As Christmas Day approaches and the NBA standings begin to emerge after the first third of the season, the race for end-of-season prizes is heating up.

The battle for MVP is as wide open as it has been in recent seasons with a group of players who have put together worthy campaigns, so we’ve got you covered with our top five.

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A few players worth mentioning:

  • Demar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
  • Tra Young, Atlanta Hawks
  • Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
  • Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
  • LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

DeRozan narrowly missed joining the top five after his strong start to the season, while he missed the Butler-James match abroad.

5. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

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His stats don’t necessarily jump off the page, but Paul is the driver for one of the best teams in the league and influences the most important part of the game: winning.

With 10.1 assists per league game to match 14.5 points, Paul gives shade to the former Suns goalkeeper who earned two MVP Cups at Steve Nash.

Having led the Suns to an 18-game franchise winning streak, Paul quietly gets into his business and takes on the Suns in the wake of The Warriors in the Western Conference arrangement.

In typical CP3 fashion, he makes a difference at the end of games and is among the top 20 scoring players this season. Paul ranks first in the percentage of field goals in those situations, which leads to absurdity 60.9 percent of shots in matches within five points in the last five minutes.

Playing alongside Devin Booker would make it difficult for CP3 to win the award as the duo share a lot of the team’s offensive responsibilities, but at this point in the season I don’t think there were more than four players better than Paul.

4. Giannis Antikonmo, Milwaukee Bucks

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The defending champions have somehow slipped off the radar this season and although their squad suffered injuries, Antetokonmo kept them afloat, sitting at 19-11 with the league’s record fifth best.

Over the last 20 games, the Bucks’ tally is 15-5. With Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday in and out of the squad, along with the long absence of Brock Lopez, Antetokounmpo has been a driving force in keeping their season on track, playing the Swiss army knife for the Bucks, filling the position, creating the offense and doing just about everything for his team.

He currently ranks second in the league with scoring (27.0), sixth in rebounding (11.6), and 12th in blocks (1.6) and among the front-court players, only Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic average more assists (5.8) than Greek Freak.

The Bucks’ sluggish start to the season put his MVP campaign behind, but the way he’s played over the past few weeks has put him back in the conversation.

3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

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Zack Lowe from ESPN He made an impassioned appeal to Jokic’s MVP cause this week and while the Nuggets’ 14-14 record doesn’t quite lose you out of the water, the reigning MVP’s playing level certainly does.

MORE: Nikola Jokic made a case for her recurrence as MVP

Jokic leads a injury-ravaged Nuggets team, setting up a historic season, even better than the one that earned him the title of MVP in 2020-21.

Through 26 games, he finished fifth in the league with scoring (26.6), second in rebounding (11.2) and tenth in assists (7.5) – the only goalkeeper without points in the top ten. , and tied 58.8 percent of the field and 37.9 percent of the 3-point line.

All this puts him on the right path to achieving the highest level Player Proficiency Rating (35.0) In the history of the NBA.

With him on the ground, the Nuggets are a good team. Without it, they are close to terrible. If that doesn’t scream MVP, I’m not sure what the other one does.

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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In the final quarter of the season, the Sporting News unanimously voted Curry as the favorite on their Player of the Year list, and while he grabbed the headlines this week, becoming the NBA’s all-time leader in 3 points, it’s put him in second place as of now.. . Just.

MORE: Inside Steve Curry’s Journey to Becoming a 3-Point King

Curry arguably had the best showing in the league this season, leading the Warriors to an astonishing 23-5 record to sit at the top of the Western Conference, but he’s had some ups and downs, with Four of his 10 worst performances in archery Coming this season.

Having said that, his numbers so far have been ridiculous, taking a career high of 13.4 3 throws per night and pegging him at 5.4 points per game. Is the best player in the league improving?

When it comes to MVP, team success matters, and you can’t ignore the way Curry has coordinated the Warriors this season, winning matches and making the roles around him even better. Furthermore, he has been an excellent defender this season, in the standings 3rd place in defensive winning quotas And Fourth in the defensive classification, according to the Basketball Reference.

Not only does he benefit from being on the team with the best defense in the league, he has improved his individual defense as well as in pick-up and roll positions, fighting through screens and taking more responsibility in that regard without Klay Thompson in his lineup.

Curry has done more than enough to stand as the MVP of the tournament, save for one man…

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

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The Nets have struggled for consistency in the squad this season, with Joe Harris sidelined, James Harden still finding his rhythm and the long absence of Kyrie Irving. But through it all, Durant kept his team atop the Eastern Conference standings at 21-8, and overcame many of their problems with his outstanding level of play,

Durant averaged a league-best 29.7 points with 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting at 52.3 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from depth.

His 51-point performance against the Pistons gave him the best-scored game of the season, edging out Curry’s 50-piece in November. Two days later, he dropped a 34-point triple to lead the Nets to victory with only eight active players on the roster, followed by a game-winning performance against 76 players Thursday night.

Consistency is what sets Durant apart this season, scoring more than 20 points in all but one game, and he leads the league for most games totaling 30 points with 13 points.

Despite all the injury-related absences and health and safety protocol that have affected the nets this season, Durant has cemented them in Sixth best defense in the league.

“Defense wins games and gives you more power on the offensive side,” Durant said. “If we play great defense we will have more freedom on the offensive end. It starts with me as a guy setting the tone on both sides of the ball, so I try to do that as much as possible.”

As it stands, I think the MVP will eventually come down to a fight between Curry and Durant. And while there’s still plenty of ball to play, the Nets and Warriors will likely finish in the top three of their respective conferences, which will constitute a back-and-forth battle for their former teammates.

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