NBA MVP Race 2021-22: Ja Morant vaults into top five
The 2021-22 season has been derailed to an extent by COVID-19 with multiple NBA MVP candidates finding themselves sidelined. It makes things difficult when attempting to rank the top candidates. But as we have done every week since the regular season started, let’s delve into it here.
NBA MVP race: The top five
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (last week: 1)
Since returning from a COVID-mandated absence, Antetokounmpo is averaging 32.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists while shooting 58% from the field. In the past 21 games Giannis has played, the Bucks are 16-5. That seems good, and it has him atop our most-recent NBA MVP rankings.
2. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (last week: 3)
We couldn’t care less that the Nuggets find themselves at a pedestrian 20-19 on the campaign. This is what happens when two All-Star caliber players in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are sidelined. Simply put, the reigning NBA MVP has been all sorts of brilliant this season. We’re talking off the chart numbers (25.7 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 7.0 APG, 56% shooting).
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (last week: 4)
Despite Golden State boasting a 30-10 record, Curry has struggled big time recently. The two-time NBA MVP is shooting a mere 35% from the field, including a 30% three-point mark over the past seven games. Though, it does appear that the return of Klay Thompson has helped him. In the two games that his Splash Brother partner has returned, Curry is averaging 27.5 points.
4. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (last week: 2)
With Kyrie Irving now back, Durant gets more help for the 25-14 Nets. Unfortunately, things have not gone great amid his return. Including a 1-1 mark in Irving’s two games, the Nets have lost five of their past seven. That’s not for a lack of production in Durant’s part. The former NBA MVP is averaging a resounding 31.8 points to go with 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists on 48% shooting over the past 16 games. Whew!
5. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (last week: 2)
We’re running out of expletives to explain how good Morant has been this season. He has Memphis at 29-14 and in the midst of a 10-game winning streak with victories over the Suns, Nets and Warriors mixed in. During that span, Morant has been absolutely electric — averaging 27.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists on 52% shooting. That’s just insane.
Related: Updated 2021-22 NBA power rankings
NBA MVP candidates: The best of the rest
6. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (last week: 5)
At 32 years old and in his first season with Chicago, DeRozan is in the midst of a career-best performance. He’s also utilizing an all-around game to help the Bulls ascend the Eastern Conference standings while putting up eye-opening numbers. DeRozan just became the first Bulls player in 25 years to drop a total of 50 fourth-quarter points in three games. The veteran has also been dominant since returning from COVID — averaging 25.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists on 48% shooting in 11 games.
7. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (last week: 8)
Despite missing 12 of 41 games due to injury or COVID-19, King James’ rightful place as an MVP candidate has been resurrected. Even at the advange age of 37, the four-time NBA MVP has been playing some of his best ball (that’s not hyperbole). While the Lakers remain mediocre, he’s averaging 28.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists on 53% shooting this season. Did we mention James is 37?
8. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns (last week: 7)
Opposing Western Conference teams have to be asking if this dude will ever go away. With his Suns 31-9 on the season, CP3 has been the primary reason why. First off, the Suns are plus-210 when he’s on the court during that span. Secondly, he is a top-end NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate — ranking in the top 10 in all four major advanced stats. If that weren’t enough, Paul is averaging an NBA-high 10.1 assists to go with 2.0 steals per game. Yeah.
9. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (last week: 9)
Here, we replace Rudy Gobert with his teammate in Salt Lake. There’s an obvious reason for this. Utah’s recent play has coincided with Mitchell upping his game to new heights. The Jazz have won 12 of 15 games by a combined margin of 184 points. Mitchell is averaging 28.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 51% shooting during that span. Whew!
10. Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: 10)
Yet another player who just returnd from the NBA health and safety protocols, Allen has been an absolute force in his first full season for the surprising Cavaliers. Still only 23, he’s averaging 16.9 points and 10.9 rebounds on 70% shooting from the field. Allen ranks No. 3 in the NBA in defensive win shares and No. 5 in defensive rating. He’s coming alive and entering superstardom right in front of us.