The season is getting to the halfway point, and we have a pretty good idea of which teams are making the playoffs. With a quarter of the season completed, the best teams have distinguished themselves from the pack and have the highest odds of winning it all. Similarly, the best players in the league have distinguished themselves from the other players in the MVP Race. At multiple points during the season, we will provide the MVP Race where the best players compete for the coveted award.
There has been some movement in the MVP Rankings in recent weeks due to brilliant individual performances, meaning these stars mean the most to their teams. It is very difficult to rank some of the top-10 players in the game in terms of being the most valuable player, but it must be done. There are familiar faces once again, but there is one distinguished leader in the MVP Race because he might be the most dominant player in the league right now.
10. Paul George
2021-22 NBA Stats: 25.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Paul George is once again performing at an elite level because he has kept the Los Angeles Clippers afloat as they wait for the return of Kawhi Leonard. George is still one of the best two-way stars in the game and is putting up great numbers across the board, showcasing his efficiency (38.1% shooting from three and 88.0% from the free-throw line).
With the 5th seed in the Western Conference, the Clippers will try to compete in the playoffs with the hopes of Leonard making a surprise return to the team. Kawhi is known to take his time rehabbing from injury, and franchises have no choice but to wait for him. Quite frankly, Leonard is one of the greatest two-way players ever, so George will need to be at an MVP level for his team to survive in the Wild West.
9. Luka Doncic
2021-22 NBA Stats: 25.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 8.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Luka will likely be in the MVP race for the next decade at least because he is one of the most dominant individual players in the league at only 22 years old. The Slovenian superstar has been a superstar since his rookie season, and he will be a major reason that the Dallas Mavericks will make the playoffs this year.
If Luka can continue getting help from Kristaps Porzingis (19.5 PPG and 8.0 RPG), the Mavericks should be in good shape moving forward. It will be hard for Luka to make it past the first round of the playoffs with his team, but setting them up for a top-5 seed could mean an MVP-caliber season for one of the best young stars on the planet.
8. Jimmy Butler
2021-22 NBA Stats: 22.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG
For the way Jimmy Butler has placed Miami on the map again, he deserves to be in the MVP conversation. It was Butler’s presence that helped Bam Adebayo prosper into an All-Star, and he is the main star that brought Kyle Lowry to Miami this offseason. All these changes have ultimately turned the Heat into title contenders. Jimmy was one of the best payers in the league during the 2020 Finals run, and he is once again a two-way All-Star this year.
Butler’s numbers are slightly lower than the other players on this list, but his impact does not always come on the stat sheet. Butler is a lockdown defender, hustles for every loose ball, and does not mind getting into it with opponents. As the premier “tough guy” in Miami, Jimmy Butler easily checks in the top-10 of all MVP-caliber participants.
7. Zach LaVine
2021-22 NBA Stats: 26.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Zach LaVine is a superstar on the offensive end because he puts up numbers so effortlessly these days. The sharpshooter is nailing 37.7% from three, 48.7% from the field, and 84.8% from the free-throw line. Thanks to LaVine’s scoring and the presence of DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls are a force in the Eastern Conference.
LaVine has taken his game to a very high level this season because he has the Bulls close to the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference. The shooting guard is only 26 years old, meaning he has at least another 6 years at an All-Star level to deliver the goods to Chicago. The Bulls have been looking for their next big star since Derrick Rose, and LaVine could become that.
6. DeMar DeRozan
2021-22 NBA Stats: 26.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
DeMar DeRozan has been arguably the most important piece this season for the Chicago Bulls because his scoring has been exceptional. The forward is averaging 26.4 PPG on 49.8% shooting from the field, 33.3% from three, and 88.8% from the stripe. DeMar is also one of the most clutch players in the league and has been consistent in delivering victories to Chicago.
Between him and Zach LaVine, it is a toss-up on which star should be ahead in the MVP race. But DeRozan gets the edge because he is averaging the highest PPG average since the 2017 season. DeMar is a mid-range maestro, but he is just as good when he attacks the rim or creates offense for others. The former Toronto Raptors star is playing his best basketball again, and that bodes well for Chicago’s chances in the playoffs this year.
5. Chris Paul
2021-22 NBA Stats: 14.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 10.2 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Chris Paul, at 36 years old, is still one of the best point guards in the league. In fact, he might be the most impactful at his position outside of Stephen Curry. After all, Paul was the leader of the Phoenix Suns team that made the NBA Finals last year. As great as Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are, the Suns do not hold a 21-4 record without their superstar point guard.
Paul’s numbers are fantastic once again, and it is amazing how he has been able to maintain an elite level of play at this stage of his career. CP3 can score from outside (34.2% from three), nail his foul shots (82.4%), and is an elite playmaker. On defense, Paul is also an on-court leader who always holds his own whenever defending the best guards on the other team.
4. Kevin Durant
2021-22 NBA Stats: 29.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Just how great is Kevin Durant? The superstar forward has kept Brooklyn with the best record in the East despite the absence of Kyrie Irving and James Harden’s struggles. Averaging 28.4 PPG (37.7% 3-PT FG, 52.9% FG) after a severe Achilles injury is unbelievable, and Kevin continues to defy the odds. He is truly one of the few superstars to ever come back after an Achilles injury and dominate the league.
In almost any other season, Durant would likely be #1 in the MVP race. While he is not far off that spot, it will take some magical performances for him to get there. The Nets have the most dominant duo in the league because Durant and Harden can go off at any given point. With James having his inconsistencies and Irving’s appearances in doubt, Durant has been exceptional. But three players are currently ahead of him in the esteemed award race.
3. Nikola Jokic
2021-22 NBA Stats: 26.5 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG
The Serbian superstar has an uphill battle in getting Denver back into a top-3 seeding because his injury decimated the team. Without Nikola (and Jamal Murray) on the court, the Nuggets struggled to find wins and are not above .500 so far this season. Once the center starts stringing some wins together for his team, Denver should be back in the title race once again.
But when he has been on the court, Nikola has put up insane numbers in every category. Jokic is an elite scorer from the post and from three (35.2%) and is the best pure passing big man we have ever seen. The big man already has an MVP Award on his resume, and he is getting close to repeating this year. His chances will greatly depend on how well Denver can win games because failing to hold a top-4 seed would hurt his MVP pedigree.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
2021-22 NBA Stats: 27.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.6 BPG
The Greek Freak is the most physically dominant superstar since a prime LeBron James, even though the big man is drawing comparisons to Shaquille O’Neal. Giannis is an unbelievable talent on the court because he can defend 5 positions and also score against any defender. His improvement as a shooter has come slowly but surely because he has shown the ability to hit shots when left open.
Giannis will never be mistaken for Stephen Curry, but he does not have to be. His length, explosiveness, strength, and skill level are unbelievably high. The 6’11” power forward means everything to the Milwaukee Bucks, because he is the reigning Finals MVP with the most complete skill set in the game today. As long as Giannis leads the Bucks to wins, his chances of being a 3-time MVP are very high although he remains behind one player.
1. Stephen Curry
2021-22 NBA Stats: 27.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG
The best point guard in the game is playing at an extremely elite level, and he could be having his best season yet in terms of on-court dominance and leadership. With Klay Thompson out and Draymond Green slightly older, Curry has led the Golden State Warriors to an amazing 21-5 record in the Western Conference. As long as Curry remains proficient from three (41.3%), he will be the most feared player on the court.
The Warriors were expected to be very good with Klay healthy, but nobody expected the team to play this well without Thompson on the floor. Curry has greatly improved his defense as well and has been the best leader on the court out of all superstars. Guys like Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II are following in Curry’s example, meaning the point guard is the MVP favorite so far thanks to team record and brilliant individual performances.