Who Will Win ESPYS Best NBA Player in 2021?

| July 5, 2021 9:25 am PDT
ESPYS NBA

We’ve come a long way since LeBron James dominated this award at the ESPYS. While he’s probably still the best player in the NBA, he wasn’t the best this season.

His injury, combined with playoff disappointment, opened the door for some other guys to win the award.

This year’s nominees for the Best NBA Player Award at the 2021 ESPYS aren’t too shocking. Still, it’s a heated race for the top spot.

To figure out who the deserving winner is, here’s a breakdown of all the candidates, as well as my ESPYS Best NBA Player prediction for 2021.

Stephen Curry, PG – Warriors

Stephen Curry is a two-time MVP and a three-time NBA champion. The Golden State Warriors point guard has accomplished a lot over his 12-year career. Even with all his great seasons, his 2020-2021 season may be his best.

In just his fifth game of the season, Curry had a career-high 62 points in a 137-122 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

He shot 8-16 from three-point range while also going 18-19 from the free-throw line. On the heels of that epic performance, Curry averaged 27.3 points in the first two months of the season.

He improved his points average to 32.1 in February. He had his second game over 50 points on February 6th against the Dallas Mavericks. The Warriors lost the game 134-132, but Curry put up 57 points with a season-high 11 made threes. He recorded back-to-back double-doubles later in the month.

Curry earned his seventh all-star game appearance. He also won the three-point contest for the second time in his career.

The Warriors star missed some time after the all-star break with a tailbone injury, but he returned just in time for a big month of April. Curry exploded with 37.3 points per game in April. He scored over 30 points in 13 of his 15 games, including five games over 40 points.

Curry also shot 51.8 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from the three-point range. The strong month allowed him to take the lead in points per game for the season.

With Golden State fighting for a spot in the play-in tournament, they needed all the wins they could get.

They closed the season by winning seven of their final eight games to get the No. 8 seed. Curry averaged 36.8 points for the month, with three games over 40 points. He finished the season with a league-leading 32 points per game.

Golden State’s season ended in disappointment with losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in tournament. Curry finished third in MVP voting.

Klay Thompson will rejoin the Warriors this season after missing the previous two with injuries. Along with a top 10 draft pick, his presence should be enough to get the Warriors back into the playoffs.

Luka Doncic, PG – Mavericks

Despite just finishing his third season in the NBA, point guard Luka Doncic has already established himself as one of the best players in the league.

He certainly is in the running for Best NBA Player at the 2021 ESPYS.

Doncic began the season with a flurry of triple-doubles. He had six triple-doubles across December and January, with his most impressive coming on January 17. Doncic had 36 points, 15 assists, and 16 rebounds in a 117-101 loss to the Chicago Bulls. In January, he averaged 28.3 points, 10.3 assists, and 10.1 rebounds.

While his triple-doubles went down in February, his three-point shooting came way up. After shooting just 33 percent in January, he increased that number to 43.5 percent in February. He made a season-high seven threes in his first of three 40+ point games during the month.

On February 12, Doncic scored a career-high 46 points in a 143-130 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

He also recorded 12 assists and eight rebounds in the game. Doncic averaged 30.3 points in February. His strong start to the season helped him earn his second consecutive all-star game appearance.

He kept his strong three-point percentage while improving his field goal percentage in March. Doncic had two triple-doubles during the month and a 42-point game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Despite his three-point percentage plummeting to 31.7 in April, Doncic’s scoring didn’t go down any. He still averaged 28.2 points on 47.8 percent shooting from the field. He closed the month with a 39-point game against the Golden State Warriors.

Perhaps his best performance of the season came on May 1 against the Washington Wizards. Doncic had 31 points, a career-high 20 assists, and 12 rebounds in a 125-124 victory. The Mavericks went 7-3 in May to finish the season 42-30 and take the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.

Doncic finished the season averaging 27.7 points, 8.6 assists, and 8.0 rebounds. His points and assists ranked top 10 in the league.

Dallas lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Clippers, but Doncic made his mark. He averaged 35.7 points, 10.3 assists, and 7.9 rebounds. He also shot 40.8 percent from three, making five or more threes in five of the Maverick’s seven games.

I think it’s obvious Doncic knows how to perform on the league’s biggest stage. If Dallas can add a second star to their team, they can take the next step towards becoming a championship contender.

Nikola Jokic, C – Nuggets

Coming off back-to-back all-star seasons, center Nikola Jokic was looking to take his game to the next level. I’d say he did that in a big way in the 2020-2021 season.

Jokic kicked off his season with four triple-doubles in his first six games. He fell a rebound short in the other two games of making it six games with a triple-double.

Jokic pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds on January 23 against the Phoenix Suns. He closed the month with 47 points and 12 rebounds against the Utah Jazz. He averaged 25.9 points, 10.4 assists, and 11.7 rebounds in December and January.

On February 6, Jokic scored a career-high 50 points in a 119-114 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

He shot 20-33 from the field while also having 12 assists and eight rebounds. Jokic recorded three triple-doubles in February.

He averaged 26.6 points, 8.5 assists, and 9.7 rebounds in the month. Jokic also shot 47.2 percent from the three-point range.

For the first time in his career, Jokic earned a starting spot on the all-star team.

The Denver Nuggets as a whole really took off after the all-star break. They went 21-6 from March 12 to April 29. Jokic had six triple-doubles in that span. His scoring average did come down just a little bit with 24.3 points in April. He did, however, have a 47-point game on April 19 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Denver finished the season 47-25 to earn the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Jokic’s final stats were 26.4 points, 8.3 assists, and 10.8 rebounds.

His strong play continued into the postseason. Denver defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2, with Jokic scoring between 34 and 38 points in five of the six games. He also averaged 10.5 rebounds in the series.

However, their season came to a disappointing ending after losing in four games to the Phoenix Suns. Jokic averaged 25 points and 13.3 rebounds.

Jokic’s great season earned him his first career MVP Award.

He became the lowest drafted player (41st overall) to win MVP. He was also the first center to win the award since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

While that’s all amazing, just keep in mind that winning the NBA MVP hasn’t always correlated with winning NBA Player of the Year at the ESPYS.

Of the last four winners at the ESPYS, just Giannis (2019) also won NBA MVP.

I think the Nuggets are on the verge of becoming championship contenders. If star guard Jamal Murray doesn’t tear his ACL, I believe there’s a real chance they’d still be alive in the playoffs.

Chris Paul, PG – Suns

Point guard Chris Paul entered the 2020-2021 season on his fourth different team in five seasons.

Last season, Paul played for an Oklahoma City Thunder team that seemed bound for the lottery. Instead, Paul led the Thunder to a 44-28 record and the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. His impact goes well beyond the stat sheet.

Entering the 2020-2021 season, the Phoenix Suns hadn’t made the playoffs since 2010. They did, however, nearly make the 2020 playoffs after going 8-0 in the bubble. The Suns made a move to acquire Chris Paul in the offseason. They were hoping Paul would help them take the next step towards contenders.

He did that and then some.

Paul averaged 16.0 points and 8.8 assists in the first half of the season. He recorded a season-high 34 points in a Suns victory on February 1. His season-high 19 assists came just a few weeks later in another Suns victory.

The best part about the season is the Suns were 24-11 at the all-star break. CP3’s impact at one point made him a very real threat to win the 2021 NBA MVP.

Phoenix continued their great season after the all-star break. They went 16-4 in their first 20 games after the break for a 40-15 record overall. In that stretch, Paul recorded his lone triple-double of the season on March 21. Paul recorded 11 points, 13 assists, and ten rebounds in the Suns 111-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

He closed his season with seven double-doubles in his final ten games. For the season, Paul averaged 16.4 points and 8.9 assists. He finished fifth in MVP voting despite the lower numbers. Phoenix finished with the second-best record in the league at 51-21.

Paul struggled through a shoulder injury in the Suns’ first-round matchup against the defending champion Lakers. Despite averaging just 9.2 points and 7.7 assists, the Suns won the series in six games.

The Suns dominated their second-round series against the Denver Nuggets. Phoenix swept Denver, with Paul averaging 25 points and 10.3 assists. He scored 37 points on 14-19 shooting in the series-clinching game four victory.

It’s unbelievable how Paul took the Suns from fringe playoff contenders to favorite to win the NBA Finals. At age 36, Paul’s basketball IQ may be his most important skill.

Predicting the 2021 ESPYS NBA Player of the Year

I think we need to look at this as player ranking vs. team ranking.

My player ranking is as follows.

  • 4. Chris Paul
  • 3. Luka Doncic
  • 2. Stephen Curry
  • 1. Nikola Jokic

My team ranking is Phoenix Suns (Paul), Denver Nuggets (Jokic), Dallas Mavericks (Doncic), and Golden State Warriors (Curry). After looking at those rankings, I’m giving Jokic the win.

Curry may have had better numbers than Jokic, but he didn’t win MVP. His team also didn’t even make the official playoffs.

Paul probably had the biggest impact on his team, but part of me truly believes Denver would’ve beat Phoenix if Jamal Murray was healthy.

Doncic is only 22 years old, so he has plenty of time to win this award.

Jokic had the numbers, he carried his team, and he won the MVP. He makes perfect sense as the pick to claim the 2021 ESPYS NBA Player of the Year Award, as well.

There’s more where this came from. Whether you’re targeting ESPYS props wherever you bet on sports online, or you’re just wondering who will get the hardware, check out some more ESPYS predictions below.

Nicholas Sterling
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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