Way Too Early 2021 NBA MVP Award Predictions

March 22, 2021by Zach Selwyn0
BasketballFeaturedNBAOpinion Features

Way Too Early 2021 NBA MVP Award Predictions

Way Too Early 2021 NBA MVP Award Predictions: Nikola Jokić vs. James Harden - Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets/Brooklyn Nets

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Twitter: @ZachSelwyn1

Joel Embiid. Wait, no, Nikola Jokić. Or possibly Luka Dončić. Oh, I forgot about James Harden. LeBron? Hmmm. Oh, and of course there is Giannis and Lillard… I’m so confused.

Predicting the 2021 NBA MVP Award

The NBA MVP conversation starts to heat up every single year around this time. A bunch of so-called “experts” chime in with their unpopular opinions about who should be the season’s NBA Kia MVP, even though we are still only a little more than halfway done with the season. (By the way, I hate that Kia sponsors the MVP trophy. That’s like having Natural Light beer sponsor Wimbledon.)

To me, this discussion never makes sense to me at this point in the season.

A Way Too Early Discussion

On March 5th, many websites had Joel Embiid penciled in for his impressive season in which he is averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds. Of course, a bone bruise recently sent him to the sidelines, so his MVP chances just diminished greatly. Only two weeks later, the same website had Nikola Jokić as the frontrunner, citing his recent hot play and near-nightly triple-doubles. Oh, and on February 15th, LeBron James was the runaway favorite. (Of course, Solomon Hill rolling over LeBron’s leg has certainly changed that entire discussion.)

Then, half of ESPN’s reporters tweeted that James Harden was the favorite, especially after he recently became only the 4th player in NBA history with 100 40-point games.

Also around the same time, NBA Twitter lit up with comments saying that, “Harden can’t be in the MVP conversation because of his games in Houston.” Uhm, okay – are we forgetting what he did in Houston? Remember when he went to Vegas, partied with strippers, got chubby, came home, and put up 44 points and 17 assists? The man is a professional scorer and probably should have won the award a second time in 2019 before the NBA rewarded Giannis.

What is the MVP Award Really About?

Look, I love Giannis. Having the Greek Freak win the MVP was great for international basketball. And great for the NBA. And one more reason that this award is almost more political than deserving. Even Kyle Kuzma said in a post-game interview that the NBA Kia MVP Award is political because if it wasn’t, “Bron would probably have 6-8 MVPs” to his name. I can’t argue there. Especially when LeBron wins an MVP one season, and then the next season, has BETTER numbers and watches the award go elsewhere. LeBron even said, “I should have more than four.”

So why is the MVP award such a topic of discussion all the time? What does it really mean? Late ESPN announcer Stuart Scott used to think it should go to the player “who has helped his team win the most games.” Makes sense... but it just doesn’t work that way.

Giannis now has back-to-back trophies, so my guess is that there is no chance he is going to win this year just so the league can anoint somebody else to a higher plateau. Even if Giannis finishes the year averaging 40/15 and 10. This type of thinking has watered down the MVP for years, going back to the Karl Malone/MJ days in 1997 – and nobody ever seems to think that the league gets this award correct.

What an MVP Can Do For A Player

Let’s be honest, when a player wins the MVP, things change. Jersey sales skyrocket, endorsements appear out of nowhere, and special shoes get made. The award is a badge of honor, and why wouldn’t the NBA want as MANY MVPs or former MVPs as possible playing on the court at the same time? In the past ten years, 7 different players have won the award. All 7 still play in the league. This is exciting for fans to know that they are watching the best and brightest talent available when they tune into NBA games. (Even Derrick Rose, whose injury-plagued career never got back to MVP levels, is still a draw at many arenas).

So, having a new player every year or two rise to get voted as the best in the league is a smart business decision. Do you really think the world is going to notice if LeBron wins another MVP? Sure, it will be an accomplishment beyond recognition, but I dunno it seems a little… BORING.

So, for now, I’m penciling in Nikola Jokić, only because he hasn’t won it yet. Do I think he deserves it over say, Harden, Giannis, or even Lillard? What about past two-time winner Stephen Curry? Not necessarily. In a fair world, I think the Beard is the NBA MVP, but his controversial comments and trade demands make this just too risky of a choice for the league.

By the way, I never understood why the NBA doesn’t have an Eastern and Western conference MVP. Baseball does it. Why not the NBA?

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2021 NBA MVP Award Picks (Based Purely on Political Reasons)

That being said, here are my top 2021 NBA MVP Award picks, based purely on political reasons that mean nothing in the game of basketball.

1. Nikola Jokić

Stat Line: 27.1 PPG, 11.0 RBS, 8.6 Assists

This season’s double-double leader, he is helping Denver win a lot of games. Besides his impressive numbers, he’s a good face for the league, he’s international, and doesn’t seem to complain about bad calls, his teammates, or even having to play in Denver. You wish Harden would sometimes be more like him.

2. James Harden

Stat Line: 25.3 PPG, 8.0 RBS, 11.1 Assists

Just as impressive of a player as we’ve seen in the league. A true game-changer who is probably more deserving of this award than people think. In the ‘90s NBA, Harden would have played his entire career on one team and won three awards. The fact that he has changed teams thrice hurts him.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Stat Line: 29.1 PPG, 11.8 RBS, 6.2 Assists

30-point games, triple-doubles, and most importantly, WINS. Giannis is the most exceptional talent in the game and a joy to watch play. BUT, there is no way he wins three MVPs in a row – especially without an NBA Championship under his belt.

4. Damian Lillard

Stat Line: 30.6 PPG, 4.5 RBS, 7.8 Assists

Look, Lillard is forever the most slept-on player in the NBA. “Dame Time” is so exciting and fun to watch, but his team has been badly hurt with the loss of CJ McCollum this year. Once again, Lillard will be looked over for the MVP Award, and it may have something to do with him playing in Portland.

5. Luka Dončić

Stat Line: 29.4 PPG, 8.4 RBS, 9.2 Assists

Everybody’s pre-season MVP Luka has fallen a bit lately, but I’m not sure WHY. This guy is as deserving as anybody else on this list. It may have to do with the fact that Luka is only 22 and that the Mavericks might only win 40-43 games this season. And he complains to the refs. A lot. Still, Luka is a dark horse and a good guy to bet on finishing this season STRONG.

So…Who’s It Gonna Be?

Looking at the statistics here, it will all come down to the following information.

1. Only three players have won three MVPs in a row, the last being Larry Bird from ‘84-‘86 (Sorry, Giannis).

2.The MVP usually comes from a team who is on top of their division, or at least in second place. Since 1985, the MVP has come from a team that didn't finish first or second only twice (Sorry, Dame).

3. Only four MVPs have been 23 years old or younger (Sorry, Luka). That leaves Jokić and Harden as the potential winners of the 2021 NBA MVP Award.

Of course, with so much time left in the season, anything can happen, and there’s a chance some dark horse like Kawhi Leonard comes out of nowhere and claims the crown. It’s doubtful, but remember – all it takes sometimes is Solomon Hill to roll over your ankle to disrupt your dominant season. Nobody wants to see that happen, but it’s part of the game. After all, even LaMelo Ball’s runaway Rookie of the Year campaign looks to be over.

That being said, I just put 500 bucks on Steph Curry. Ya never know…

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