NBA Awards Rankings: MVP race heats up with Joel Embiid DQ'd

Joel Embiid won't repeat as league MVP, which leaves the door wide open for new arrivals and familiar faces.

Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages
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89. 4. . Giannis Antetokounmpo . Giannis Antetokounmpo . 4. player. . F. Bucks

30.7 PPG | 11.2 RPG | 6.3 APG | .609 FG% | .250 3P% | .657 FT%

The Milwaukee Bucks are the NBA's strangest team right now. The midseason switch to Doc Rivers was both necessary and hilarious. We all know Rivers' reputation at this point, and Milwaukee's 2-5 record with Doc on the sideline has not been the reassuring boon fans expected. That said, the Bucks are 1-0 in the Patrick Beverley era — and, more importantly, 34-19 on the season, which still ranks No. 3 in the East.

Milwaukee has time on their side, as well as the immense star-power emanating from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Already a two-time MVP, there is essentially never not a case for Giannis to win the award. He's a true 94-feet superstar. He goes it on both ends, and he brings a level of heart and physicality rarely seen from the top-shelf, franchise-cornerstone type.

Antetokounmpo is in the middle of his most efficient scoring campaign to date. He is on track for career highs in 2-point field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, and assists. Never has Giannis looked more at home bludgeoning the middle of the defense. It's impossible to ignore the obvious correlation to Damian Lillard's arrival. The Bucks' new star tandem hasn't even figured out how to play off of one another yet, but their combined presence has been mutually beneficial all the same. Lillard unclogs lanes with his pull-up range; Giannis slices right down the middle with the power of a bullet train.

There simply isn't another 7-footer that combines Giannis' level of brute offensive force and defensive ground coverage. He's an elite weak-side rim protector, a hound in passing lanes, and a force on the glass. The lack of jump shooting remains a mild bummer, but otherwise, the weaknesses are few and far between.