2021-22 SBF NBA MVP Ladder 1.0

It’s a small sample size, but we could be in for an all-time MVP race this season. Previous winners in Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are expected to feature heavily throughout the new campaign, with potential first-timers such as Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan and Joel Embiid also squarely in the mix. With roughly 10 games in the books for every squad, let’s check in on the NBA MVP race for the first time this season!

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Honourable Mentions: Joel Embiid, Donovan Mitchell, Draymond Green

10. Anthony Davis, Lakers (6-5)

Season Stats (11 games): 23.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.7 APG; 50.2 FG%, 12.5 3P%, 73.8 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
We know that LeBron has a case as the greatest player to step onto an NBA court and yet, after just 11 games, I’m ready to declare Anthony Davis as the best player currently on the Lakers. With LBJ facing a stint on the sidelines, Los Angeles will be relying on their All-NBA big man to keep the team in a reasonable position as they continue to experiment with Russell Westbrook’s fit. Health has always been a detriment to any pro-Davis argument and he’ll need to string together big stretches of play if he wants to stand any chance of mounting a serious challenge for the award, after only finishing inside the top-3 for MVP voting once in his career to date.

9. Rudy Gobert, Jazz (7-3)

Season Stats (10 games): 15.2 PPG, 16.1 RPG, 1.1 APG; 74.6 FG%, N/A 3P%, 68.4 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
It’s fair to assume that Rudy Gobert’s offence will never hit a level that helps him challenge for a legitimate MVP title. That doesn’t mean he needs to be excluded from the conversation though, with “The Stifle Tower” helping buoy another fast start for Utah. Gobert has been hauling down rebounds at a historic rate, currently on track to be the first player in 25 years to average 16 rebounds over an entire season, and his field goal percentage would be the highest mark in NBA history if he were to maintain that clip. We shouldn’t expect Gobert to average 16+ rebounds and hit nearly 75% of his shots for another five months, but the man in the middle deserves recognition for helping the Jazz, once again, look like a regular-season force.

8. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (4-6)

Season Stats (10 games): 27.3 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 6.0 APG; 51.3 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 70.7 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
There’s no reason for Giannis and the Bucks to panic after a 4-6 start, especially coming off a title-winning season where they were doubted countless times only to emerge as the eventual champs. Antetokoump continues to stuff the stat sheet with his stereotypical 25/10/5 line and after claiming a pair of Maurice Podoloff trophies in the past, there’s no reason why he can’t steer Milwaukee on a winning streak that sees him re-establish himself as a genuine threat for the award. Until he adds that fuel to the fire though, he’ll hover in the back half of the top-10.

7. DeMar DeRozan, Bulls (7-3)

Season Stats (10 games): 26.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.6 APG; 50.3 FG%, 39.1 3P%, 86.1 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Chicago is one of the early, feel-good stories of the season and their hot start has been driven by their off-season additions. Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball have helped clamp up opposing guards, but it’s the presence of DeMar DeRozan that has really seen the Bulls emerge as a relevant squad out East. Through 10 contests, DeMar is shooting a career-best clip from behind the arc and is attempting 7.8 free throws a game – culminating in the 5th best PPG average in the NBA. I’ve still got some concerns over their defence, although if DeRozan and the rest of his Chicago sidekicks can continue to outscore their opponents it might not matter a ton.

6. Paul George, Clippers (5-4)

Season Stats (9 games): 27.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 5.2 APG; 46.4 FG%, 35.8 3P%, 87.8 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Paul George was on the outside of this list looking in before a recent four-game winning streak. It’s no secret to state that the Kawhi-less Clippers will have their work cut out for them in 2021-22, but so far their other All-NBA wing is helping them stay in the mix. While George has struggled somewhat shooting the rock early on this season, he is having a career-best season from an assist (5.2 per game) and steals (2.7 per game) standpoint – ranking 2nd in total thefts through just nine contests. If L.A. is going to achieve anything of note this season, they’ll need PG13 to perform like an MVP night in, night out. 

5. Ja Morant, Grizzlies (6-4)

Season Stats (10 games): 26.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 7.2 APG; 48.5 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 76.2 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Memphis’ strong start has a lot to do with the contributions they’ve got from Ja Morant. Most hoop enthusiasts predicted a jump in production from the Grizzlies stud and he’s delivered so far with the best shooting numbers of his young career, boosted by some massive nights on the hardwood. It’s fair to assume that the squad still needs two or three tweaks before they can become a true contender, but Morant’s level of play may keep them in the top-6 of their conference and out of play-in game contention. If he can do that and keep up healthy shooting percentages, we may see a dark horse MVP campaign from Ja.

4. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (6-4)

Season Stats (10 games): 25.4 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.7 APG; 60.9 FG%, 40.0 3P%, 79.2 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Slotting last year’s winner at No. 4 isn’t really a knock on his personal play, with Jokic starting this season in the same dominant fashion he ended the 2020-21 season with. He’s essentially one made free throw away from shooting 60/40/80 splits, all while carrying the majority of the offensive burden for Denver with Jamal Murray and now Michael Porter Jr in street clothes. When healthy, I’ve still got faith in the Nuggets being a legitimate championship force. Unfortunately for Jokic, if they don’t compile a ton of wins in the regular season, it’s hard to envision him claiming back-to-back awards.

3. Steph Curry, Warriors (9-1)

Season Stats (10 games): 27.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 6.6 APG; 42.9 FG%, 38.8 3P%, 98.0 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
A pair of Steph Curry games in the last few days have encapsulated his season to date perfectly. Earlier this week, the Warriors took on NOLA with Curry struggling somewhat (5-16 FG) to finish with just 19 points while his backcourt mate Jordan Poole enjoyed a 26-point outburst. Fast forward the to most recent Dub Nation game and Steph was at his sharpshooting best, pouring in nine made 3’s en route to the 10th 50-point game of his career! Most importantly for Golden State, both those contests ended in wins and with Curry right amongst the best scorers in the season thus far, we can expect him to be firmly amongst the favourites for this trophy over the entire 2021-22 campaign.

Image from goldenstateofmind.com

2. Jimmy Butler, Heat  (7-3)

Season Stats (10 games): 25.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.5 APG; 53.0 FG%, 31.3 3P%, 84.1 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Offensive production captures attention, especially when it comes to most award races; however, Jimmy Butler is fuelling his MVP charge with defensive dominance. Often tabbed with defending the best perimeter player on the opposing team, Butler is once again amongst the league leaders in steals and with the assistance from off-season signee Kyle Lowry, the main man in Miami is currently scoring 25+ PPG and shooting over 50% from the field for the first time ever. If he can keep driving the Heat with his on-court leadership and they win a hefty number of games, Butler will be in the box seat to compete for the MVP trophy.

1. Kevin Durant, Nets  (7-4)

Season Stats (11 games): 29.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.3 APG; 56.7 FG%, 38.2 3P%, 82.6 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
There were going to be some lumps and bumps for this new-look Nets outfit, especially without the third member of their Big-3 in uniform. With that being said, Kevin Durant hasn’t missed a beat to start his 14th pro season, leading all players in scoring, thanks to his ability to convert a lethal percentage of his shots in the early going. With KD reminding the rest of the league how absurdly good he can be when healthy, we can expect to see him as a staple near the top of the ladder for the entire season. Regardless of if we see Kyrie Irving playing or not, Brooklyn should win enough games to give Durant a realistic chance of winning the second MVP award of his career.

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