With the 2021-22 NBA season a few weeks old, the time has come for the first edition of another one of our weekly series, NBA MVP Race, where we rank 15 players who are in the running for the esteemed accolade, according to us.
This was a team vote where we added up everyone’s picks and aggregated the ranking out that way.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Stephen Curry (Golden State)
2021-22 stats: 27.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.6 spg, 38.8 3PT%
Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry tops this list, in no small part thanks to the 50-point masterpiece he posted on Sunday in a 14-point win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr praised Curry’s performance afterward, saying (via ESPN):
Warriors star guard Stephen Curry scored an NBA-season-high 50 points in Golden State’s 127-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. Curry finished the night 14-for-28 from the field, 9-for-19 from 3-point range and 13-for-13 from the free throw line, while chipping in 10 assists and seven rebounds in 35 minutes. “That was just a stunning performance by Steph,” coach Steve Kerr said. “… He was amazing. I want to say I’ve never seen anything like it but I’ve been watching it for seven years, so I have seen something like it and still it’s just incredible to watch.”
Curry has the Warriors absolutely rolling, sitting at 9-1 through 10 games, the league’s best record, and with a +13.2 net rating, the best mark in the NBA by a decent margin, making his spot in this ranking beyond deserved.
For the latest Stephen Curry rumors, click here.
Jimmy Butler (Miami)
2021-22 stats: 25.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.5 apg, 2.1 spg, 53.0 FG%
If not for a recent stumble against the Utah Jazz by the Miami Heat and Curry’s explosion earlier in the week, Jimmy Butler may very well have taken the top spot in this ranking.
Even so, sitting at No. 2 in our MVP race series isn’t a bad consolation prize for Butler, as the Heat swingman has been downright spectacular to start the campaign, on both ends of the floor. Butler is averaging just as many steals as he did last season when he led the league in nightly takeaways while putting up a 25/6/6 stat line, which not many others in the league can match at the moment.
Butler’s midrange game continues to be deadly, as does his propensity for drawing fouls, even with the NBA’s emphasis on cracking down on ticky-tack calls, making the 32-year-old more impactful than ever in 2021-22.
For the latest Jimmy Butler rumors, click here.
Nikola Jokic (Denver)
2021-22 stats: 25.4 ppg, 13.6 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.6 spg, 60.9 FG%
It’s almost hard to believe, but to start out this season, reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic has been even better than he was last season, and all of the advanced metrics bear that out.
Jokic is shooting 40 percent from three, nabbing 1.6 steals per game, the highest mark of his career and still putting up a monstrous 25/14/6 stat line on a nightly basis.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Jokic boasts an absolutely unfathomable swing rating of 33.4 points per 100 possessions, meaning that when he’s off the floor, Denver is 33.4 points per 100 possessions worse than when he’s in the game
Jokic has the Nuggets sitting with a solid 6-4 record through 10 games and with the NBA’s eighth-best net rating, +2.9. The fact he’s doing that without Jamal Murray and with Michael Porter Jr. being so ineffective only speaks to Jokic’s case to be considered early-season MVP.
For the latest Nikola Jokic rumors, click here.
Kevin Durant (Brooklyn)
2021-22 stats: 29.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.9 3PTM, 56.7 FG%
Kevin Durant’s nightly dominance has become so expected at this point that it hardly even gets discussed, but it should be, as the former league MVP has been unbelievable to start the season.
Not only is Durant averaging nearly 30 points per game, but he’s also doing so while chipping in nearly nine rebounds and over five assists nightly and while shooting almost 57 percent from the floor, despite averaging five three-point attempts per outing.
Even despite Kyrie Irving’s nonsense and James Harden’s slow start to the campaign, Durant has done more than enough to keep the Brooklyn Nets afloat, as the team is currently 7-4, tied for fifth in the East, which speaks to his greatness.
For the latest Kevin Durant rumors, click here.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
2021-22 stats: 27.6 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.7 bpg, 50.7 FG%
If not for the Milwaukee Bucks’ somewhat slow start to the season, there’s a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo would rank higher on this list.
Even so, it’s impossible to blame the Greek Freak for Milwaukee’s inconsistencies, as that has way more to do with injuries and COVID-19-related issues affecting Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton’s availability than Antetokounmpo’s play.
Antetokounmpo actually ranks second league-wide in VORP, second in BPM and sixth in WS/48, proving that he might actually be underrated in this ranking.
Regardless, with so much of the season left to go, Antetokounmpo will have plenty of time to strengthen his MVP case as 2021-22 progresses.
For the latest Giannis Antetokounmpo rumors, click here.
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)
2021-22 stats: 21.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.4 bpg, 43.5 FG%
Although Joel Embiid’s numbers are down across the board compared to last season, his impact on a Philadelphia 76ers team that sits at 8-4 and with the league’s No. 5 net rating cannot be denied, which is why he ranks as highly as he does on our rankings this week. Embiid is carrying the Sixers without Ben Simmons and with Tobias Harris missing time, to boot. Embiid has COVID-19 and it’s unclear when he’ll return.
For the latest Joel Embiid rumors, click here.
Paul George (LA Clippers)
2021-22 stats: 26.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 2.5 spg, 45.8 FG%
A player who will surely shoot up these rankings next week provided his numbers don’t dip, and who we might even be underrating this week, is Paul George. George has been unbelievable this season carrying the Los Angeles Clippers and has been the driving force behind their recent five-game win streak.
For the latest Paul George rumors, click here.
Ja Morant (Memphis)
2021-22 stats: 26.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 48.5 FG%
Many analysts tabbed Ja Morant as a player who could take a major leap this season, and thus far, Morant has proved those guys right, as the third-year floor general has been one of the best point guards in basketball in 2021-22. Morant’s explosive relentlessness attacking the basket has always been there, but with his three-point shot falling at a near-league-average rate, he’s truly coming close to being unstoppable.
For the latest Ja Morant rumors, click here.
DeMar DeRozan (Chicago)
2021-22 stats: 26.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.0 spg, 50.3 FG%
Many people panned the Chicago Bulls for their DeMar DeRozan signing, citing that Chicago was competing only against itself for his signature, as well as DeRozan’s somewhat inefficient play. Well, DeRozan is making the critics look awful this season, as he’s arguably been the Bulls’ best player while posting a +14.7 swing rating, by far the highest mark of his career. Chicago is also 7-3 with the fourth-best net rating in basketball, proving that DeRozan’s impact is far from hollow in 2021-22.
For the latest DeMar DeRozan rumors, click here.
Rudy Gobert (Utah)
2021-22 stats: 14.6 ppg, 15.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.9 bpg, 72.0 FG%
The league leader in nightly rebounds, Rudy Gobert has continued doing this season what he’s been doing for years: dominating on the glass, finishing around the paint tidily and destroying opponent paint-attacks while being the Utah Jazz’s, who are excellent once again, most impactful player.
For the latest Rudy Gobert rumors, click here.
Luka Doncic (Dallas)
2021-22 stats: 24.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 6.7 apg, 2.3 3PTM, 44.2 FG%
Despite a slow start as an outside shooter, Luka Doncic remains one of the NBA’s most productive and impactful swingmen, as well as one of its most clutch, as evidenced by his absurd game-winning three against the Boston Celtics over the weekend.
For the latest Luka Doncic rumors, click here.
Zach LaVine (Chicago)
2021-22 stats: 26.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.1 3PTM, 48.2 FG%
After being tasked with being the Bulls’ entire offense last season, Zach LaVine has been able to – at times – take a side seat to DeRozan in 2021-22, which has been huge for a Chicago team that has been one of the strongest clubs in the East thus far.
For the latest Zach LaVine rumors, click here.
Julius Randle (New York)
2021-22 stats: 22.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 5.5 apg, 2.2 3PTM, 43.2 FG%
Julius Randle has been able to seamlessly pick up right where he left off last season, continuing his form as one of the most versatile big men in the league, capable of scoring, rebounding, playmaking and spacing the floor with a borderline chaotic amount of energy.
For the latest Julius Randle rumors, click here.
Miles Bridges (Charlotte)
2021-22 stats: 22.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.8 spg, 44.7 FG%
The early-season favorite for Most Improved Player, Miles Bridges is blowing his career averages across the board out of the water and performing like one of the best young swingmen in basketball, and doing so while shooting sub-35 percent from beyond the arc. Bridges’ explosiveness around the basket and finishing ability as a slasher have been truly impressive in 2021-22.
For the latest Miles Bridges rumors, click here.
Anthony Davis (LA Lakers)
2021-22 stats: 23.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.4 bpg, 50.2 FG%
Despite an up-and-down start for the Los Angeles Lakers, fans of the purple and gold have to be relieved to see Anthony Davis performing more like his former self, dominating on both ends of the floor and sitting as one of the league leaders in nightly blocks.
For the latest Anthony Davis rumors, click here.