NBA awards season nears its end as the 2020-21 Kia Most Valuable Player has been announced. Denver Nuggets Center Nikola Jokić has been named the 2020-21 MVP, making history in several ways. Jokić is the first center to win the award since Shaquille O’Neal in the 1999-2000 season. In addition, Jokić is the first player from the Denver Nuggets organization to receive the honor. The most surprising fact of all, Jokić is the lowest drafted player to win the award. Jokić was drafted 41st overall in the 2014 NBA Draft (the draft featuring 2021 MVP runner-up Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers). During the 2014 NBA Draft Jokić was (now famously) selected during a Taco Bell commercial. This season, the Denver Nuggets center played all 72 games of the shortened season while averaging 26.4 points per game, nearly 11 rebounds, and over eight assists per game. He led the team to a 47-25 record, 3rd in the Western Conference. While Jokić was able to dominate in all 72 games, other players in contention during the 2020-21 season missed significant time.
One of those names was Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. The 76ers superstar had an MVP-level season, averaging 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Embiid, unfortunately, missed 21 games this season due to injury, as well as for health and safety protocols. This season, Embiid led the 76ers to a 49-23 record, the best record in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the league.
Another star that missed some time was Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry. While the back-to-back MVP only missed nine games this season, the team missed superstar guard Klay Thompson for another season. Curry averaged 32 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game, but did not have consistent help, leading the team to a 39-33 record and a play-in tournament exit.
Another superstar that missed significant time was LeBron James. James dominated early on in the season, averaging 25, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. The Los Angeles Lakers were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference early on, but due to a combination of missing 27 games and an injury to superstar forward Anthony Davis, dropped to the 7th seed and were knocked out in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.
The MVP voting results also featured many that were expected to get votes, and a few that were not expected. Milwaukee Bucks superstar and back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had another dominating season, but competition from a stacked Eastern Conference has many questioning if Antetokounmpo can lead his team out of the East. Western Conference guards Chris Paul, Luka Dončić, and Damian Lillard all received votes after impressive seasons for all three. Jazz Center Rudy Gobert received several votes while teammate Donovan Mitchell did not. Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers received a couple of votes, while Eastern Conference guards Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Ben Simmons received votes as well. New York Knicks forward and 2021 Most Improved Player Julius Randle received votes, but many were surprised by the inclusion of Knicks guard Derrick Rose.
The 2011 MVP received one first-place vote. Alongside Julius Randle and the coaching of recently announced Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau, Rose played a pivotal part in the Knicks season, not only helping the team to a 41-31 record, but the organization’s first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season.
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