NBA MVP Watch: LeBron James leads as All-Star Game approaches
The NBA All-Star Game is less than a week away, which means the 2020-21 season is nearly halfway complete.
As the midway point of the season approaches, the top MVP candidates have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack by quite a sizeable margin.
Then again, a lot can happen in a few months — especially in the NBA — so let's not put the discussion to bed quite yet.
Here are the top five MVP favorites, according to FOX Bet's insights, along with a breakdown of each candidate's stats as of Monday morning, recent play and what's on the horizon.
1. LeBron James +175
Per-game stats: Points: 25.5 (T-15th) | Assists: 7.8 (T-10th) | Rebounds: 8.1 (T-25th)
How it's going: The Anthony Davis-less Los Angeles Lakers broke out of a four-game slump over the weekend, winning back-to-back games by a combined 35 points. First, James & Co. took down the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Then they demolished the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. The blowout against the Warriors allowed James to get some quality rest, as he played just eight minutes in the second half.
What's up next: The upstart Phoenix Suns, winners of eight of their past 10, will visit Los Angeles on Tuesday in a marquee matchup. Then the Lakers visit the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday to close out the week's schedule.
What people are saying: "If anything, LeBron James has maybe gained a vote here or there, but he's definitely not done anything to harm his MVP candidacy." — Shannon Sharpe, "Undisputed"
2. Joel Embiid +300
Per-game stats: Points: 30.0 (second) | Assists: 3.2 (T-95th) | Rebounds: 11.3 (ninth)
How it's going: The good news? Embiid hung 42 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, his fourth game with 40 or more in 28 games played this season. The bad news? The Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Cavs anyway. Even with the upset, Philadelphia holds a slender lead atop the East, with a 22-12 record, putting them a half-game ahead of the 22-13 Brooklyn Nets.
What's up next: The headliner of this week's schedule is Philadelphia's clash with the Utah Jazz. Embiid did not dress when the Sixers visited Utah on Feb. 15 and lost 134-123, so it will be interesting to see how the rematch between conference leaders goes.
What people are saying: "Joel, I'm proud of him. ... I'm proud he got in shape, but the main thing [is] I'm proud he's actually playing like a big guy." — Charles Barkley, NBA on TNT
3. Nikola Jokic +500
Per-game stats: Points: 26.7 (11th) | Assists: 8.5 (sixth) | Rebounds: 10.9 (11th)
How it's going: Jokic posted his eighth triple-double of the season in just 30 minutes of work against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. The 26-year-old racked up 19 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in three quarters of action, sitting the final frame of the 126-96 win for the Denver Nuggets.
What's up next: The Nuggets continue a lengthy road trip, with stops to face the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers on deck. Interestingly, the Nuggets have proven to be a tougher out on the road than they are at home, by the slimmest of margins, with a 16-9 home record compared to a 17-9 road record.
What people are saying: "To me, Jokic and Stephen Curry have been the two best players in the league this season, but neither of their teams have been good enough to put them at the top of this list." — Brad Botkin, CBS Sports
T-4. Luka Doncic +1200
Per-game stats: Points: 28.5 (eighth) | Assists: 9.0 (T-fourth) | Rebounds: 8.4 (T-21st)
How it's going: The Dallas Mavericks continued their winning ways after a rough start to the season. The Mavs went 8-12 in December and January but 8-4 in February to even their record at .500 as the calendar flipped to March. Doncic averaged 30.3 points, 8.3 assists and 7.1 rebounds during that monthlong stretch, which included the Slovenian turning the ripe old age of 22 on Sunday.
What's up next: Likely brimming with confidence after beating the Nets 115-98 on Saturday, the Mavs head down the East Coast for a date with the Orlando Magic on Monday. Following that, a home game against the Thunder occupies the midweek slate for Dallas before the All-Star break.
What people are saying: "You can quote me: This is Larry Bird reincarnated." — Cedric Maxwell, via Marc Stein of The New York Times
T-4. Kevin Durant +1200
Per-game stats: Points: 29.0 (sixth) | Assists: 5.3 (T-38th) | Rebounds: 7.3 (T-41st)
How it's going: Durant is still on the mend and won't be back until after the All-Star Game, which he'll be a captain for, despite not playing. The Nets won six straight in his absence before falling to Doncic and the Mavs on Saturday.
What's up next: The Durant-less Nets make a swing through the Lone Star State before the break, taking on the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets ahead of the weekend's festivities. Getting back in the win column would help the Nets keep pace with the other contenders for the No. 1 seed in the East.
What people are saying: "While we are confident that Durant will return at full strength, the extra recovery time will allow him to perform at the level at which he has been playing this season once he returns." — Nets release regarding Durant's injury
Enter the NBA Challenge contest on the FOX Super 6 app for free, and you can win this week's $25,000 jackpot! Download now at foxsuper6.com!