Updated 2020 NBA Playoff MVP Rankings

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterSeptember 18, 2020

Updated 2020 NBA Playoff MVP Rankings

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    With the 2020 NBA playoffs down to the final four, it's once again time to update the postseason MVP rankings.

    The Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets have been eliminated since the last rankings were released, which means a new No. 1 will arise following Kawhi Leonard's eligibility running out. No more James Harden means a pair of new additions to the board, with some shuffling taking place, as well.

    Taking into account individual play, team play and quality of opponent, these have been the most valuable players in the bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.

(Eliminated) Honorable Mentions

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Antetokounmpo's Bucks being bounced in the second round was another disappointing early playoff exit, one that was sure to delight opposing front offices across the league.

    The 25-year-old reigning regular-season MVP was ninth among playoff scorers (26.7 points), second in rebounding (13.8) and fourth in usage rate (33.9 percent) before he was eliminated.


    Luka Doncic, PG, Dallas Mavericks

    Doncic was right behind Donovan Mitchell in scoring (31.0 points) and usage rate (36.5 percent) during the first round of the playoffs, and it was he who first exposed the Los Angeles Clippers' weaknesses.

    His 8.7 assists per game are still good for fourth among all players, and his 43-point triple-double in a win over the Clippers is arguably the best overall postseason performance we've seen.


    Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz

    Mitchell was the bubble's MVP of the first round, and no one has since touched his 36.3 points per game.

    The 24-year-old also posted the highest usage rate of any playoff participant (37.0 percent), and it could have easily been his Jazz knocking the Los Angeles Clippers out of the second round had Utah not blown the first 3-1 lead of the postseason to the Denver Nuggets.


    Kawhi Leonard, SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    The newest addition to the eliminated honorable mentions, Leonard held the No. 1 spot in the postseason MVP rankings for the past two weeks.

    His 28.2 points per game were the fifth-highest in the NBA, and pushing the Clippers out to a 3-1 lead in the second round with Paul George struggling meant he deserved MVP honors. Losing three straight and going scoreless in the fourth quarter of a Game 7 elimination game would have dropped Leonard down the rankings even if L.A. were still alive in the postseason.

No. 7: Goran Dragic, PG, Miami Heat

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    Mike Erhmann/Associated Press

    Per-Game Stats: 22.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 47.7/39.5/78.9 shooting, plus-9.5

    Previous Ranking: N/A ↑

    Making his debut in the MVP rankings, Dragic has gone from regular-season sixth man to Miami's second-best player during the playoffs.

    His title as Jimmy Butler's co-star is quite the compliment considering how good Bam Adebayo, Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson have been, as well.

    Dragic actually leads the Heat in scoring this postseason at age 34, and he's been a calming force at point guard who hasn't backed down from challenges against Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe. Now facing the Boston Celtics and All-Star starter Kemba Walker, Dragic has dropped 29 and 25 points in back-to-back games, both Heat victories.

    Dragic possesses the fourth-highest postseason plus-minus in the NBA at 9.5, and his individual net rating of plus-11.5 is good for fifth overall.

    An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Dragic has potentially played himself into one more sizable contract as he's helped lead the Heat to an NBA-best 10-1 record in the bubble.

No. 6: Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Per-Game Stats: 25.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.9 blocks, 51.5/44.0/83.0 shooting, plus-0.2

    Previous Ranking: N/A ↑

    While Jamal Murray carried the Nuggets for stretches against the Utah Jazz, Jokic has since established Denver as a two-man wrecking crew in the postseason.

    He remains a matchup nightmare for opposing centers as he's kept on enough weight to body players in the post and has the touch to throw up ridiculous-looking floaters that often land in nothing but nylon. He's even more dangerous outside the paint, finding cutters with pinpoint passes while using his eyes to deceive defenders before throwing no-look assists all around the court.

    Teams can't leave him open as a shooter anymore, either, as he and teammate Jamal Murray are the only players left in the bubble shooting at least 44 percent from three on six or more deep attempts per game.

    Only LeBron James has posted a higher usage rate among remaining players (30.8 percent to 29.4 percent), and everything the Nuggets do offensively still runs through their All-Star center.

No. 5: Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Per-Game Stats: 27.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.5 blocks, 58.6/39.1/75.0 shooting, plus-10.8

    Previous Ranking: 5 ↔

    After making his debut in the MVP rankings a week ago, Davis stays at the No. 5 spot due to the elite talent and performances above him.

    Following a gentleman's sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in Round 1, the Lakers took a similar path against the Houston Rockets in the conference semis. While 6'5" center P.J. Tucker did an admirable job against Davis, his combination of size and athleticism helped L.A. win four straight against Houston after dropping the first game of the series.

    Davis pulled down 12.4 boards per game against the undersized Rockets to go along with his 25.4 points and 4.0 assists, once again providing LeBron James with the perfect postseason co-star.

    With James Harden and Kawhi Leonard eliminated, the 27-year-old is now the bubble's leading scorer among remaining contributors, and he has the highest plus-minus rating of any player at plus-10.8.

No. 4: Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Per-Game Stats: 25.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks, 44.7/39.8/79.2 shooting, plus-5.8

    Previous Ranking: 4 ↔

    The Celtics have gotten contributions up and down the roster on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but no player has been as valuable as Tatum.

    Starting with a sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers and then an entertaining seven-game series against the Toronto Raptors, Tatum, still just 22, has looked the part of a No. 1 option on a championship-caliber team.

    Even with Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart playing big roles, Tatum still has a higher usage rate (27.6 percent) than players like Jamal Murray, Jimmy Butler and Damian Lillard, proving how much the Celtics need their leading scorer.

    Tatum's net rating of plus-7.4 is tied with Butler for the seventh-best among all postseason players, and the first time All-Star has pulled down 10 or more boards in five of his past six games.

    Now facing a 2-0 hole against the Miami Heat, the Celtics will need Tatum more than ever to have a chance at making the Finals.

No. 3: Jimmy Butler, G/F, Miami Heat

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Per-Game Stats: 20.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.5 blocks, 47.1/50.0/84.3 shooting, plus-6.3

    Previous Ranking: 3 ↔

    Putting Butler at No. 3 seems both too high and too low depending on how one views the 31-year-old.

    On one hand, he's the best overall player and clear leader for a Miami team that's gone 10-1 in the postseason, delivering timely buckets and playing excellent defense.

    On the other hand, he doesn't even lead his own team in scoring (Goran Dragic), rebounding (Bam Adebayo), assists (Adebayo), three-pointers (Jae Crowder) or plus-minus (Dragic). Butler is just 19th overall among playoff scorers, and his usage rate is 23rd among players receiving 30-plus minutes per game.

    If leadership were measured, however, Butler might deserve to be higher.

    The Heat swept the Indiana Pacers, went up 3-0 on a No. 1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks team with a healthy Giannis Antetokounmpo before finishing the series in five games and have now built a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Butler doesn't have the stats of a LeBron James, Jamal Murray, Jayson Tatum or Anthony Davis (or even some of his own teammates), but his value has been evident in how Miami has dominated this postseason.

No. 2: Jamal Murray, SG, Denver Nuggets

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Per-Game Stats: 27.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 50.2/49.1/91.3 shooting, plus-1.7

    Previous Ranking: 6 ↑

    No matter how far the Nuggets make it in the playoffs, no player has improved his stock more than Murray.

    Dropping two 50-point games in the first round was historic, as was carrying the Nuggets out of a 3-1 hole against the Utah Jazz. While he got off to a rough start in the first four games against the Los Angeles Clippers (17.8 points per contest on 38.2 percent shooting from the field), Denver then went 3-0 to pull off another epic upset as Murray upped his scoring average to 29.0 points on a 51.6 field-goal percentage.

    His 40 points in Game 7 led the Nuggets, sending the Clippers to a shocking early exit.

    Of players remaining in the bubble, only Anthony Davis is averaging more points per game than Murray, and the guard's 49.1 percent three-point shooting ranks third among players who have taken 50 or more threes this postseason.

    While the Nuggets could have easily finished the playoffs with just a single win, the superhuman play of Murray now has them in the Western Conference Finals.

No. 1: LeBron James, PG, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Per-Game Stats: 26.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.1 blocks, 55.3/37.1/72.4 shooting, plus-10.1

    Previous Ranking: 2 ↑

    After finishing a close second to Kawhi Leonard in the MVP rankings last week, James finally makes it to No. 1.

    He has played nearly a perfect postseason with the Lakers going 8-2 overall as the 35-year-old has showcased outstanding defense to go along with his always impressive scoring, playmaking and rebounding.

    The only thing remotely hurting James' MVP candidacy is the play of Anthony Davis, the Lakers' leading scorer this postseason. Against the Houston Rockets, however, James paced L.A. with 25.8 points per game to go along with his averages of 10.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks.

    No player in the postseason has registered a higher net rating than James' 15.2, and the Lakers have outscored their opponents by 101 points in 342 minutes with the four-time MVP on the floor.

    With Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo both out of the playoffs, the Lakers have become the overwhelming title favorites after the Clippers served as betting leaders for much of the postseason.

    Jamal Murray has been the biggest surprise, and Jimmy Butler has guided the best team thus far. But no player has been more valuable than James in the playoffs.


    NBA championship odds courtesy of FanDuel. Stats via NBA.com unless otherwise noted.