Predictions for NBA MVP and 2021 All-NBA Team

By Akiva Wienerkur   April 20, 2021 

Predictions for NBA MVP and 2021 All-NBA Team

The 2021 NBA MVP landscape has been as chaotic as any season in recent memory, with multiple players at different points in the season seeming like frontrunners.

Prior to the James Harden trade to Brooklyn, Kevin Durant was having a vintage season after missing all of last season due to injury, averaging 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game while shooting a career-high 54 percent overall and 46 percent from three-point range. But a knee injury just before the All-Star Break cost him nearly two months of his season and all but eliminated him from the conversation.

His teammate, Harden, was happy to step in. Harden reinvented his reputation with the Nets. Known as a ball-dominant scorer in Houston, Harden happily deferred to Durant (when healthy), Kyrie Irving, and the other talented offensive options on Brooklyn. Harden remained an efficient scorer, but quickly became the team’s best playmaker, leading the NBA in assists. But a quad injury has cost Harden the last two weeks and severely impacts his chances. 

LeBron James was leading a Lakers team that has played most of the season without Anthony Davis. James was playing at a high level and would be the oldest MVP in NBA history, giving him a nice story – which never hurts – to go along with his on-court production. But James has been out nearly a month with an ankle injury. 

Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, both strong candidates themselves (especially Antetokounmpo, who has won back-to-back MVP awards), have also been in and out of the lineup for long stretches with injuries. 

If durability AND production are both factors in the decision, the only player really alive in that conversation is Denver’s Nikola Jokic. Jokic is averaging 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists per game. His assists per game average put him fourth in the league and, for a while, he was actually leading the league in assists. No center has led the league in assists since Wilt Chamberlain, so Jokic is truly special to even be in that conversation. He’s also shooting over 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range.

Apr 19, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) attempts a free throw in the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jokic has also led the Nuggets back near the top of the West standings after a sluggish start for the team. Denver is fourth in the West, just 2.5 games behind the Clippers. He’s also responsible for an even bigger role in the offense now that Jamal Murray is out for the season with an injury.

But, if how insanely a player is closing the season sways voters, there’s no one who is beating Steph Curry. Here are his scoring totals in his last nine games:

  • 49 points vs. PHI 
  • 47 points vs. BOS 
  • 33 points vs. CLE 
  • 42 points vs. OKC 
  • 53 points vs. DEN 
  • 38 points vs. HOU 
  • 32 points vs. WAS 
  • 41 points vs. MIL 
  • 37 points vs. ATL

Against the Sixers, Curry had 20 points alone in the fourth quarter and made all five of his three-point attempts. He’s shooting 56 percent overall over his last 10 games and 49 percent from three-point range. He needs to raise his overall field goal percentage by less than a percentage point to be having a 50-40-90 season for just the second time in his career. His 31 points per game are a career-high, and he’s now just a tenth of a point per game behind Bradley Beal for the scoring lead. It would be Curry’s second career scoring title.

Curry has also missed games due to injury, but if voters focus on the “most valuable” aspect of the discussion, there’s little doubt that Curry means more to the Warriors than any other player in the conversation. Take him off of Golden State and you’d have, well, last season’s Warriors, that were among the worst teams in the league.

Jokic currently has the best odds of winning the MVP according to NBA futures odds, and Curry is still low on the list at 100-1. But that is no doubt going to change soon. Here are our top five picks for MVP this season:

  1. Curry
  2. Jokic
  3. Embiid
  4. Antetokounmpo
  5. James

Here are our picks for the All-NBA First Team: James Harden, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic.

Here are our All-NBA Second Team picks: Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid.

The three biggest snubs from those lists are probably Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, and Donovan Mitchell. But Mitchell plays on one of the deepest teams in the league, and it’s hard to take Doncic or Booker over Lillard. Lillard isn’t a good defensive player, but he’s kept Portland afloat (once again) through several key injuries. Doncic isn’t a good defender either, but Lillard’s Blazers have been better than Doncic’s Mavs this season. Booker is a great player, but Paul’s leadership, efficiency, and defense have driven the Suns to the next level.

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