*Disclaimer* Any player on a team currently outside of the Top 8 in either conference will not appear in the biweekly Chris Haynes MVP watch.
5. Damian Lillard
28.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 7.4 apg
Lillard falls two slots from our last MVP watch. The Portland Trail Blazers and their star guard have suffered a brutal month, dropping 10 of their last 15 games, and Lillard has been swarmed with aggressive, trapping defenses while dealing with multiple injuries. Portland has now dipped to the seventh seed in the Western Conference standings, currently placing it in dreaded play-in territory. With 13 games remaining, it’s going to take a monumental turnaround for Lillard to make a strong case for the award.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
28 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 5.9 apg
The Greek Freek will likely be the victim of voter fatigue, having won the last two MVP awards. But his production is still there, and the Milwaukee Bucks remain relevant at No. 3 in the Eastern Conference standings. Barring an extended streak of winning or losing, the Bucks will end the season with the third seed. Antetokounmpo’s MVP streak will end at two.
3. Chris Paul
16.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 8.7 apg
Paul cracks the list for the first time after the Phoenix Suns clinched a playoff berth for the first time in 11 years. The future Hall of Fame point guard has made his presence felt in Year 1 with the franchise. His numbers won’t wow you, but he’s a constant force who has instilled winning principles into a young squad that’s now loaded with confidence. Only a game back of the Utah Jazz for the No. 1 spot in the West, Paul and the Suns have turned the corner expeditiously.
2. Joel Embiid
29.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3 apg
Embiid slides down a spot, but it’s not for lack of production. Another center in the other conference is just on a tear. The Philadelphia 76ers have maintained the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve lost four of their last 10 games. If Philadelphia wants to lock up the award for its franchise player, earning the No. 1 seed with a healthy Embiid putting together a string of memorable game-changing performances would boost his chances.
1. Nikola Jokic
26.2 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 8.6 apg
The Joker has moved up to the top spot for the first time. The Denver Nuggets are without Jamal Murray (ACL) for the season, and Will Barton (hamstring) for the short term, and yet Jokic finds ways to lead his team to victory. Positioned at No. 4 in the Western Conference, they Nuggets are only 3.5 games back of the No. 1 seed Utah Jazz with 12 games left in the season. The Joker has a shot at securing the award down this final stretch.
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