Kia Race To The MVP Ladder

Kia MVP Ladder: Stephen Curry's scoring run has him climbing the ranks

The Warriors star has been on a scoring barrage to help him rise in our latest look at the Top 5 Kia MVP contenders.

With outstanding performances game after game, Stephen Curry has put on dazzling performances throughout the 2020-21 season.

Stephen Curry’s hot streak cooled, but ignition for another battery of brilliance might be in the offing with Golden State scrapping hard for a postseason berth.

“It was a great run,” Curry said on the heels of a rough shooting night (7-of-25 from the floor and 2-of 14 from deep) Wednesday in a 118-114 loss to the Washington Wizards that slammed the brakes on his 11-game streak of 30-point performances.

“It was going to end at some point,” he said. “Now, you’ve got to start another one.”

Stephen Curry speaks after his historic run of 30-point games ends in Washington.

That’s imperative for improving Golden State’s chances of returning to the playoffs, as well as Curry’s burgeoning prospects for capturing a third Kia MVP award.

Curry checks in at No. 5 in this week’s edition of the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, and Denver’s Nikola Jokic maintains a firm grip on the top spot, as we head into the final month of the regular season.

Appearing on the Rex Chapman Show — which aired on Thursday — Curry became the latest of potential MVP candidates to lay claim to the award. In doing so, he joins the likes of Joel Embiid and James Harden. Asked by Chapman if he was the MVP, Curry didn’t hesitate.

“I mean, I’ve got to be,” Curry said, somewhat in jest. “I’ve got to be. I probably won’t get it, but whatever. I like to be dramatic sometimes. So, I’m just setting the table.”

Realistically, Curry faces difficult odds in making a legitimate case to win this year’s Kia MVP, especially when considering how a team’s win-loss record affects a player’s candidacy. The NBA expanded to 16 teams for the 1984 playoffs, and since then there’s never been an MVP playing for a team that finished the regular season seeded seventh or lower in their conference, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Even when Russell Westbrook won MVP in 2017, Oklahoma City finished that season 11 games over .500 and earned the sixth seed for the postseason. If Golden State managed to run the table the rest of the way, it would finish the season 12 games above .500.

To date, the Warriors are 29-30 (.492).

Only two MVPs in history played for teams with records below .500. Bob Pettit won the 1955-56 MVP leading a 33-39 St. Louis Hawks squad, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar captured the award in 1975-76 playing for a 40-42 Los Angeles Lakers team.

Curry faces off against Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Friday at the Chase Center, which will allow fans to enter the arena for the first time this season.

“We’re going to enjoy the atmosphere,” Curry said. “It’s definitely noticeable if you have even just 1,000 fans in the seats. It makes a huge difference in the atmosphere.”

And now, the Top 5 this week in the 2020-21 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder:

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Last week’s ranking: No. 1

Season stats: 26.4 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 8.7 apg, 1.4 spg

Shaq, Kenny and Chuck debate on who is leading the race for MVP.

Admit it, you expected Jokic and Denver to fall off some after Jamal Murray suffered a torn left ACL on Apr. 12. The Nuggets are 4-0 since Murray’s injury with Jokic averaging 29.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists over that span. In fact, Jokic has averaged 28.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 10.1 assists in the 10 games that Murray has missed this season. As a testament to Jokic’s ability as a playmaker, each of the Nuggets’ starters scored at least 12 points in Wednesday’s win over Portland, which registered as the 20th consecutive win in which all of the starters hit double digits in scoring.

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Last week’s ranking: No. 2

Season stats: 30.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg

Joel Embiid scored 28 points in a showdown with the Warriors this week.

Shaquille O’Neal considers this year’s Kia MVP race a neck-and-neck affair between Embiid and Jokic, but the Hall of Famer gives the nod to the Sixers big man because “he’s playing the game like he’s supposed to be playing.” As well as Embiid has played, Philadelphia is losing momentum, having dropped three consecutive games including Thursday’s showdown against fellow MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. Embiid poured in 17 points in the first half on 8-of-15 shooting, but the 76ers trailed by 17 points at the half. Through the first three quarters, Embiid registered just three rebounds, compared to 11 from Antetokounmpo over that span.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Last week’s ranking: No. 4

Season stats: 28.5 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 6.0 apg

Giannis Antetokounmpo ran wild to fuel the Bucks' win against the 76ers.

In just his fourth game back after missing six in a row to start the month, Antetokounmpo helped Milwaukee snap a two-game losing streak to keep pace near the top of the Eastern Conference with a 27-point night in a 124-117 win over the Embiid and the 76ers. Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 16 rebounds to go with two blocks and a steal. Playing in just five games in April, Antetokounmpo is shooting 62.5% from the field and just 18.2% from 3-point range. Antetokounmpo and Embiid match up again on Saturday in Game 2 of an early doubleheader on ESPN.

4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Last week’s ranking: No.3

Season stats: 28.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 8.7 apg

Luka Doncic goes for 30 in the Mavs' win against the Lakers.

Dropped a trio of 30 pieces this week as Dallas rebounded from two consecutive losses to secure a pair of victories in a back-to-back set against the Pistons and the Lakers. Over his last five games going into Thursday’s win over Los Angeles, Doncic was averaging 30 points on 48.6% from the field. Doncic is now just two 3-pointers away from notching 500 for his career. As you know, Doncic desperately wants Dallas to avoid the Play-In Tournament and reiterated as much after Thursday’s game. “We’re trying to get the sixth spot, maybe even better, to avoid the Play-In,” Doncic said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to win every game.”

5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Last week’s ranking: No. 9

Season stats: 31.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.9 apg

Stephen Curry erupts for 49 to take down top team in the East

Stephen Curry scored 49 points in a tough road win against East-leading Philadelphia.

Curry faces a steep climb into legitimacy as an MVP candidate, but his ascension this month has been a joy to watch. Curry has averaged 38.7 points over 11 games in April, shooting 52.3% from the field and 47.1% from range. “Usually, the trend of our seasons, or my seasons, [is] getting better as each game goes,” Curry said. “I’m glad this season’s no different; just trying to continue to get better and build that confidence of playing my best basketball towards the end of the season.” The teams eyeing spots in the Play-In should be a little worried about the possibility of facing Curry and the Warriors with the playoffs on the line.

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The Next Five:

6. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

7. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

9. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

10. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

And five more: James Harden, Brooklyn Nets; Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz; Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns; Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets; Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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