National Basketball Association

LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard top Nick Wright's 'NBA MVP Ladder'

March 24

It's a long climb to the top of the NBA's pecking order.

Only one NBA star wins the distinction of being league MVP each year, but there are always plenty of deserving candidates.

More than 40 games into the 72-game 2020-21 season, which players have a leg up on the competition? Nick Wright broke it down on Wednesday's episode of "First Things First," using his "MVP Ladder" as a grading system.

However, Wright included a major caveat: "These are not projected finishes. This is if the season froze today, where we are with the 'MVP Ladder.'"

Here's what Wright had to say, along with each player's current MVP odds, courtesy of FOX Bet, as of Wednesday morning.

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9. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Season stats: 25.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 6.3 RPG | Team record: 28-16 (third in West)

MVP odds: +5000

Wright's thoughts: "Good stats, good team, but let's be honest: It's been disappointing, and he knows it."

8. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Season stats: 29.0 PPG, 9.2 APG, 8.4 RPG | Team record: 22-19 (eighth in West)

MVP odds: +1300

Wright's thoughts: "Surging! ... 41% from 3, averaging 30 [points], nine [assists] and nine [rebounds] since Feb. 1 for a Mavs team that all of a sudden looks like itself."

7. James Harden, Brooklyn Nets

Season stats: 25.3 PPG, 11.2 APG, 7.9 RPG | Team record: 30-14 (second in East)

MVP odds: +900

Wright's thoughts: "Leading the NBA in assists, he has been spectacular for the Brooklyn Nets. What hurts him, of course, is that he's played for two teams this year, and one of those two teams he napalmed on the way out."

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Season stats: 29.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 6.4 APG | Team record: 28-14 (third in East)

MVP odds: +750

Wright's thoughts: "The defensive numbers aren't as good, the team's record isn't as good, and it's going to be very hard to win three straight MVPs."

5. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

Season stats: 15.7 PPG, 8.8 APG, 4.7 RPG | Team record: 29⁠⁠-13 (second in West)

MVP odds: +30000

Wright's thoughts: "His team is excellent, but his counting stats are so pedestrian compared to everyone else [that] he could fall out of the top five. But I really do think that his value is unquestionably top-five."

4. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Season stats: 29.9 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.4 BLK | Team record: 31⁠-13 (first in East)

MVP odds: +600

Wright's thoughts: "At this point, the games missed has really started to hurt him. He's played 31 ... most of the guys have played 40 or more than 40."

3. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Season stats: 30.1 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.4 RPG | Team record: 25-18 (sixth in West)

MVP odds: +1500

Wright's thoughts: "CJ McCollum has missed 25 games, and Damian Lillard has the Blazers positioned to potentially move into the top four in the West."

2. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Season stats: 27.1 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 8.6 APG | Team record: 26⁠-17 (fifth in West)

MVP odds: -105

Wright's thoughts: "There's a reason he's the Vegas favorite. ... His numbers this year are out of this world."

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Season stats: 25.4 PPG, 7.9 APG, 7.9 RPG | Team record: 28-16 (third in West)

MVP odds: +500

Wright's thoughts: "LeBron's going to fall precipitously down this if we do it in two weeks and he's missed a handful more games, but up to this point, he's only missed three games on the season."

Check out Wright's full breakdown of his "MVP Ladder" below:

Nick Wright updates his NBA MVP ladder today. Find out if Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James holds the lead after his injury or if a new king has taken the crown.

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