MVP Race: For the first time this NBA season, James Harden is No. 1

Each week, HoopsHype ranks the Top 10 candidates for this season’s Most Valuable Player award. This list gives you an idea of which stars are performing at an elite level and putting themselves in the mix for the award.

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This week, there’s a new No. 1 on our list for the first time this season! Here are our latest rankings:

10. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

STATS: 26.7 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.8 rpg, 45.2 FG%, 39.4 3P%

This season, Lillard has scored the third-most points in the NBA. In fact, only James Harden (1,098), Kevin Durant (1,084) and Lillard (1,016) have scored over 1,000 points so far this year.

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Lillard is terrific at drawing fouls, as evidenced by his 256 free-throw attempts, which is eighth-most in the NBA. And once he gets to the charity stripe, he typically converts. He’s knocked down 89.5 percent of his free-throws this year (which is 12th-best in the NBA), making 229 total (which is fourth-most in the NBA, behind only Harden, Durant and Joel Embiid).

He’s also one of the NBA’s best shooters and he can seemingly pull up from anywhere. This season, Lillard has made 117 threes, which is fourth-most in the NBA (behind only Harden, Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker). He’s hitting 3.1 threes per game on a career-high 39.4 percent from long range.

The Portland Trail Blazers are fifth in the West, just 3.5 games back from the first seed, and Lillard is a huge reason for that.

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