The finalists for the 2020-21 NBA Awards were unveiled on Thursday night ahead of the Eastern Conference play-in game between the Pacers and Wizards on TNT, and as is always the case, it sparked further debate about who should win the awards.
The MVP debate has been rather tepid this season, as Nikola Jokic’s performance in Denver from start to finish has been nothing short of superb, leading the shorthanded Nuggets to the 3-seed in the West despite the late season injury that took away star guard Jamal Murray. Still, as Stephen Curry has erupted to take the league’s scoring title and drag the Warriors into the play-in, where they’ll battle Memphis for the 8-seed on Friday after a thriller in L.A. on Wednesday, there have been plenty of folks stumping for him to enter the conversation seriously.
He was announced as a finalist alongside Jokic and Joel Embiid, and for Shaq, there’s no question in his mind that Curry is the MVP. As Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson explained, the MVP is almost always on a top team in the NBA, and that the Warriors finished eighth in the West, fairly or not, was going to impact the voting. This made Shaq very mad, as he started screaming across the table at Chuck who delighted in the opportunity to point out how Shaq was going to be wrong.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 20, 2021
Curry has been nothing short of sensational for the Warriors, but the matter of consistency all season, Jokic’s health, and the team success in Denver even as his star teammates battled injuries has set up a near perfect storm for him to be a runaway winner. Steph’s efforts to pull this Warriors team into contention has been tremendous and being a top-3 candidate is a worthy honor, but while he’s made his case — and LeBron has too — it would be a genuine surprise for him to win. Barkley notes this and Shaq is having absolutely none of it. The funniest part of the exchange is that it started by Shaq using the All-Star MVP as an example, to which Ernie pointed out even that award always goes to a player on the winning team.