NBA

Under-the-Radar MVP Candidates at the All-Star Break

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As the first half of the season has come and gone, we’ve seen the usual NBA superstars dominate the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo is putting up numbers that we’ve never seen before.  

And at this point, it seems like Giannis will run away with his second consecutive MVP award  — he’s the clear favorite with average odds to win at -325, according to SBD. The other usual suspects in the MVP race include James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.  

While all of these superstars are incredibly worthy of the MVP consideration, we think the list might be a bit longer than you think. 

As we head into the second half of the NBA season, let’s take a look at some dark-horse MVP candidates.

Luka Doncic

We all know that Luka Doncic has had an incredible second season in the NBA. He’s even been voted an All-Star starter, joining some of his childhood heroes in the lineup. Luka has earned praise from the league’s best, including his childhood idol LeBron James. 

At this point in the year, Luka’s numbers are out of this world. The Maverick’s star is averaging 28.8 PTS, 9.5 REB and 8.7 AST — simply dominant. 

Luka well deserves to be part of the MVP conversation, but we’ll need to see how his ankle injuries impact his performance and his time missed down the stretch. 

 

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard has been flat out insane as of late. Just this month, Lillard has had games of 61, 47, 50, 48, 51 and 42 points. He’s been on an absolute tear, leading the Portland Trail Blazers back into the race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference after the team’s slow start to the season. 

According to the folks at Sports Betting Dime, “Damian Lillard has seen his average price shorten significantly after his historic January, down to +2300 from +7000.”

If he continues his scoring streak after the All-Star break, we expect Lillard to continue to rise in the MVP conversation. And if the Blazers reach the playoffs after their sluggish start, Lillard could benefit from the comeback narrative. We all know that NBA voters value playoff teams most.

Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell is a bonafide superstar on a contending team — a true recipe for MVP potential. 

Mitchell’s high level of play has helped boost the Utah Jazz to the fourth seed in the Western Conference, trailing only the Clippers, Nuggets and Lakers. The first-time All-Star’s explosive play rarely goes unnoticed on both ends of the floor and has resulted in a 24.3 PTS, 4.3 REB and 4.3 AST per game stat line.

Mitchell is relied upon by the Jazz to be their crunch-time ball-handler and scorer, and he willingly takes on that role. Mitchell, just in his third year in the NBA, is a player we expect to be seriously considered as an MVP candidate for years to come.

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler is the MVP. Listen, we know that Giannis is dominating at an all-time rate. James Harden is putting on a show every single night. Kawhi is a seemingly unstoppable force. And LeBron, well, he’s LeBron. 

But who means more to their team than Jimmy Butler? Let’s set the numbers aside and check this out. 

Jimmy Butler left Chicago. Jimmy Butler left Minnesota. Jimmy Butler left Philadelphia. 

None of these teams got better.

In fact, it’s fairly easy to say that all of these teams have gotten worse without Jimmy’s services. 

He’s a bonafide leader, one of the league’s hardest workers, and he gets the most out of every teammate he’s ever played with (even if they end up hating him). And let’s not forget that Jimmy has the Miami heat sitting in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Who expected that? We can’t say we did. 

Butler is playing 34.5 minutes per game and giving the Heat 20.5 PTS, 6.8 REB and 6.3 AST every night. He’s leading a team of up-and-comers toward hosting a series in the first round of the playoffs this summer.

On top of that, Butler has shot the ball very poorly throughout this entire season. What happens when he gets on track offensively? MVP happens.

Nights like these against his former team might just catapult Jimmy into very, very serious consideration. 

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