The NBA trade deadline will shortly be upon us. We’ll probably see a few trades here and there before the cutoff. While NBA teams are focused on making trades, we’re going to take a look at the top five NBA MVP rankings at the trade deadline. Our last NBA MVP rankings came early in the season. While some names remain the same, there are a couple names who weren’t previously ranked. Take a look back at our first NBA MVP rankings here.
Now that you know where our NBA MVP rankings sat last time around, let’s take a look at who tops the list at the NBA trade deadline.
NBA MVP Rankings
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Season stats: 36.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game
28 straight games of scoring 30+ points. A league leading 36.5 points per game. His team right in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race. It’s hard to make a case against James Harden as the NBA MVP leader right now. Harden is getting it done in just about every category. His 36.5 points per game not only lead the league, but are an average of 7.2 more points per game than the next guy (Anthony Davis). That average of 36.5 points per game to this point in the season is by far Harden’s highest scoring average of his career. His previous high is 30.4, which came in his MVP season last year. In addition to his insane scoring output, Harden is also averaging the second most rebounds and third most assists of his career.
Perhaps what is most important though, is the fact that Harden is averaging the most steals (2.2) and blocks (0.8) per game of his career. Harden isn’t just putting up historic scoring numbers. He’s putting up historic scoring numbers while playing maybe the best defense of his career. James Harden has carried a heavy load this season due to his teammates missing time here and there. While not everyone has been available for the Rockets, James Harden always has been.
A knock on Harden being ranked first is the fact that his team currently sits fifth in the Western Conference standings. While that may be true, we have to remember how poorly the Rockets started. They weren’t in the playoff picture for a good chunk of time. Harden has fought hard for the Rockets and dug them out of a hole many thought they wouldn’t come out of.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Season stats: 26.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks
Giannis Antetokounmpo was once the clear favorite for MVP, but then James Harden exploded. While Harden has taken the top spot in the NBA MVP rankings, it doesn’t mean Giannis is out of the MVP race. Not by any means. The Greek Freak currently has his team sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 40-13. That’s also the best record in the NBA. You could easily make a case for Giannis to be No. 1. His biggest case to be ranked there is his teams’ current status.
Like James Harden, Antetokounmpo is doing a little bit of everything for the Bucks. He currently averages 26.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. In addition to those numbers, he’s shooting a career high 57.2% from the field. His points, assists and rebounds all lead the NBA’s best team.
If you want to knock Giannis for something, it’d have to be his three point percentage. He’s shooting 19.3% from that range this season, but believe it or not, that’s actually not a career low. Giannis hasn’t developed that area of his game yet. Knock him on that if you want to, but it’s incredibly hard to deny literally everything else he’s doing for the Bucks.
At just the age of 24, Giannis is still getting better. He’s improved every single season in the league, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to do so over the next few years. Forget the stats for a minute though. His stats are great, but even if you don’t look at them, it seems like Giannis has taken his game to the next level. He’s truly become the star for the Bucks. He’s their go to guy. Expect him to stay at the top of the NBA MVP rankings the rest of the season.
3. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season stats: 28.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.5 blocks
Some may not think Paul George deserves to be this high in the NBA MVP rankings, but I do. You can’t deny what Paul George is doing for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. Right now they’re sitting with a record of 34-19. That’s good enough for the number three spot in the Western Conference. If Paul George wasn’t having the season he is, the Thunder would likely be somewhere in the range of the six to eight seed right now, if they were in the playoff picture at all.
George’s fellow teammate and former MVP Russell Westbrook is once again averaging a triple-double. He’s averaging 21.4 points, 11.0 rebounds and 11.1 assists. His 11.1 assists actually lead the NBA right now. So, if Paul George has a former MVP on his team who’s averaging a triple-double and leading the league in assists, why is he ranked third in the NBA MVP rankings?
Well, while Russell Westbrook is averaging 21.4 points per game, he’s not shooting at a very effective rate. His field goal percentage for the season is just 41.7%, his lowest since his rookie season. He’s also making three point shots at a percentage of just 24.8%. Paul George has made up for Westbrook’s ineffective shooting. His 28.0 points per game are a career high for him, by a big margin. His 2.3 steals per game are also a career high. That also leads the league. Those aren’t the only career highs for George this season. He’s also averaging a career high in rebounds (7.9).
With Paul George playing at this level, the Thunder actually look like a team who can win a playoff series and make a deep playoff run.
4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.5 blocks
Kawhi Leonard may not have the Raptors as the best team in the Eastern Conference anymore, but that doesn’t matter. They’re still sitting in second place at this moment. With Kawhi leading them, it’s pretty much a guarantee they’ll be a top three seed in the conference come playoff time. Regardless of their record, what I really like about Kawhi Leonard’s play this season is how he’s helped the Raptors turn into a legit Eastern Conference team.
The Raptors have been good in previous years, but everyone knew that come playoff time, they would fall. Ever since Kawhi got to Toronto, there’s a different feel about this team. They feel like a team who can actually win the Eastern Conference and then have a legit chance at winning a championship. That all starts with Kawhi.
Leonard has missed 14 games this season. Despite him being out, the Raptors still did fairly well. It’s fair to knock him on that if you want to, but I’d argue that without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are just the same pretty good team who wouldn’t have a legit chance at winning a championship. They may be a good team without Kawhi, but he makes them legit.
His 27.3 points are a career high for him. His 7.9 rebounds are also a career high. There’s just something about Kawhi Leonard that makes him feel like a different player this season than in any season he spent with the Spurs.
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks
Curry is probably the toughest player for me to accurately judge in the NBA MVP rankings. When I rank MVP candidates, I want a guy who elevates his team when he doesn’t have others to help him do so. Yes, James Harden has Chris Paul, but he’s been hurt and is getting older. He’s never been a lights out shooter either. Giannis Antetokounmpo has Khris Middleton, who’s a border line All-Star. Paul George has Westbrook, but he’s not an effective scorer this season. Kawhi Leonard has Kyle Lowry, but I think he’s also a border line All-Star.
Who does Steph Curry have? He’s got Kevin Durant, who’s arguably the best player in the NBA. He’s also a former MVP. Then there’s Klay Thompson, who despite having shooting struggles this season is one of the best shooters ever and can go off at any moment. He’s also got Draymond Green, who is always a defensive player of the year candidate. Now he even has DeMarcus Cousins. It’s one thing to win with one other or no other stars, but it’s another to win with four other stars. Of course they’re going to win with those guys!
Despite having all those players, you can’t deny Curry’s production. That’s why he makes the top five NBA MVP rankings. With four other star players, Curry still averages 28.9 points per game. That currently ranks third in the NBA.
Numbers six through 10
6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
7. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
8. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
9. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
10. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers