2020 NBA Playoffs MVP Rankings: Who's the King of the Bubble so Far?
The 2020 NBA playoffs have yet to disappoint, with a mix of familiar faces and rising superstars taking over games.
Veterans like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Jimmy Butler have led their teams to early advantages or already carried them to the second round, while Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray are establishing themselves as postseason stars.
While players such as Damian Lillard and Nikola Vucevic have put up big numbers for their respective teams, facing 3-1 deficits and +25000 championship odds likely means their playoff experiences are about to come to an end.
Taking into account individual and team play, quality of opponent and 2020 championship odds via FanDuel, these have been the most valuable players in the bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.
No. 8: Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics
Per-Game Stats: 27.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.3 blocks, .487/.452/.720 shooting, plus-14.5
Advanced: 27.5 percent usage, 60.7 true shooting percentage, 19.0 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +1000
The Boston Celtics are one of three teams to have pulled off a first-round sweep. The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors received balanced scoring from their rosters when taking down their opponents, but no individual player did more than C's forward Jayson Tatum.
The 22-year-old is leading the Celtics in scoring, rebounding and blocks while picking up extra ball-handling responsibilities with Gordon Hayward out with an ankle injury.
Playing a Philadelphia 76ers team without Ben Simmons helped the Celtics cruise to a a sweep, and Tatum did most of the heavy lifting.
No. 7: Jamal Murray, G, Denver Nuggets
Per-Game Stats: 30.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, .557/.524/1.000 shooting, plus-1.8
Advanced: 28.9 percent usage, 68.7 true shooting percentage, 2.9 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +6500
While Nikola Jokic has been Denver's best player for years, Jamal Murray has proved to be more valuable during the 2020 postseason.
Down 3-2 to the Utah Jazz, the Nuggets would likely be eliminated by now if not for Murray's brilliant Game 5. The 23-year-old guard scored 42 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out eight assists in a 10-point win, finishing 17-of-26 from the field (65.4 percent) with zero turnovers.
While it would be tough to give an MVP award to a player whose team is losing to a lower seed, Murray is making franchise history. His 50-point performance in Game 4 was the most by a player in Nuggets postseason history, and he has the fifth-highest scoring average among players this postseason.
With Gary Harris and Will Barton both missing the series against the sixth-seeded Jazz, Murray has shown Denver can count on him when it matters.
No. 6: James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets
Per-Game Stats: 32.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, .444/.327/.838 shooting, plus-4.3
Advanced: 33.1 percent usage, 60.2 true shooting percentage, 6.4 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +1500
While James Harden led the NBA in scoring during the regular season, he's dropped to third in the playoff bubble.
The Rockets are tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder at two games apiece, which is an accomplishment considering how poorly the roster around Harden has performed.
Give the newly turned 31-year-old credit, as he's been asked to do far more with Russell Westbrook missing the entire series so far with a quad injury. With no Westbrook and Robert Covington struggling mightily, the Rockets' second-best player has been Jeff Green. No other player has gotten his team to a series lead or a tie with that kind of supporting cast.
With Westbrook expected to play in Game 5 on Saturday, Harden should still be able to put up monster numbers, even if his usage starts to slide.
No. 5: LeBron James, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Per-Game Stats: 25.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, .557/.429/.706 shooting, plus-9.8
Advanced: 30.3 percent usage, 66.5 true shooting percentage, 16.0 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +320
While Anthony Davis is leading the Lakers in scoring (26.5 points per game), there's a clear favorite when deciding who's the most valuable to the L.A.'s title quest.
LeBron James is the the most-used Laker and is assisting on half of his team's baskets this postseason, the highest mark of any player in the NBA. He's also the only player to be averaging a triple-double in the bubble.
His case for MVP does carry some wrinkles, of course. His average of 25.3 points per game is the third-lowest of his 14 career playoff runs and ranks just 12th in the NBA. The Lakers dropped the opening game of their series against the Portland Trail Blazers, and James scored just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting in a Game 2 win.
While he's been the most valuable player on his own team, James hasn't yet been forced to play at the superstar level we've seen from him in previous NBA Finals runs.
No. 4: Kawhi Leonard, SF, Los Angeles Clippers
Per-Game Stats: 32.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, .523/.300/.843 shooting, plus-4.6
Advanced: 30.2 percent usage, 63.3 true shooting percentage, 5.8 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +270
The Los Angeles Clippers are tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the best title odds despite only being up 3-2 in their series against the Dallas Mavericks.
With Paul George looking lost for much of the series and Patrick Beverley missing all but one game, the fact that the Clips have the advantage is a testament to the play of Leonard.
Last year's Finals MVP is second among playoff scorers to Donovan Mitchell, and he can still be an absolute menace on the defensive end. He's had to handle the ball more with Beverley out, and Leonard is tied with Lou Williams for the team lead with an average of 4.8 assists per game.
Given his incredibly strong play amid PG-13's struggles in Games 2-4 (11.3 points per game on 21.3 percent shooting), Leonard is once again one of the postseason's most valuable players.
No. 3: Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks
Per-Game Stats: 31.3 points, 15.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, .578/.350/.629 shooting, plus-9.5
Advanced: 34.8 percent usage, 63.5 true shooting percentage, 10.5 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +270
The favorite for regular-season MVP and 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo is enjoying a fantastic start to the postseason.
After a hiccup loss to the Magic in Game 1, the Bucks have bounced back to win three straight and are tied with the Clippers for the best title odds.
Antetokounmpo has been asked to do even more with All-Star small forward Khris Middleton struggling (13.5 points per game on 33.9 percent shooting). While LeBron hasn't even had to lead his team in scoring, Antetokounmpo and Middleton have a 17.8 point-per-game gap as the Bucks' top two scorers.
With a tough second-round Eastern Conference matchup with the Miami Heat looming, Antetokounmpo may have to continue playing at an MVP level to get Milwaukee into the conference finals.
No. 2: Luka Doncic, PG, Dallas Mavericks
Per-Game Stats: 29.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, .490/.343/.679 shooting, minus-5.8
Advanced: 36.9 percent usage, 59.4 true shooting percentage, minus-7.5 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +8500
Luka Doncic is the only player to make this list despite posting negative plus/minus and net-rating marks, but there's no way the Mavericks would've even sniffed a win against the Clippers without him.
Leading the seventh-seeded Mavericks against the second-seeded Clippers (tied for the best championship odds) is a tough task for a 21-year-old making his playoff debut, yet Doncic's skill and demeanor have rivaled the league's more established stars.
Doncic went off for 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists in a now legendary Game 4 in which he hit the game-winning shot in overtime, making him the youngest player in NBA playoff history to record a 40-point triple-double.
Doncic has also played through an ankle injury while producing at a high level against defenders like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While the Mavericks are one game away from elimination and just lost Kristaps Porzingis to a lateral meniscus tear, meaning Doncic's first playoff run could be coming to an end soon, the Slovenian guard has arguably been the bubble's most valuable player in the first round.
No. 1: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz
Per-Game Stats: 37.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, .545/.512/.939 shooting, plus-6.6
Advanced: 37.1 percent usage, 71.5 true shooting percentage, 8.9 net rating
FanDuel Title Odds: +4200
While Utah doesn't have the greatest title odds, there's been no player more valuable in the bubble than Donovan Mitchell.
The 23-year-old shooting guard is leading all players with 37.6 points per game. He's scoring at a remarkably efficient rate as well and is tied with Toronto's Fred VanVleet for second among all players in true shooting percentage (among those playing 30 or more minutes per game).
Mitchell has had to take on a larger role with Bojan Bogdanovic out following wrist surgery and Mike Conley missing the first two games for the birth of his son.
While the absence of two key players made the No. 3-seeded Nuggets seem like even greater favorites over the No. 6 Jazz, Mitchell has carried Utah to a 3-2 series lead.
Mitchell also leads all players in the bubble in usage rate, and the Jazz have registered a historically good 130.3 offensive rating with him on the floor.
As good as LeBron, Giannis and Kawhi have been, no player has been as valuable to his team as Mitchell thus far.
Advanced stats courtesy of NBA.com unless otherwise noted.