The NBA playoffs could cause a major shift in the race for the league's best player

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Typically, the later rounds of the NBA playoffs double as a referendum on -- or reminder of -- the league's best player, which makes this season an outlier.

As Noah Coslov noted on Twitter after the Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker were eliminated, this is the first year in NBA history in which none of the top four finishers in MVP voting (Booker finished fourth behind winner Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo) reached the conference finals.

Because injuries and rest have played a larger role in determining MVP voting in recent years, it has become increasingly disconnected from ESPN's rankings of the league's best players. Still, those also show a power vacuum in this year's playoffs. None of the preseason NBArank top three (Kevin Durant, Antetokounmpo and LeBron James) remains active, either, presenting an opening for a new leader next fall.

Which players have the opportunity to improve their standing by leading their team to a championship? Or will we see a repeat of last season, when Durant finished No. 1 in NBArank despite his team's early exit?

Let's break down how the postseason could shape the race for the league's best player.

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