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The highest 5 this week within the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder:
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1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
In a win Thursday towards the Celtics, Giannis Antetokounmpo was a go-to man.
Final week: No. 1
Season stats: 27.2 factors, 12.7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1.four steals, 1.four blocks
With solely 24 video games left within the season, the Bucks have a finite period of time to discover the chances with one other big floor-spacer (Nikola Mirotic) taking part in off Antetokounmpo. The All-Star Recreation — the defense-free exhibition that it was – proved a terrific reminder of how devastating “The Greek Freak” could be with higher shooters and expertise on his facet. Make no mistake: Antetokounmpo was a dominant pressure for many of that recreation regardless of not profitable MVP honors. Mirotic provides that assist in smaller increments whereas altering issues for these Bucks. Budenholzer’s skill to design schemes that play to the supporting solid’s strengths will solely serve to spice up Antetokounmpo’s inventory. And with Harden, Curry, Paul George and the remainder of the sphere respiratory down his neck, Antetokounmpo will want each doable edge he can get to crash the MVP celebration he’s been on the skin of the previous two seasons.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets
James Harden notched his 32nd straight recreation with 30 or extra factors.
Final week: No. 2
Season stats: 36.5 factors, 7.7 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals
As a lot as Harden would little question like to win a second straight Kia MVP, the Rockets’ star has greater points to cope with within the stretch run. “I am not fearful about MVP,” he stated. “I am simply excited for the second half of the season, getting a full, wholesome roster and taking it from there.” Harden is making an attempt to safe a top-four seed in a rugged Western Convention playoff chase. The facet profit for his MVP possibilities is that to acquire that playoff purpose, he’ll most definitely need to proceed taking part in on the stage that rescued the Rockets after an 11-14 begin. He has extra assist now, what with each Chris Paul and Clint Capela again within the combine. And what higher motivation for a participant who has every part (in need of an NBA title) than to see if he can hold his 30-point scoring streak rolling, too? Harden doesn’t need to favor one precedence over one other … they’re all intertwined till the very finish.
Three. Paul George, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder
Paul George is greater than having fun with himself in his second season with OKC.
Final week: No. Three
Season stats: 28.7 factors, eight rebounds, four.1 assists, 2.Three steals
It’s a credit score to George that the MVP chase is a authentic three-player competitors proper now and never simply an Antetokounmpo-vs.-Harden dash to the end. By way of this season’s finest two-way gamers, George is true there with Antetokounmpo. George’s enchancment in that division from final season to this one is nothing in need of superb. He’s capturing an absurd 45.eight p.c on Three-pointers over OKC’s final 13 video games (by which it has gone 11-2). Toss in the truth that Russell Westbrook is a strolling triple-double each night time out and it’s simple to solid George in a brand new mild. The problem for George now could be to carry onto this place as a pack of Kia MVP contenders like James, Curry, Durant, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving and, to a lesser extent, Westbrook, make a late-season cost.
four. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry nailed 10 Three-pointers to assist spur the Warriors on to a win.
Final week: No. four
Season stats: 28.eight factors, 5.Three assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals
Curry was the toast of his hometown throughout All-Star 2019 in Charlotte, even when his mother, Sonya Curry, made the largest shot of the weekend. However now comes the true heavy lifting for Curry and the Warriors. They’ll need to work to maintain the West’s No. 1 spot as Denver and Oklahoma Metropolis give chase, and energy of schedule will likely be a severe issue for every of these groups. However Curry and the Warriors have the energy of expertise part over all comers, within the convention and past. A wholesome roster, one refreshed from every week off for large males Draymond Inexperienced and DeMarcus Cousins, will definitely help the trigger. Curry’s benefit in issues is that there will likely be a lot stress utilized to the Warriors’ different stars that he might discover his spots a little bit simpler (and positively as usually) as he’d like. This season has made it clear how essential Curry is to the Warriors working at their peak. If a 3rd straight title is within the plans, it has to come back with Curry taking part in MVP-level ball on the street to the playoffs and past.
5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers will likely be with out Joel Embiid for a minimum of one other week.
Final week: No. 5
Season stats: 27.Three factors, 13.5 rebounds, Three.5 assists, 1.9 blocks
It’s unclear how the information of Embiid’s week of relaxation with a sore knee goes to have an effect on the 76ers and their possibilities of making an attempt to climb within the Japanese Convention standings. The “load administration” for “The Course of” is little question going to affect Embiid’s standing right here, the place a participant’s availability throughout the stretch run is maybe probably the most crucial trait for staying within the MVP dialog. That will be a disgrace, as a result of Embiid was having fun with the best stretch of his NBA profession. Plus, no group wants time for his or her newly fashioned core group to develop chemistry than Philly does. The one facet advantage of including Tobias Harris on the commerce deadline is that there’s a pure pecking order in place for the Sixers whereas Embiid rests. Harris will get many extra reps as a predominant possibility with Embiid out, which ought to pay dividends when the league’s most dominant middle in unavailable. Embiid ought to have loads of time to remain in/struggle his method again into the top-tier combine right here — supplied his load administration interval solely lasts every week. Something longer and it may find yourself costing him this perch.
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The Subsequent 5
6. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
7. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
eight. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
9. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
10. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
And 5 extra: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; Damian Lillard, Portland Path Blazers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz; D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder
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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You’ll be able to e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and comply with him on Twitter.
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