NBA MVP Race: Jimmy Butler surges into Top 6

NBA MVP Race: Jimmy Butler surges into Top 6

Each week, HoopsHype’s staff gives our Top 10 candidates for this year’s Most Valuable Player award. This list highlights stars who are in the mix for the 2019-20 MVP award due to their impressive play.

Which stars have stood out? Here are our latest MVP rankings:

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

10. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, MINNESOTA 

STATS: 25.8 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 BPG, 42.2 3PT%

One of the most productive players in basketball, Karl-Anthony Towns is putting up insane numbers for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, ranking 10th in points per game, ninth in rebounds per game and ninth in three-point percentage (minimum: 100 attempts) on the year. The advanced stats love Towns’ prowess as a scorer, as evidenced by Synergy Sports ranking the Wolves big as an excellent producer in five separate play-types: as a spot-up shooter, on put-backs, in isolation, coming off screens and as a cutter. Towns would rank higher on this list if his team hadn’t just lost four games in a row by a combined 44 points. Minnesota needs to get their star center some help.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

9. DAMIAN LILLARD, PORTLAND

STATS: 26.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 44.3 FG%

Another star player putting up big numbers for a losing team, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers have had a tough time getting on track this season, sitting at 9-15 through 24 games. It’s impossible to fault Lillard for that, however, considering how productive he’s been on the year. This season, the Blazers are 12.9 points per 100 possessions better with Lillard on the floor, proving how valuable he’s been to the team. The problem is, Portland completely falls apart during stints with Lillard on the pine, and that’s something that could cost the Blazers a shot at the playoffs. We’ll see if that affects the star floor general’s future with the team, though Lillard has stated multiple times how much he loves it in Portland.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

8. KEMBA WALKER, BOSTON

STATS: 21.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 39.5 3PT%

The Boston Celtics are excelling as a team, so it’s tough to pick just one of their players to honor in these rankings, but when forced to choose, Kemba Walker was the clear choice. Walker has acclimated wonderfully to life on a winning team, putting up impressive numbers for Boston while proving to be a fantastic teammate, which could not be said about the All-Star point guard he replaced over the offseason. The Celtics only played twice last week, but they were both matchups against top playoff teams in their respective conferences, the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets. Boston battered both opponents by a combined 32 points with Walker leading the way, averaging 23.5 points and 5.0 assists on fiery 51.5/47.4/100.0 shooting splits.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

7. PASCAL SIAKAM, TORONTO

STATS: 24.6 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.3 3PG, 46.0 FG%

Prior to last week, the Toronto Raptors hadn’t lost back-to-back games all season long. Now, they’re sitting on a three-game losing streak, and it happens to coincide with a slump from Pascal Siakam. Toronto’s burgeoning star swingman averaged 18.3 points over three games last week, shooting 38.9 percent from the floor and a paltry 14.3 percent from three-point range. Regardless, after losing Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are still exceeding expectations this year with a 15-7 record and a Top-5 league-wide ranking in net rating, and Siakam has been unquestionably the reason why, which explains why we still rank him favorably for MVP.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

6. JIMMY BUTLER, MIAMI

STATS: 20.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.8 APG, 2.2 SPG, 43.2 FG%

After not making the Top 10 of our rankings last week, Heat forward Jimmy Butler surges into the Top 6 this time around thanks to an insane four-game stretch in which Miami went 3-1 and Butler averaged 27.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.3 steals on 48.4/41.7/77.6 shooting splits. Butler earned Player of the Week honors in the East on Monday thanks to that impressive run. Despite shooting poorly on the season as a whole (43.2 FG%, 30.3 3PT%), Butler still ranks Top 7 in advanced metrics Value Over Replacement Player, Box Plus/Minus, Win Shares and Win Shares Per 48, which speaks to how incredibly valuable he’s been on both ends of the floor. Butler is one of just five players putting up a 20/6/6 stat line this season, and has Miami sitting pretty with a 17-6 and third in the Eastern Conference.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

5. ANTHONY DAVIS, LA LAKERS

STATS: 27.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.7 BPG, 50.7 FG%

The reigning Player of the Week out of the West, Anthony Davis capped an impressive four-game week with a 50-point (20-of-29 shooting), 4-steal performance for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Davis has been spectacular all season long, making a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year while still ranking seventh in the league in scoring. In years past, there’s been a lot of preseason buzz about Davis turning the corner and becoming the best player in the league, and though that hasn’t happened quite yet, the 2019-20 version of Davis is the closest we’ve come to seeing it, with the Kentucky product playing the role of a legitimate two-way monster who is among the best scorers and fiercest rim-protectors in the league

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

4. LEBRON JAMES, LA LAKERS

STATS: 25.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 50.1 FG%

Davis’ super teammate, LeBron James is also performing at an MVP level, which would explain why the Lakers are widely considered either the best, or second best, team in the league right now. The most impressive part of LeBron’s game is that although he looks like he’s playing in cruise control for the most part, he’s still producing at a ridiculous pace; James’ nonchalant nature of dominance has been downright scary in 2019-20. Per Synergy, the four-time MVP ranks as an excellent scorer out of the post, in spot-up situations, coming off screens and on put-backs. James turns 35 in a few weeks, and he’s still this good. Crazy.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

3. JAMES HARDEN, HOUSTON

STATS: 38.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 7.4 APG, 2.0 SPG, 43.1 FG%

Leading the league in scoring and nightly minutes played, James Harden is having yet another spectacular season for the Houston Rockets. While dropping a 50-spot against the San Antonio Spurs last Tuesday, Harden had a dunk called no-good by officials despite clearly going in, which you could argue cost Houston the game since the contest wound up going to double-overtime before San Antonio prevailed by two points. At the same time, you could also make the case that Harden’s (and Russell Westbrook’s) porous shooting that night were what ended up costing the Rockets the game. In fact, one troubling recent trend regarding the bearded superstar has been his shooting in general. Harden has made just 10 of his last 42 three-point attempts, good for a 23.8 three-point percentage, although he’s making up for it by averaging 16 free throws over his last three games while converting 93.8 percent.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2. LUKA DONCIC, DALLAS

STATS: 30.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.2 APG, 1.3 SPG, 47.6 FG%

At all of 20 years old, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic has been one of the very best players in all of basketball this season, putting up otherworldly numbers on a nightly basis while leading Dallas to a 16-7 record and the league’s third-best net rating (+9.4). In Doncic’s rookie season, the Mavs’ net rating was No. 21 league-wide (-1.5) and the year prior to the Slovenian star’s arrival, it was No. 22 in the NBA (-2.9), which goes to show the absurd trajectory both Doncic and Dallas as a whole are on. The one slight criticism that can be made about Doncic recently is that he’s getting too emphatic with his in-game officiating complaints. That’s not to say referees can’t be criticized, but we don’t need another Chris Paul-type of star who becomes hard to watch due to constant complaining. Thankfully, Doncic admitted he’s been too animated with the officials, and that he’s going to try and tone it down moving forward. Good. We would also be remiss not to mention that Doncic recently broke Michael Jordan’s record of most consecutive 20/5/5 games with 19 straight such games.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

1. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, MILWAUKEE

STATS: 30.8 PPG, 13.1 PPG, 5.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 56.4 FG%

All you need to do is read the above stats recap to understand why we ranked Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 1 of our MVP rankings for the second week running. If Antetokounmpo maintains the pace he’s on, he’ll become just the third player in league history to post a 30/13/5 stat line for an entire season, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor on the illustrious list. Giannis’ impact is far from empty, too, as the Milwaukee Bucks are 20-3 and have the NBA’s No. 1 net rating at +12.9. The league’s second-best team in net rating, the Lakers, are just at a +9.4. As far as Antetokounmpo’s recent form is concerned, the Greek Freak had a marquee matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers and their super wing duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on Friday. Antetokounmpo responded by scoring 27 points, securing 11 rebounds and holding Leonard to 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Outrageous averages and elite team success give Giannis the nod for No. 1 in our rankings.

You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.

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