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist). Lillard is single-handedly keeping his team in the top half of the conference, which is quite impressive.

Momentum: Upward

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

2. LeBron James

25.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 7.8 apg

BetMGM odds: +250

Had my MVP watch begun last week, James would have been No. 1. But the Los Angeles Lakers have been sliding downward as of late, losing seven of their last 10 games and dropping from first in the Western Conference to as low as fourth. With Anthony Davis still sidelined with a calf strain, the Lakers will be heavily dependent on the play of James. And his MVP fate will depend largely on this stretch.

Momentum: Downward

1. Joel Embiid

30.2 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 3.3 apg

BetMGM odds: +250

The Philadelphia 76ers’ big man is averaging career-highs in points (30.2), field goal percentage (52.1) and 3-point percentage (41.6) while leading his team to the best record in the Eastern Conference to close out the first half of the season. The 7-footer is dominating both ends of the floor so efficiently and doing it with guard-like moves. Right now, this is Embiid’s award to lose.

Momentum: Upward

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