We’ve ticked over the midway hump of the 2021-22 NBA season with the majority of teams playing roughly 45 games to date. As we gear up for the second half of the campaign, the MVP race is taking shape with a few clear cut favourites emerging and others hot on their heels eager to jump into contention. By no means has anyone put one hand on the trophy yet and the next 15-20 games will go a long way in determining the result of this entertaining race.
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Honourable Mentions: Devin Booker, Draymond Green, Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell
10. LeBron James, Lakers (23-23)
Season Stats (34 games): 28.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.4 APG; 51.7 FG%, 36.2 3P%, 75.8 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
LeBron James has entered the chat. It was only a matter of time before LBJ threw his hat into the ring and without Anthony Davis in uniform, the King is doing his best to keep L.A. afloat. In his past 16 games, LeBron hasn’t dipped under 25 points once, although it’s only translated to seven wins for the Lakers. His per-game line is impressive, but a push for a top-4 seed in their conference would really aid LBJ’s case for a 5th Maurice Podoloff trophy.
9. Rudy Gobert, Jazz (30-16)
Season Stats (41 games): 16.0 PPG, 15.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG; 71.4 FG%, N/A 3P%, 68.8 FT%
Last Rank: 10th ( 1)
He may be the most important defensive cog in the entire league, but Rudy Gobert has struggled to make the leap into serious award contention this season. His presence for Utah can’t be underestimated; 2nd only to Steph Curry when it comes to +/- and pacing the NBA for screen assists and points scored off screens. It’s no coincidence that the Jazz went 1-4 without Rudy a few weeks ago and he deserves to be getting more recognition in the MVP landscape.
8. Ja Morant, Grizzlies (32-16)
Season Stats (35 games): 25.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.9 APG; 48.9 FG%, 35.7 3P%, 77.6 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Memphis are one of the feel-good stories halfway through the season and their rising star is a big reason why. Sure, Ja Morant has missed over a quarter of the Grizzlies’ games and they’ve still found a win to maintain their winning ways whenever he’s on the sideline. Don’t get it twisted though, not only is Morant a shoo-in to make the upcoming All-Star game, he’s worked his way onto one of the guard spots in the All-NBA 1st team. Expecting him to truly contend for this award in year three is a big ask, but Ja has been up to the challenge so far.
JA MORANT's ridiculous highlights last night!
38 PTS | 6 AST | 6 REB | 58% FGpic.twitter.com/c5nuz8UReM
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 22, 2022
7. Chris Paul, Suns (36-9)
Season Stats (45 games): 14.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 10.1 APG; 48.4 FG%, 31.6 3P%, 84.5 FT%
Last Rank: 6th ( 1)
Another victim of low PPG totals, Chris Paul is bound to make a late run if Phoenix can maintain their lofty win total. It’s not farfetched to label the Suns as the best team in the league this season and there’s also no denying that Paul is the best player currently wearing orange and purple (sorry Devin Booker). Another legendary Phoenix point guard in Steve Nash is the only player to average under 20 points and win the award since Bill Walton back in the late 70’s; and much like Nash’s Suns, this team will need to chalk up 60+ wins if CP3 is going to be a legit threat.
6. Joel Embiid, 76ers (26-19)
Season Stats (34 games): 28.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 4.2 APG; 49.8 FG%, 39.1 3P%, 81.4 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Injury derailed Joel Embiid’s chances of being a staple in this race a season ago and now that he’s healthy, Philly’s man in the middle is making another run. Embiid has been making an improbable run at the scoring title over the past month or so, fuelled by performances like his 40 point and 13 rebound effort in his most recent game and a 50-burger vs. Orlando just a few days prior. If he can stay on the court and the Sixers move into the top-4 of their conference, Joel will only continue to generate award buzz.
5. Kevin Durant, Nets (29-16)
Season Stats (36 games): 29.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.8 APG; 52.0 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 89.4 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 3)
It’s a shame that an MCL injury will likely derail any chance KD had of winning this award and this will probably be the last time he features in the top-5 of the ladder. If the season ended today and we had to vote for an MVP winner, Durant would certainly finish in the top few after shouldering an immense workload for the Nets. A walking 30-point bucket, we’ve become accustomed to seeing Durant pour in points with regularity and what he’s done for Brooklyn so far this season had him poised for another run at the league’s highest individual honour.
Image from nypost.com
4. DeMar DeRozan, Bulls (28-16)
Season Stats (41 games): 26.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.8 APG; 48.9 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 85.6 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 1)
My hand was forced, I had to move DeMar DeRozan further up the ladder given what he has accomplished in his early Chicago Bulls career. Catapulting the franchise up the standings as one of the best teams in the association, DeRozan and Co continue to shock the world with their new leader boasting his highest scoring average since the 2016-17 season. More health issues to their guard rotation are going to impact the Bulls’ win tally, but as long as DeRozan’s in uniform they should be just fine.
3. Steph Curry, Warriors (33-13)
Season Stats (42 games): 26.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 6.2 APG; 42.0 FG%, 38.4 3P%, 91.2 FT%
Last Rank: 1st ( 3)
Since the last ladder check-in, Steph Curry has fallen from his perch as the unanimous favourite to claim his 3rd MVP. Shooting under 40% over his previous 20 games, these shooting percentages aren’t in line with what we usually associate with the greatest shooter of all time. A mediocre 12-8 record for the Warriors in that span has also seen them lose a large portion of the momentum that helped vault Steph to the top of the pecking order in the first place. There’s still time to right the ship, but Curry has left the door ajar for his peers and they have capitalised.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (30-19)
Season Stats (39 games): 28.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 6.0 APG; 53.1 FG%, 28.2 3P%, 71.4 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 1)
As Milwaukee continues to chug along and churn out wins, Antetokounmpo’s case for another trophy keeps getting stronger and stronger. The “king of the 4th” so far this season, Giannis has averaged an NBA best 8.5 points in the final quarter while shooting nearly 55%, and his efforts down the stretch of games have helped the Bucks ascend the standings. There are a substantial number of fans that expect Milwaukee to run it back as champions this season and we may see Antetokounmpo pull off the rare regular season/Finals MVP double; a task that only 10 other players have completed.
1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (23-21)
Season Stats (39 games): 25.9 PPG, 13.9 RPG, 7.5 APG; 57.2 FG%, 37.0 3P%, 78.7 FT%
Last Rank: 4th ( 3)
Can he hold onto the top rung for the rest of the season? Maybe not, but Nikola Jokic’s season thus far means he is more than deserving of pole position in the MVP race. On a nightly basis, Jokic is making plays that no one else in the NBA is capable of and I’d be petrified to consider where the Nuggets would be without him as injuries keep striking down his supporting cast. His current PER would be the highest of all-time if Jokic were able to maintain that number and there aren’t enough people talking about the leap Denver’s megastar has made defensively. I had my doubts early on, but the quest to go back-to-back is well and truly alive.
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