As the NBA approaches its February 10th trade deadline and all-star weekend, the race for its regular season awards is beginning to heat up. Most teams are approaching 60 total games played, and as the contenders of the NBA start to separate themselves from the pack, the NBA MVP candidates have as well.

With two months to go, it’s an appropriate time to rank the top five NBA MVP candidates during the regular season’s home stretch.

5. Ja Morant

NBA MVP

Season Stats: 26.5 PPG, 5.9 REB, 6.8 Assists, 49.3 FG%, 34.4 3PT%, 25.21 PER

What a season it has been for the Memphis Grizzlies! Currently sitting as the third seed in the Western Conference, the young squad has put the entire league on notice, and phenom Ja Morant deserves all the credit he is receiving.

In his breakout year, Morant has taken control of games through his incredible explosiveness and undisputable leadership. The all-star starter has drawn comparisons to young MVP Derrick Rose due to their similarities in playstyle and extensive highlight reel. But what is most shocking is Morant is averaging a higher points-per-game pace than the Chicago legend during his MVP season.

While Morant is not quite in the same tier as other MVP frontrunners, he is undoubtedly a name to keep close attention to as the season nears a close.

4. Devin Booker

Season Stats: 25.7 PPG, 5.3 REB, 4.3 Assists, 45 FG%, 37.3 3PT%, 20.51 PER

Can the Phoenix Suns get some more love? The lack of attention the reigning Western Conference champions are receiving this regular season is shocking, especially when the team is off to even a better start than they were a year ago.

At 44-10, Phoenix stands alone with the top record in the association, and superstar Devin Booker’s play is a major reason why. Along with being a top ten scorer in the NBA, Booker has been of most efficient players in the clutch, shooting 67.7%(!!!!) in clutch situations. While many mention Booker’s teammate Chris Paul when discussing MVP candidates, Booker has been slightly more efficient and impactful towards Phoenix’s success this year, giving him the edge on this list.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Season Stats: 29.2 PPG, 11.3 REB, 6.0 Assists, 54.4 FG%, 30.3 3PT%, 32.48 PER

While it was once a mystery who the future face of the NBA would be once Lebron James retired, the “Greek Freak” has put any debate to rest. His trophy case has expanded, winning two MVPs and a Finals MVP in three seasons.

In 2022, Giannis Antetokoumpo picked up right where he left off, ranking in the top two in the entire NBA in both points per game and player efficiency rating. Once again, Milwaukee finds themselves fighting for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and that’s primarily because of the hall-of-fame effort by the league’s best power forward.

2. Nikola Jokić

Season Stats: 25.8 PPG, 13.6 REB, 7.9 Assists, 57.8 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 33.56 PER

If the NBA MVP award was based on advanced stats alone, there would be no competition on who walks away with the award this season. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokić is in the process of having another unicorn of a season with the Denver Nuggets.

The Serbian center is on pace to shatter the single-season player efficiency rating record, topping both Wilt Chamberlain’s 31.82 from 1962-63 and Giannis’ 31.86 from his MVP season a couple of years ago. Denver is currently sitting at the sixth seed in the Western Conference. This feat is more impressive when you account for the season-ending injuries by franchise cornerstones Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

Jokić has a serious case for being the greatest passing big in NBA history and continues to be a daily triple-double threat against any team. Going back to back is a real possibility for the Joker, but as for now, one player is edging him out.

1. Joel Embiid

NBA MVP

Season Stats: 26.5 PPG, 5.9 REB, 6.8 Assists, 49.3 FG%, 34.4 3PT%, 25.21 PER

In a year where distractions constantly surrounded the Philadelphia 76ers, Joel “The Process” Embiid completely takes over every NBA game he plays. As the leading scorer in the association, Embiid may become the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 to win the scoring title.

In the post, Embiid combines old-school basketball with the skill of NBA bigs today to create an unguardable offensive game. He’s also a dominant force on the defensive end. The 76ers are firmly in the race for the number one seed in the East and got there without any other all-stars on the floor (though acquiring James Harden at the trade deadline should be a game-changer).

The only thing that can ruin Embiid’s road to NBA MVP is… his own body. It’s public knowledge that the seven-footer has had issues with remaining healthy over an entire regular season, including a 20-game absence last season, which led to him falling out of the MVP race. With a little more than 20 games remaining, Embiid can clinch the title as long as he remains on the floor.

 


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