Playoff MVP Race: Jayson Tatum the early No. 1

2021-22 nba playoff rankings tatum giannis butler jokic

Playoff MVP Race: Jayson Tatum the early No. 1

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Playoff MVP Race: Jayson Tatum the early No. 1

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Playoff game-winners, highlight, monstrous dunks and overall two-way dominance, the 2021-22 NBA playoffs have been nothing short of thrilling, with only two teams sent home so far.

As we usually do, the HoopsHype staff has voted for the Top 15 players in the playoff MVP race.

Check out the full results for the first edition of this series below.

1
Jayson Tatum (Boston)

The Boston Celtics looked like championship contenders from December on and had their chance to immediately prove themselves as such by being matched up with the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.

So how did they respond?

By sweeping Brooklyn and looking downright dominant while doing so.

And a lot of that has had to do with Jayson Tatum, who looks like he has turned the corner into unquestioned superstardom this postseason – though he probably reached that level before these playoffs – while outdueling former league MVP Kevin Durant in a pretty one-sided fashion.

Tatum is putting up 29.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists over four games while playing some of the best defense of his career, helping stifle Durant.

There’s no doubt anymore that Tatum is one of the best players in basketball and of the caliber to help guide a team to a championship – he’s been that impressive this postseason that we can say that with confidence now.

For the latest Jayson Tatum rumors, click here.

2
Jimmy Butler (Miami)

Despite missing Game 5, the deciding matchup of the series against the Atlanta Hawks, Jimmy Butler did enough over the first four contests to place him at No. 2 of our playoff MVP rankings.

Butler hasn’t just dominated offensively, he’s been spectacular defensively, helping make Trae Young look like a mediocre backup and not the All-NBA point guard he was this season.

Butler was a monster in round one, averaging 30.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.8 steals while shooting 54.3 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc – a far cry from the paltry marks he put up in the first round last year.

Now with either the Philadelphia 76ers or Toronto Raptors looming in the second round, it’ll be interesting to see if Butler can maintain that level of output. If he can, the Heat will be looking mighty scary for remaining foes in the Eastern Conference.

For the latest Jimmy Butler rumors, click here.

3
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been so good for so long that it almost goes unnoticed at this point – not that it should, considering his numbers this postseason (27.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.8 blocks) remain astronomical and his two-way impact is still nearly unmatched.

Antetokounmpo is doing it all on both ends of the floor while resembling a modern-day Shaquille O’Neal, unstoppable in the low post no matter the defender.

With the Chicago Bulls basically waving the white flag ahead of Game 5 with Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso out due to injury, we can look forward to Antetokounmpo taking on a Celtics team full of elite defensive wings and what should be one of the most interesting playoff matchups of the year.

For the latest Giannis Antetokounmpo rumors, click here.

4
Jalen Brunson (Dallas)

No player has done more to up their perceived value league-wide these playoffs than Jalen Brunson, who has been magnificent for the Dallas Mavericks.

Brunson, through five games – two with Doncic and three without – has been absolutely balling, putting up 28.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 34.5 percent from three and 87.9 percent on 6.6 nightly free-throw attempts.

Without Brunson, the Mavericks would undoubtedly be far worse off than sitting with the 3-2 series lead they currently find themselves with against the Utah Jazz.

And by performing at this level in a contract year, Brunson is ensuring he’s about to get paid this offseason. With a throwback game that has a modern twist to it, Brunson looks like the type of floor general who can help lead a team to the playoffs on the back of his efforts.

For the latest Jalen Brunson rumors, click here.

5
Chris Paul (Phoenix)

Getting borderline terrorized by Jose Alvarado aside, Chris Paul continues to be the Point God in the first round for the Phoenix Suns, leading the team to a 3-2 series lead despite the absence of Devin Booker for the last four-plus games.

Paul has been awesome in round one, putting up 19.8 points, 12.3 assists and 1.8 steals per contest and shooting 50.0 percent from the floor. Unstoppable from the midrange and impossible to prevent from getting to his spots in that region, Paul also remains one of the best playmakers in the league as well.

Paul the and the Suns have looked like a team on a mission this year, and that hasn’t stopped in the playoffs – even without Booker. Will this culminate with the first championship of his career?

We’ll find out over the next month-plus.

For the latest Chris Paul rumors, click here.

6
Nikola Jokic (Denver)

What else is there that Nikola Jokic can do to earn some respect?

Even after a spectacular regular season, one in which he led a Denver Nuggets team that would have been in the running for the No. 1 pick without his presence, to the playoffs, Jokic still caught a lot of flak for his Nuggets team going down 3-1 against the Golden State Warriors… as if Jokic could somehow be blamed for that.

Jokic leads all players in playoff scoring at 31.3 points per game while chipping in 11.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals on 55.7 percent shooting from three, doing everything he can to stop Denver from getting swept and at least extending the series to five games.

With a healthy Michael Porter and Jamal Murray next season, it’ll be exciting to see what Jokic and Co. can do in a campaign not devastated by injuries to top-level players.

For the latest Nikola Jokic rumors, click here.

7
Brandon Ingram (New Orleans)

Outside of Paul, no player has been as much of a maestro of the midrange as Brandon Ingram these playoffs, with the former Duke standout dominating from that area on the floor thanks to his high release point and smooth ball-handling.

Ingram and the Pelicans may be overmatched talent-wise in this first-round series but he’s still doing everything in his power to make the Suns earn their victories, putting up 29.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from three-point range.

If Ingram had the help of Zion Williamson or better shooting from his running mate, CJ McCollum, the Pelicans could find themselves in a better spot than down 3-2 heading into Game 6. Even so, this has been an eye-opening coming-out party for Ingram, one in which he has proven to be a high-level performer, even in the toughest of stages: the NBA playoffs.

For the latest Brandon Ingram rumors, click here.

8
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)

With the shot of the playoffs to this point under his belt…

…a game-winning three in Game 3 to put the 76ers up 3-0 over the Raptors, Joel Embiid has been a monster this postseason, even exorcising some demons from 2019 in the process.

However, Embiid’s place in these rankings has taken a hit after two straight subpar performances, outings that have allowed Toronto to get the series to 3-2 with Game 6 taking place in Toronto.

Still, through five games, Embiid is averaging 24.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 48.8 percent from his floor.

It speaks to Embiid’s greatness that he could actually be performing a peg lower than he did in the regular season and still be putting up numbers that impressive. It’s scary to consider what the Sixers might look like if Embiid reaches a higher level over the coming weeks.

For the latest Joel Embiid rumors, click here.

9
Jordan Poole (Golden State)

In what is somewhat of a surprise, it’s Jordan Poole who comes out as the top Warrior of the playoffs on these rankings and not his backcourt partner, Stephen Curry.

Can you blame us for ranking them in that manner, however?

The flamethrowing Poole has been fantastic in the postseason for Golden State, pouring in 24.3 points over four games on 59.6 percent shooting from the field and 51.9 percent from three while even playing the role of playmaker well for his club, chipping in 5.8 assists to go with 1.5 steals nightly.

Poole’s development this year has been crucial for the Warriors, who have legitimate championship aspirations that may not have been as realistic without Poole, who has actually started over Curry in the postseason, despite Curry’s return to health.

We’ll see if Poole can keep that up against less undermanned foes in later rounds, but for now, the Michigan product has been nothing but impressive.

For the latest Jordan Poole rumors, click here.

10
Stephen Curry (Golden State)

Speaking of Curry, he hasn’t exactly struggled in his return from injury, as the former two-time league MVP is averaging 27.5 points, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals on 51.4 percent shooting in the first round against Denver… doing so off the bench.

Luckily for Warriors fans, Curry is showing little ill effect of the injury that forced him to miss the final chunk of the regular season and now, Golden State can keep its eyes on the goal at hand: another championship.

With Poole playing at the level he is, Klay Thompson looking almost as good as he did prior to the two devastating injuries and Draymond Green causing havoc defensively, those championship aspirations are far from unrealistic right now for Golden State.

But it will all ultimately depend on Curry, the most important player on the team, whether or not the Warriors accomplish that goal.

For the latest Stephen Curry rumors, click here.

11
Jaylen Brown (Boston)

After that performance, we had no choice but to have two Celtics in our early playoff MVP rankings, with Jaylen Brown joining Tatum on the list. Brown, aside from playing outstanding defense on Durant and Co., was great on offense as well, putting up 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists to go with 2.5 steals and 1.0 triples.

For the latest Jaylen Brown rumors, click here.

12
Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)

He may not have exploded into superstardom quite yet, but little by little, Deandre Ayton is looking more like the player the Suns envisioned he’d be when they drafted him No. 1 overall back in 2018. Ayton also deserves credit for stepping his game up in the first-round series with Booker out, as the Bahamian center is averaging 20.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks against the Pelicans on a very tidy 69.1 percent shooting percentage.

For the latest Deandre Ayton rumors, click here.

13
Pascal Siakam (Toronto)

If the Raptors pull off the impossible and come back from a 3-0 series deficit, a lot of the credit is going to belong to Pascal Siakam, who has been a two-way force all series long, doing a bit of everything on both ends of the floor and averaging 22.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.2 blocks. As is, with Fred VanVleet going down due to injury and Scottie Barnes clearly hobbled himself, Siakam deserves a lot of love for keeping Toronto in the series with a huge Game 6 looming.

For the latest Pascal Siakam rumors, click here.

14
Ja Morant (Memphis)

As a human highlight machine, it should come as no surprise that Ja Morant posted two of the 2022 playoffs’ biggest highlights in one game. First, his poster dunk on Malik Beasley

…and then, his game-winner to take the crucial Game 5 contest as the series shifts back to Minnesota with the Memphis Grizzlies up 3-2:

Even not playing close to his best, Morant is still throwing down monster slams and hitting game-winners. That speaks to the level of player he has blossomed into.

For the latest Ja Morant rumors, click here.

15
Anthony Edwards (Minnesota)

If not for Morant’s game-winner, we would be talking about Anthony Edwards sinking the game-tying three to force overtime. Edwards’ first-round play has been a bit uneven but overall, he’s still putting up a 24.8/4.8/3.3 stat line in his first-ever taste of playoff action, which shows the level of player he could become as he becomes more seasoned. Still, mistakes like gambling for that steal to cost the Minnesota Timberwolves Game 5 can’t happen again.

For the latest Anthony Edwards rumors, click here.

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