Who are the most likely candidates to be the NBA MVP heading into the 2021-2022 NBA season?
Most Valuable Player is one of the most deceiving awards in all sports. Why? Because rarely does the most valuable player win the award. Instead, the award goes to the player who has the best statistics and story for that particular year.
Not to diminish anything that former MVPs have done, but the award is about two things: timing and opportunity. If the award went to the most valuable player, it would just be a rotation between Lebron. Steph Curry and Giannis. Let’s take a look at the top-five most likely candidates to bring home the crown this year.
Few players have had a strong beginning to their professional career as Luka. Since he burst onto the scene in 2018, he has averaged over 25 points per game, eight rebounds, seven assists, and shooting 33% from three. When it comes to Luka’s play, it’s more than just the raw numbers that make him an MVP candidate. He can completely take over a game. He almost single-handedly took down the Clippers in a seven-game series in last year’s playoffs. Additionally, Luka has little to no competition for shots on the Mavs giving him loads of opportunity for the volume of shots, rebounds, and assists. It also helps that he has yet to win an MVP; voters love to crown a first-time MVP.
Last year Nikola Jokić broke down the recent barrier for big men winning MVP. Embiid was undoubtedly in the discussion last season, too, and his odds are only going up with the Ben Simmons debacle. Because Simmons and Embiid both make their living in the paint, losing one will mean more opportunity for the other.
Of course, with Embiid, the biggest question will always be healthy. Plus, without Simmons on the roster, Jojo will get to shine brighter as the star he already is. He took a significant step forward as a shooter in 2020, jumping from 47% field goal percentage to 51%. If he can stay on the court for an entire season, he could be a heavy favorite to take home the hardware in 2021.
2020 was the year of the Greek Freak, and though he’s already a two-time MVP, it feels like his stock is only rising. Sometimes, it can be easy to see a player’s greatness, but some need to see it on the biggest stage when it comes to Giannis. Because his playstyle does not match the modern perimeter shooting style, some felt his MVP was more about raw numbers than the actual value. After the 2020 Finals, though, there should be no question that Giannis is one of the most dominant forces of the court. The narrative for him winning MVP is straightforward; he’s one of the best players on one of the best teams in the league. As long as he can stay healthy, he should be a perianal favorite for the award.
Few players in the league have had a drastic change in perception as KD. When KD got his MVP as a member of the Thunder, he was looked at as a true star. Once he joined the Warriors, though, the narrative about him completely changed. Two championships later, Durant proves that he is the most versatile player in the league. It can be challenging for a player on a team full of stars to take the crown.
KD might have better odds because of his teammates. It’s no secret that James Harden and Kyrie Irving are a handful when it comes to dependability. They both frequently have issues in the locker room and the medical room as well. Can Durant lead this team to the playoffs again? With the numbers, he puts up? He could add another MVP to his trophy case.
After returning from injury in 2020, Steph carried the Warriors as close to the playoffs as possible. Steph has completely changed the way the game is played. He forces the defense to guard every inch of the court when he has the ball, and now that the Warriors are finally getting Klay Thompson back, it might be time we see MVP Steph return to form. It’s easy to forget just how dominant Curry was from 2014-2016. With Curry’s skill set, it’s so easy for him to accumulate the raw stats needed to take back the MVP. After averaging an incredible 32 PPG in 2020, Curry could be unanimous again in 2021.