How Has The NBA MVP Ladder Changed With Injuries To Joel Embiid and LeBron James

Published 03/28/2021, 12:16 PM EDT
Feb 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the closing second of the Lakers 96-94 loss to the Miami Heat at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA MVP race this season has been more exciting than ever, with multiple superstars having great seasons. Superstars like LeBron James to James Harden have seen their name pop up in the MVP race.


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Going into the All-Star break, three names stand out above everyone else; LeBron James, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. But a couple of weeks ago, the MVP race flipped with both James and Embiid suffering through long layoffs due to injuries.

While Embiid suffered from a bone bruise on his left leg, LeBron suffered from a high ankle sprain to his right leg. With two of the biggest contenders out, the MVP race has changed drastically. Take a look at how injuries to the 76ers’ center and the Lakers’ talisman have changed the Kia MVP ladder.


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5) Joel Embiid

After being one of the leaders of the MVP ladder for two weeks, Embiid has fallen off in the Kia NBA MVP ladder and currently sees himself in the fifth spot. Much of it has been because of the numerous games the Cameroonian has missed this season.

Feb 17, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) dribbles the ball against the Houston Rockets during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

He might have a career season averaging 29.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game but he has also already missed more than 1/3rd of the total games played. His latest bone bruise injury has been one of the prime factors due to which he hasn’t played a single game in 15 days now.

Getting back up at the first spot will definitely take some doing for Embiid.

4) LeBron James

King James might be one of the most durable players in NBA history, but the injury bug has not spared even LBJ this season. Prior to the high ankle sprain injury against the Hawks, ‘King James’ had missed only a single game for the Lakers.

Mar 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) is helped up by Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Matthews (9) and Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (4) after injuring his leg in the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

His contribution was pivotal in keeping the Lakers afloat as a top-three seed in the Western Conference who were also missing Anthony Davis. With James now out at least for a month, the champions are bound to slip in the standings and so are LBJ’s MVP hopes.

With players like Luka Doncic and James Harden dominating the West, it’s only a matter of time when we see the 36-year-old possibly out of the top five rankings. But if he makes an early comeback, he might have a real chance for a late MVP push.

3) Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard has been one of the most consistent players in the NBA. Playing for a team like the Portland Trail Blazers who have struggled with multiple injuries this season, Lillard’s contribution for Portland has been immense this season.

Jan 30, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) celebrates after making the game winning three point basket at the buzzer against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

He has missed a total of two games this season, and is averaging 30.0 points, 7.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game, and is the second-leading scorer in the NBA. Lillard is enjoying a career year with the Blazers and considering that he has led the Blazers to a top-six seed in the Western Conference, he deserves to be in the MVP conversations.

He has also benefitted from LeBron and Embiid’s absence. After being a constant in the top five in the MVP ladder, he has finally entered the top 3. If he continues his great season, he can surely become one of the favorites for the MVP trophy.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo might not have dominated the headlines in the MVP race but is quietly having one of the most impressive seasons of his career.

Mar 20, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots over San Antonio Spurs guard Keldon Johnson (3) during the first quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Having missed only three games this season, the ‘Greek Freak’ has averaged 28.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game. He might have seen a dip in his output from last season, but compared to other stars in the league, he has one of the best stat lines in the NBA.

If he can continue his fabulous season, he will surely be in the MVP conversations but might struggle with the voter fatigue in the league.

1) Nikola Jokic

Center Nikola Jokic is arguably the most important player for the Denver Nuggets. The Serbian has been simply amazing this season. He hasn’t missed a single game for the Nuggets averaging 27.2 points, 8.6 assists, and 11.1 rebounds per game.


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Feb 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) dribbles the ball up court ahead of Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Serbian has a total of 12 triple doubles this season already and is showing his all-round play this season. He has been one of the most effective players in the league, having the best PER this season.

Jokic has been absolutely sensational this season and is enjoying a career year. Considering how much the Nuggets have depended on him so far this season, he deserves to be the front-runner in the MVP race.


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The league is entering the business end right now. Given that Embiid and LeBron are still out, a player like Damian Lillard or Nikola Jokic has a real chance at the MVP trophy this season. Can Jokic or Lillard win the MVP this season, or can either LeBron or Embiid make a late push for the trophy?


Aditya Mohapatra

1029 articles

Aditya Mohapatra is a sports enthusiast who primarily covers the NBA for EssentiallySports. Having graduated in Mass Communication, he has prior experience in writing for ABP News, and has been writing for EssentiallySports since November 2020. This die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan feels that LeBron James is the best thing to have ever happened to the NBA, and will hold a healthy debate with anyone suggesting otherwise.