LeBron James’ high ankle sprain has turned the NBA MVP race on its head. James joins Joel Embiid on the sidelines. The pair were the frontrunners for the award not so long ago, but both face an uphill battle with prolonged periods out of action.

Nikola Jokic has become favorite in the absence of LeBron and Embiid. Jokic was in the mix already. His NBA MVP case is strengthening on an individual level, though Denver’s win column could be an issue come voting time. The Nuggets are currently fifth in the Western Conference.

NBA MVP Rankings – March 24th

This is still set to be the most captivating MVP race in years. The combination of team success, underachieving, overachieving and injuries makes for an even contest, a contest featuring some of the league’s premier talent.

As of March 24th 2021, here are our NBA MVP rankings.

LeBron James

Prior to his injury, LeBron James was a slight favorite to win another MVP award this season. James’ candidacy now relies on his return date. Will he play enough games to remain in the race? Can his high ankle sprain recover quicker than expected?

       

The narrative push for LeBron is overwhelming. He begun campaigning for this award in the bubble, and there’s a sense of desire among voters to crown the King as MVP for a fifth time.

This injury has hit his chances hard. He’s due to miss several weeks, which would likely end his chances. With his track record of quick recovery, though, it would be foolish to write him off altogether.

Joel Embiid

Like LeBron, Joel Embiid’s injury could take him out of the race. For now, though, he’s still worth consideration. Embiid was the frontrunner prior to his injury. The Sixers are still the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

If the Cameroonian returns in the next week or so, he can play his way up these rankings in no time. For now, this fourth place is a hedge against the Sixers being cautious with his return.

Embiid was playing the best basketball of his career. He’s draining mid-rangers, he’s defending at a high level, and he’s delivering in the clutch.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

It doesn’t take much to make a case for Giannis Antetokounmpo to win MVP. He’s putting up awesome numbers once again. The Bucks are good. They could yet take a top two seed in the Eastern Conference.

Voter fatigue is at play. No one has won three MVPs in a row since the 1980s. It’s a feat not even LeBron James or Michael Jordan have achieved. The postseason struggles of the Milwaukee Bucks cast a shadow over Antetokounmpo’s MVP candidacy, rightly or wrongly.

It would have been disingenuous to leave Antetokounmpo out here, however. The Greek Freak is every bit as awesome as he was last season. He probably won’t win, but he’s right in the mix.

Damian Lillard

Only Bradley Beal is scoring more per game. Only Steph Curry is making more threes. Damian Lillard kept the Blazers afloat without C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, and they could yet make a push for a top four seed.

It’s been Dame Time a lot in 2021. He’s having an all-time clutch season, willing the Blazers to wins in the face of defeat. Maybe playing in a small market on the west coast is working against him once again, but there’s no doubt Lillard is putting up an MVP level season.

There’s only been one Blazers MVP (Bill Walton in 1978). Lillard is not going to get a better chance to win the award.

Nikola Jokic

Sixth in assists, seventh in rebounding and seventh in scoring, Nikola Jokic is having an historic season. These are freak numbers for a center. He’s fifth in steals per game for good measure.

When Embiid and James were hurt, Jokic was the natural successor as favorite. He’s the comprehensive leader in offensive win shares and offensive box plus/minus.

This comes down to Denver. It’s hard to win MVP if your team isn’t in the top four. The Nuggets are currently fifth in the West. Jokic is on course to win the award, but the Nuggets need to go on a second half run if he’s to build a lead while Embiid and LeBron are injured.

The Jokic versus Lillard debate becomes very interesting if the Blazers break the top four and Denver doesn’t.

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