Sixers MVP ladder: Does Joel Embiid still have top spot?

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The 2021 NBA MVP race is starting to take shape. The frontrunners are clear — Joel Embiid and LeBron James top the rankings, and many consider it at two-person race at the moment. That said, much can change between now and season’s end. The volume of viable candidates is, frankly, overwhelming.

Embiid has by no means a cakewalk to the award. The narrative-pushing for LeBron has taken only a minor hiccup this week, while names like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, and James Harden never cease to capture the imagination of fans and voters alike. There’s a real chance someone not named Joel or LeBron ends up taking the award home.

With the season transpiring as such, we have decided to make this MVP ladder a monthly recurrence. For as long as Embiid is truly in the MVP discussion, that is.

Honorable mentions: Damian Lillard, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo

2021 NBA MVP ladder #5: Kawhi Leonard

After his performance in the Bubble raised significant health concerns, Kawhi Leonard has returned in tip-top shape this season. He’s leading the charge for a 24-11 Clippers team, putting LA firmly in the title contending conversation. The 29-year-old is averaging 26.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists on 51.2 percent shooting. He’s also playing elite wing defense.

Leonard is one of the most gifted isolation scorers on the planet. He has the strength and finesse to get just about anything. He can shoot over the top, plow through smaller defenders, or work patiently to create space. His growth as a playmaker, however, is what cements him in the MVP conversation. He has improved drastically in his ability to create for teammates since arriving in LA last season.

The Clippers look the part of a real contender, and while Paul George could sap away some of Leonard’s MVP momentum, it’s impossible to deny the cachet of a two-time Finals MVP. People know Leonard has it, and there’s no reason his case can’t gain steam over time.