As the first half of the NBA Season is officially over, there have been great individual performances and rim rattling highlights to bring us out of our seats. A lot of spectacular individual performances has happened this year from Kemba Walker scoring 60 points against the Sixers, Klay Thompson setting a record for 14 three pointers in Chicago, James Harden having a numerous amount of 30 point games in a row, or even Russell Westbrook having 11 consecutive triple doubles. The NBA has nothing but great talented players who know how to put a show on every single night for the people in the stands. Although we are leaving All-Star Break and transitioning to the second half of the season, the MVP race is pretty competitive at this point. Here’s who I believe are the front runners to win the MVP award by the end of the season.
1. James Harden
The reigning MVP has elevated his offensive game to another level. Going into the All-Star break, Harden currently has one of the longest streaks of 30 points or more with 31. With the teams slow start to the season alongside Chris Paul and Clint Capela being sidelined with injuries, Harden understood that he had to take over the offense completely and he has not disappointed us at all. He’s had many spectacular games this year including dropping 61 points in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. This season for Harden is kind of particular to Kobe Bryant during the 2002-03 season when Shaquille O’Neal was sidelined and Head Coach Phil Jackson asked Bryant to take over the offense while Shaq was going to be out. With that being said, Bryant went on a 9 game streak of 40 points or more and the Lakers went on to have a 7-2 record during that stretch. Now with Chris Paul back and Clint Capela hinting at returning soon, we know that Harden will not have to carry the load as much as he had to before, but we know that he will continue to remain spectacular and put up huge numbers after the All-Star break and into the playoffs as well.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak has finally risen. Throughout the years I have highly criticized Giannis a lot due to the fact that he previously failed to lead his team to success during the playoffs. Well, with the way things are looking for the Milwaukee Bucks thus far, it looks like they are going to make a huge run for a championship. With big wins against the Warriors in Oracle Arena and defeating their Eastern Conference rivals in the Toronto Raptors three out of four times this year, the Bucks have shown that they are a true threat to anyone and Giannis is leading the way for the team. Giannis this season is averaging around 27 points per game alongside 13 rebounds per game as well. Although Giannis has been a dominant force for Milwaukee, the team wouldn’t have the best record in the NBA without the support of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, and the rest of the supporting cast that do their job on the court to help the team secure a win. Many people have Giannis as the front runner in the MVP race and there’s no doubt that he has been a superstar throughout this entire season.
3. Paul George
When Paul George decided to stay in OKC after last season, the decision left people wondering what was he thinking not taking a chance to play in Los Angeles? He had a chance to join forces with LeBron and he instantly turned that offer down. Even though both LeBron and George could have been a dynamic force in Los Angeles, George wanted to continue his bond with All-Star Russell Westbrook and continue to fight battles and chase for a championship with him. Paul George might possibly be having the best season of his career. Prior to the All-Star break he is averaging around 29 points per game and has been a pest on the defensive end like he has his entire career with 2.3 steals per game. George has been a great backup superstar for Russell Westbrook and is one of the big reasons why the Thunder currently have the third seed in the Western Conference. George has had so many big games this year like hitting the game winning three pointer to defeat the Brooklyn Nets or even dropping 45 points the other week against Houston to seal a come from behind victory on the road. George’s numbers this year have been efficient and there is no doubt that he is an MVP candidate for this season. The goal is now for George to continue his spectacular play so the Thunder can continue their quest at a championship this year.
4. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry, in my opinion, is having his most underrated year of his career and deserves to be an MVP candidate. Although he is playing alongside All-Star Kevin Durant, Curry has been a lethal player for the Warriors and will always be the reason of the team’s success. This season, Stephen Curry is averaging 28.6 points per game and shooting 48% from the field this season, which is above his career percentage at 47%. Many will not have Curry in their top MVP race due to the fact that he is on a super team and due to the fact that he has won two MVP Awards already in his career. But why not put him in the race if he’s playing spectacular and his team has the top seed of the Western Conference. A lot of people view Curry to be the greatest shooter to ever play, but to me it is his longevity that stands out to be one of the most important things of his career. Curry has been marvelous this entire year and hopefully he can keep up the good play.
5. Nikola Jokic
There is no question that Nikola Jokic is one of the top big men in the game today. The way that this guy can get his own shot and also find teammates with his incredible basketball IQ is amazing. Kind of like the Greek Freek, Jokic has a great supporting cast around him in Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and even Isaiah Thomas who have just returned from injury. There’s plenty of big names I didn’t mention that have been spectacular for the Nuggets, but there is no doubt that they are playing well right behind their leader; and that is Jokic. Jokic this season is averaging a career high 20 points per game alongside 10 rebounds. The future is bright for this young big man as he can only get better with time. Throughout this season, Jokic has shown great leadership on the court as he has put his team on his back throughout several occasions to lead his team to a victory each night. Some of his stand out performances this season have been taking over the game in a come from behind win in Memphis and hitting the game winning shot to defeat the Sacramento Kings at home. Jokic and the Nuggets have shown the entire association that they are a force to be wrecking with and will give any team a run for their money anytime they step into the Pepsi Center. Jokic has all of the potential to be known as one of the greatest big men to ever play. The question is will he keep up this spectacular style of play? That is something we will figure out as his career continues on.
Honorable mentions in the MVP Race include LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Joel Embiid. The NBA has shown nothing but spectacular talent and competitive play throughout this entire season. The second half of this season is going to be very exciting as we see many teams push the pace to finish the season in a good spot for the postseason. The MVP Race is very tight at the moment and at this point it is up for grabs for everybody. At the end of the day, when the season ends the one player who has kept their consistent play will be very deserving to win the MVP of the 2018-2019 season.