The season in the NBA thus far has been defined largely by one thing: incredible performances by the stars of the league. The scoring has been astronomical, and the faces of the league are putting up statlines like we’ve never seen before. The extremities have led to so many different characters making MVP cases that change on a week-to-week basis. There are enough high-performing faces of franchises consistently that the MVP award could be given out to them for a variety of reasons and you wouldn’t really have too many issues with their case.
However, no team is bulletproof, just like every MVP case isn’t bulletproof. There’s a minimum of one reason why one of these stars shouldn’t win MVP that could hold them back, so that’s what we’re going to do. Using the top 6 stars in odds, we’re going to poke a major hole in their argument for winning the MVP at the end of the year.
Nikola Jokic- “Only the greatest winners of all-time should win MVP three times in a row.”
Nikola Jokic has won the MVP Award twice in a row and hasn’t slowed down one bit- putting up the steady triple-double averages on a night-to-night basis in a fashion that looks fun to play with, the statistics come naturally as opposed to selfish stat-hunting, and has even carried the Denver Nuggets to the top seed in the Western Conference. It’s the best position Denver has been relative to the rest of the league in years, and his numbers and team-oriented style where everything flows through his 25.9 PPG, 10.7 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game as arguably the best-passing 7-footer ever.
The issue? Jokic has no titles to his name and no Finals appearances. Granted, he’s never had the benefit of his healthy trio of Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray during their early exits, and it is a regular-season award, but voters are going to look at the reality that only players to three-peat winning the award have been Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird, all who are some of the most legendary and championship-winning players in NBA history. It’s just hallowed ground that voters may feel sacrilege to put Jokic in until he’s had more postseason success in an era where points are easier to attain, as unfair as that is to the Joker.
Luka Doncic- “He’s putting up heroic stats on a bad-to-mediocre team”
Doncic is putting up unreal numbers with a usage rate that might eventually break his back with how much he’s carrying the team on it. Leading the league in points, and his own team in rebounds, assists, and steals. He even had the legendary triple-double game against the Knicks with a 60-21-10 statline, something not even Wilt Chamberlain had done before.
It’s easy to get that high-usage when the other tools in the toolshed is one of the weakest supporting casts and poorly-constructed roster in the league. Point being, if Doncic didn’t have to put up those ungodly stats, Dallas fans would prefer it if it meant he was getting more help. When you have a player as talented as Doncic that’s capable of putting up this kind of production at such a young age, you should want to capitalize on building a team around him that could elevate the Mavs to the top of the Western Conference. Winning matters in terms of value, and this absurdity might not mean anything to voters as Dallas is in the middle of the pack.
kounmpo- “It’s not a peak Giannis or Bucks season”
Giannis is still playing basketball as if he’s a mutant among mortals with his long limbs thundering drives in mere steps to the basket as he averages 32 and 12 a night without even relying on the three-ball like other pivotal scorers in the league. He could easily win the award for the third total time merely on being the most-athletic specimen that is the straw that stirs the drink on a Bucks team trying to win another NBA Finals.
The only issue? The narrative isn’t there. He wasn’t going up levels to elevate his game when he won his MVPs and Defensive player of the year despite averaging more points this season, and the Bucks, while still third in the Eastern Conference, have had some duds this year that make it feel as if they’re going through the motions until they can avenge their loss to Boston in the postseason. After having the hottest start in the league, they’ve had some bad blowouts or inexcusable losses to teams like Charlotte, Atlanta, or San Antonio. The killer mentality that has defined Giannis’s elevation and the Bucks doesn’t feel there this year, which might take away some of the glamor of his gaudy production.
Jayson Tatum- “He’s a product of the best all-around team and system in the NBA”
Tatum has objectively been the best player on the best team in the NBA thus far, averaging 31 and 8 on a team that has coasted with the best record for the entirety of the season. If he wins the award, it may feel like the cop out of rewarding the best player on the best team despite Tatum not having to shoulder as much of the responsibility as some of the other candidates that are the bread-and-butter to the roster where everything flows through them. The supporting cast of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and possibly the deepest roster in the NBA where Mazzulla can even get production out of the ghost of Blake Griffin when they’re short-handed has allowed Boston to put up some of the highest offensive efficiency in NBA history. If he continues to make plays in the spotlight, or has “Heisman moments,” if you will, where his individual prowess and importance to the team are more highly-projected, it could seal him the award, but he might appear to be just the most-important piece in a well-oiled machine.
Kevin Durant- He does not care
“IM ME, I DO ME, AND I CHILL”
This was Kevin Durant’s Twitter bio for years. He generally does not care about anything but just playing fun basketball. He needs not to know about your complaints about wanting to play in a certain place, he does not care about chasing otherworldly stats to put up numbers, he just wants to play fun, winning basketball.
Ever since the Nets abided by his request at firing Head Coach Steve Nash, Brooklyn has had the best record in the league and all of the offseason turmoil with trade rumors and off-the-court Kyrie controversies have been a thing of the past because Durant just gets to “be him and chill.” He doesn’t put up the usage-rate or absurd points on a night-to-night basis because he doesn’t feel that he has to if it means that the team is winning, and it all comes to him. When it does come to him, his efficiency from the midrange has brought his shooting percentages far over the 50-40-90% statline.
The only problem? He may not care enough to put up the numbers every night. He won’t force the extra shot to reach a triple double, he lets the game come to the team if it means Yuta Watanabe needs to take the extra shot and he needs to focus more upon the defensive end. Also, unfortunately for the politics of it all, the trade request this offseason and openly giving the team an ultimatum- him or the Coach and GM, may be too blasphemous for the voters on their high horse.
Durant will just continue to do whatever it takes to win a championship, already having an MVP in the bag. He does not care.