As we head into the final stretch of this year’s NBA regular season, MVP discussions are starting to heat up.
During Wednesday’s episode of Pardon the Interruption, ESPN analyst Mike Wilbon revealed two names on his 2020-21 MVP ballot. His No. 1 pick for this year’s award, Nikola Jokic, should come as no surprise to NBA fans. But, if you heard the third name on his list earlier on in the season, you may think you were dreaming.
As the star centerpiece on a red-hot New York Knicks squad, Julius Randle has worked his way up into Wilbon’s top three.
— PTI (@PTI) May 5, 2021
This exclusive look into the ESPN analyst’s ballot came during a segment when the two hosts were discussing the value Jokic and Randle present to each of their teams.
Averaging a near triple double with 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game, Jokic is the clear frontrunner for the MVP trophy right now. While the three-time All Star has always been an integral cog in the Denver Nuggets’ machine, his stellar play means more now than ever. Since his star teammate Jamal Murray went down with a season-ending injury on Apr. 12, Jokic has continued to put the team on his back — logging a 9-2 record over the past 11 games. With a 43-22 overall record, the Nuggets currently sit with the No. 4 position in the Western Conference.
Holding the same No. 4 position in the Eastern Conference, Randle has the Knicks in better late-season shape than they’ve been in years. Blowing his previous stats out of the water, the seventh-year power forward is averaging career highs in points (24.2 ppg), rebounds (10.3 rpg) and assists (5.9 apg). Going on an incredible stretch to close out the season, the Knicks have now won 12 of their last 13 games — in large part due to Randle’s All-Star caliber play.
While Randle is still fairly far removed from the top level of MVP candidates, the fact that his name is even in consideration is overwhelmingly impressive.