OKC Thunder: Chris Paul resurgence puts him in MVP conversation

Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder celebrates (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder celebrates (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Pascal Siakam, OKC Thunder playoff seeding (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Eighth: Nikola Jokic – 18 points

Finding the Joker on this list isn’t surprising. Imagine where he might rank if he’d shown up to camp in shape.

The oddity of Jokic is he’s the type of player most coaches covet because he makes everyone around him better. The knock on Nikola Jokic is he doesn’t always seem comfortable accepting the task of being the primary scorer or clutch time go-to option. Despite that, he excels when he is put in that position.

Ninth: Pascal Siakam – 12 points

Other than Chris Paul the other surprise on the list was Pascal Siakam. Not that he made the list but the votes he collected and the number of ballots hints of his position rising in pundits minds.

Siakam is an outlier as he only began playing basketball eight years ago.  He deservedly won Most Improved Player last season and could win a second this season  His big jump last season was augmented by having Kawhi Leonard on his team. With the superstar’s departure, the torch was passed to Siakam to assume the primary role and responsibilities.

Still, even as an early adopter of his game, it was surprising even to the narrator how much of a jump he made this season. Especially considering other factors like injuries to so many starters and key reserves.  Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Siakam, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Norm Powell have rarely all been healthy at the same time and each has missed double-digit games.

With opponents game-planning specifically for him, a slight step back would’ve been understandable instead of the rise.

Pundits are clearly cognizant of those factors as he garnered 12 points one each in the third and fourth place slot and four in the fifth-place slot.

Another interesting caveat to Siakam is over the last 10 seasons the Most Valuable players were:  Aaron Brooks. Kevin LoveRyan Anderson, Paul George, Goran DragićJimmy ButlerCJ McCollum,
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo and Pascal Siakam.

Half are either current All-Stars or were at one point. But only Paul George and Antetokounmpo have made the list of potential MVP’s and only Giannis did it the year after he won MIP. That puts Siakam in rare company and given Masai Ujiri’s plan.