With 25 or so games in the books, the NBA MVP race is starting to take a clear shape. Atop the rankings is a Splash Brother on the verge of history with the rest of the league currently playing catch-up. However, the MVP award isn’t handed out in December and there are more than a handful of contenders who will be eager to give Curry a run for his money.
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Honourable Mentions: Ja Morant, Joel Embiid, Draymond Green, James Harden
10. Rudy Gobert, Jazz (15-7)
Season Stats (22 games): 15.3 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG; 73.9 FG%, N/A 3P%, 67.6 FT%
Last Rank: 9th ( 1)
For those who think Rudy Gobert shouldn’t be on this list, cast your eyes over his closing spell against a pesky Cavaliers team last night. Not only did Gobert score the final points of the match for Utah by posterizing Jarrett Allen, the Stifle Tower was at his defensive best contesting every late Cleveland attempt and locking down the paint to help the Jazz hold on for victory. Holding his opponents to a field goal percentage of just 38.9% when he’s around is why Gobert is once again amongst the DPOY favourites and why he’s deserving of appearing in the MVP race.
Image from hoopshabit.com
9. Paul George, Clippers (12-11)
Season Stats (22 games): 25.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.3 APG; 42.7 FG%, 31.9 3P%, 89.1 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 3)
Rough shooting this season from PG13 has seen him and the Clippers struggle to surpass .500 and ascend in the West. He has already finished a game shooting under 35% seven times this year and it’s no shocker to learn that L.A. is 2-5 in those matches. Without Kawhi, George is carrying a heavy offensive burden, but MVP’s can’t consistently have those kinds of nights shooting the rock.
8. Luka Doncic, Mavericks (11-11)
Season Stats (18 games): 25.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.5 APG; 44.5 FG%, 32.9 3P%, 67.6 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Luka has entered the chat. Per game averages will keep the Slovenian superstar around the mark for the duration of the season, but we’ve become accustomed to eye-popping box scores from Doncic. If he really wants to generate hype as an MVP candidate, he and the rest of his supporting cast in Dallas will need to string together some W’s and climb up the West standings. Currently the owners of the No. 7 seed, a top-4 berth is a must for Doncic to contend for this award.
7. Jimmy Butler, Heat (14-10)
Season Stats (17 games): 23.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.3 APG; 51.9 FG%, 20.0 3P%, 85.0 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 5)
Miami has come back down to Earth since their elite start and their slide has coincided with Jimmy Butler losing buzz as a threat for this award. The 5x All-Star has missed the last four contests with Bam Adebayo’s absence making life even tougher for the Heat. This team still looms as a genuine threat in their conference, but we might be expecting too much from Butler to contend for MVP honours – especially when you stack his averages up to the players ahead of him on this list.
6. Chris Paul, Suns (19-4)
Season Stats (23 games): 14.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 10.1 APG; 47.9 FG%, 33.8 3P%, 84.1 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Posting just four losses on the season has seen the Suns catapult themselves to the top of the standings around the association, and once again their point guard virtuoso is the main reason why. The current assist leader, Paul was the catalyst behind the franchise-record stretch of wins, helping Phoenix become one of just six NBA teams to go an entire calendar month undefeated. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, you can’t undersell CP3’s impact on the team with the best record in the league.
5. DeMar DeRozan, Bulls (16-8)
Season Stats (24 games): 26.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.1 APG; 49.8 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 88.8 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 2)
Entering today’s games, no player has more total points in the NBA than DeMar DeRozan. It’s a huge credit to DeRozan who continues to get better with age and is emerging as the leader on an up-and-coming Bulls team that is taking names and having fun in the process. Zach LaVine deserves mention for his scoring prowess, but DeMar is the lead MVP candidate on a Chicago team that sits just half a game out of first in their conference.
4. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (11-11)
Season Stats (17 games): 26.1 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 6.4 APG; 59.0 FG%, 38.7 3P%, 75.9 FT%
Last Rank: 4th
Missing four games in late November is the only real blemish on Nikola Jokic’s resume thus far, with the 2020-21 winner maintaining his dominant ways through the early slate of the season. Jokic is doing all the heavy lifting for Denver right now and they’re still staying afloat in the West despite their heavy injury toll. The walking 25/13/6 will need to cue more W’s up with the Nuggets if he wants to stand any chance of repeating as the league’s best player though.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (15-9)
Season Stats (21 games): 27.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 6.0 APG; 53.2 FG%, 27.6 3P%, 67.3 FT%
Last Rank: 8th ( 5)
Milwaukee has got their mojo back, with an eight-game winning streak vaulting them into a top-4 seed out East. During that stretch, Giannis averaged an impressive 29.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 61% shooting, which included two monstrous 40-point outings. If the two-time winner can continue to have those types of runs, then we can expect to see him right amongst the top contenders for the award all season long.
Image from reuters.com
2. Kevin Durant, Nets (16-7)
Season Stats (22 games): 28.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.5 APG; 53.3 FG%, 38.2 3P%, 87.0 FT%
Last Rank: 1st ( 1)
I copped a bit of flack from some for putting Kevin Durant ahead of Curry in the initial rankings of the season, but Brooklyn’s lanky scorer shouldn’t be giving up on claiming his 2nd MVP award with so much of the season still to be played. While it’s tight at the top, Durant still boasts the highest PPG average of all players and has the Nets trending in the right direction. They’ve had their fair share of struggles early on, although the play from their superstar forward has been a consistent strength.
1. Steph Curry, Warriors (19-4)
Season Stats (22 games): 27.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.5 APG; 43.7 FG%, 41.0 3P%, 92.9 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 2)
There’s daylight between Steph Curry and the rest of the field right now. Steph has posted some ugly shooting numbers over his past few contests, but the Golden State cornerstone has had the Warriors looking like the dominant Dub Nation team’s of yesteryear through. The league-leader for made 3’s by a wide margin, Curry now needs just 23 more makes from behind the arc to take the throne from Ray Allen as the most lethal marksman in NBA history.
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