Who Are the Top NBA MVP Candidates for the New Year?
COVID-19 has taken its toll on the NBA MVP race. Many of the top players, including Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, have missed time after going into Health and Safety protocols.
Typically, I’d say missed games go against you in the MVP race, but we might have to make an exception this season.
A few players have separated themselves in the MVP race, but there are a few challengers. This list will be my opinion of the top 10 MVP contenders. Let’s check them out.
10. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns (+5000)
It only makes sense to include the best player on the best team. Devin Booker has been the driving force behind the Phoenix Suns 26-7 record. He is the top-scorer on a Suns offense that ranks third with 111.7 points per game.
- 23.1 points
- 5.0 rebounds
- 4.6 assists
- 1.0 steals
- 45.5 field goal percentage
- 42.2 three-point percentage
His points per game is his lowest since 2016-17, but he doesn’t need to take on a big scoring workload. DeAndre Ayton has taken a big step forward, while Chris Paul remains one of the best point guards.
Booker has improved as a defender, averaging a career-high in rebounds and steals. The Suns are also among the league leaders in points per game allowed.
Phoenix is among the top contenders to win the NBA Finals. Booker has been leading the charge and should garner MVP consideration if the Suns finish with the best record in the NBA. So far, they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down.
9. Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks (+5000)
Luka Doncic was among the preseason favorites to win MVP. It’s been a solid season for the Dallas Mavericks star, but he has missed time with injuries and COVID.
That has led to Doncic playing just five games in the last month. When on the floor, Doncic is playing at a high level this month.
|@ New Orleans Pelicans||28||14||4|
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|@ Memphis Grizzlies||26||7||8|
|@ Indiana Pacers||27||9||9|
Doncic is one of the best all-around players in the league. The biggest thing for him right now is staying on the floor. I’d be willing to put him in my top five if he played more games.
It also wouldn’t hurt if the Mavericks improved their 16-17 record. They have the talent to jump into the top five in the Western Conference. That’ll boost Doncic’s MVP chances, as it’s tough for a play-in team to support an MVP candidate.
He also needs to return to the floor as he begins his pursuit of Stephen Curry’s three-point record.
8. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz (+5500)
Last season, Donovan Mitchell was the best player on the best team. Mitchell wasn’t an MVP candidate, but it was a shocker to see him not make the All-NBA team. This season, I’ll give Mitchell the respect he deserves.
Mitchell has been one of the more underrated stars in the NBA for a while. At his peak, I believe he can score with anyone.
He is ninth in the NBA with 25.4 points per game. In 11 games in December, Mitchell has upped that average to 29.4. His recent play has earned some high praise from Stephen A. Smith.
"Donovan Mitchell is the greatest talent in the history of the Jazz franchise."— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 25, 2021
—@stephenasmith says Spida is a better talent than Karl Malone AND John Stockton ? #NBACountdown pic.twitter.com/7gjrOe2hlh
We can sit here and debate the validity of that statement, but there’s no doubt that Mitchell is on his way to joining those players as Utah Jazz greats. Speaking of the Jazz, they are flying under the radar this season.
The Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors have all the attention in the Western Conference, but the Jazz are 24-9 with the best offense.
Mitchell continues to improve on both ends of the floor. If Utah surpasses the Warriors and/or Suns, he’ll have a strong MVP case.
7. LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers (+4000)
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that LeBron James is still one of the best players in the league.
James missed time in October and November, but he is finally healthy and playing some of the best basketball of his career.
LeBron James over the last 5 games:— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) December 29, 2021
31 Points, 14 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 52% FG
34 Points, 7 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 68% FG
36 Points, 9 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 57% FG
39 Points, 9 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 56% FG
32 Points, 11 Rebounds, 11 Assists, 58% FG pic.twitter.com/amstIbTJiJ
In 12 games in December, James is averaging 29.2 points on 55.2 percent shooting. He is also averaging 8.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.3 steals. By the way, he turns 37 on Thursday.
The sole reason James doesn’t find himself higher on this list is because the Los Angeles Lakers have failed to live up to expectations. The Russell Westbrook trade hasn’t worked out as well as they hoped, and Anthony Davis is out with a knee injury.
If they find themselves among the top four in the Western Conference, James is going to get a lot of love for MVP.
6. DeMar DeRozan – Chicago Bulls (+6000)
Some may say this is a little high for DeMar DeRozan, but we can’t deny the impact he has made on the Chicago Bulls.
A lot of people criticized Chicago’s move to sign DeRozan. He has silenced those critics and then some. Like LeBron James, DeRozan has been going off in December.
DeMar DeRozan in December:— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 28, 2021
34 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast, 63% FG
29 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast, 54% FG
38 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast, 46% FG
26 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast, 61% FG
24 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast, 45% FG
35 pts, 5 reb, 10 ast, 70% FG
RT to vote @DeMar_DeRozan #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/f4v4eXq0vT
That amounts to 31.0 points per game on 56.0 percent shooting.
Overall, DeRozan is averaging 27.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists. His biggest asset in the MVP race is his impact on the Bulls.
The Bulls have made a few upgrades this offseason, but none bigger than DeRozan. He has been a great fit alongside all-star Zach LaVine.
A championship is the biggest goal for DeRozan, but he also has a legit case to win MVP. I think it’s about time everyone gives him more respect and treats him like a top contender.
5. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers (+2500)
Last season, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic battled to become the first center to win MVP since 2000. Jokic pulled away late in the season to claim the award. Can Embiid respond with an MVP season of his own?
Like many players we’ve talked about, Embiid has been getting better as the season moves along. His best performance came on December 6 against the Charlotte Hornets.
That was his second 40-point double-double of the season. Embiid has eight double-doubles in December alone. He is starting to heat up as we move into the new year.
Like Luka Doncic, the biggest knock on his chances is his team’s success. The Philadelphia 76ers had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season. This season, they are sixth with an 18-16 record. They’ll likely need to jump into the top four for Embiid to garner more MVP consideration.
Overall, his numbers look great with 26.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. As Philadelphia moves to the top of the Eastern Conference, his MVP chances should improve.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks (+750)
Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of those players that could win MVP every season. He always produces MVP-caliber numbers. We haven’t seen anything different from the 2021 NBA Finals MVP.
Antetokounmpo is constantly stuffing the stat sheet, averaging 27.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.0 steals. He is also second in the league with a 31.25 PER.
He returned from the Health and Safety protocols on Christmas Day to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a comeback victory over the Boston Celtics.
What’s crazy about that performance is it likely isn’t one of his best of the season. He has three 40-point double-doubles, including a 41-point, 17-rebound game against the Houston Rockets.
Milwaukee’s title defense got off to a slow start, but Antetokounmpo has helped them win 17 of their last 22 games. They look poised to make another championship run.
Antetokounmpo continues to move up the MVP leaderboard. He is always going to be in the race with his monster numbers. He has finished top five in voting in three straight years. There’s a strong chance he makes it four consecutive years.
3. Kevin Durant – Brooklyn Nets (+300)
Kevin Durant was another preseason contender for MVP. He was my top pick coming into the season. I figured he’d be the best player on the NBA Finals favorite.
This season, we’ve seen him perform at an MVP level. He leads the league with 29.7 points per game, while also averaging 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists. He is shooting at a high level, knocking down 52.3 percent of his shots and 38.2 percent of his three-pointers.
Durant hasn’t played since December 16, but he was putting up big numbers in December. Check out his last three games alone.
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He has cleared 30 points in five of his seven games this month. There’s a reason we consider Durant the greatest scorer of this generation.
It’s amazing that Durant only has one MVP in his career. I think there’s a strong chance he wins his second this season. The Brooklyn Nets are the best team in the Eastern Conference, and Durant will be in the spotlight all season.
2. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors (-110)
This might surprise some people, but Stephen Curry doesn’t top my MVP rankings.
There’s no denying that Curry has been fantastic this season. He is averaging 27.7 points, 5.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. Curry recently became the three-point king, as he has over 3,000 for his career.
There have been so many great performances from him this season, but I’m not sure anything tops his performance against the Atlanta Hawks on November 8.
Curry put up a season-high 50 points on 9-19 three-point shooting. He fell three rebounds short of a triple-double. His play on its own is worthy of MVP consideration. The Golden State Warriors success gives him a massive boost.
The Warriors have battled with the Phoenix Suns for the best record in the league. Either way, the Warriors are on pace to win 65 games. That would be on pace with his back-to-back MVPs.
It’s been impressive to see him lead the Warriors back to the top of the NBA. He’ll continue to pursue his third MVP as he tries to make the NBA Finals for the sixth time.
1. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets (+1000)
Last year’s MVP earns the top spot on my MVP rankings. Everyone loves to talk about Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, but Nikola Jokic is having a better season than his MVP season.
Jokic’s 25.8 points and 14.0 rebounds per game rank inside the top 10. His 7.1 assists per game rank 11th.
The biggest reason I like Jokic over Curry is his historic efficiency. Check out where his PER ranks among the top marks of all-time.
- Nikola Jokic (2021-22): 32.26
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019-20): 31.86
- Wilt Chamberlain (1962-63): 31.82
- Wilt Chamberlain (1961-62): 31.76
- Michael Jordan (1987-88): 31.71
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Jordan won MVP in their respective seasons.
It’s so rare to see a big man like Jokic. He dribbles and makes passes like a guard, but he can dominate in the paint like a big man.
Jokic has the Denver Nuggets as the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. That’s an impressive feat considering Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are out indefinitely.
Right now, I think he has the inside track to win his second straight MVP award.
Betting on the 2021-22 NBA MVP Award
I’d say the top three or four players have the advantage over the other contenders, but a lot can change. We haven’t hit the halfway point in the season.
Between injuries and COVID, we’ll likely see this list change many times throughout the season.