With the 2021-22 NBA season creeping up on us next month, it’s time to rank the top MVP candidates. There are more than a few qualified candidates and the battle for the award should come down to the wire as it did last season.
Nuggets hybrid center Nikola Jokic (Serbian) is the reigning MVP. NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greek) won the two MVPs before that. Does an American-born player regain the throne or will one of these two foreign-born players do it again?
If not them, there’s plenty more international talent in play for the award. How about Joel Embiid from Cameroon? Or Luka Doncic the Slovenian stalwart.
The Shadow League ranks our Top 5 MVP candidates entering the 2021-22 season.
1. Greek Freak
The favorite has to be Giannis , who’s fresh off leading the Milwaukee Bucks to its first NBA championship in 50 seasons.
He then became a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. Point blank, the “Greek Freak” is the king of “Cream City” right now.
His historical Finals performance where he averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals in leading the Bucks back from an 0-2 deficit to win four straight, including his epic 50-piece in the Game 6 clincher, has to make him a favorite.
2. Luka Doncic
The Dallas Mavericks’ status as a mid-tier playoff team probably complicated Luka Doncic’s candidacy for league MVP this past season.
But in the epic seven-game, first-round playoff loss to the fully healthy Clippers, he showed us why he’ll be in the running every season in “Big D.”
With Mark Cuban as owner, we know he’s gonna do all he can to build a winner around the 22-year-old multi-faceted star. The team moved on from coach Rick Carlisle. His relationship with Luka was going sour. Jason Kidd will allow Luka more freedom to play as he wishes.
3. Chef Curry
Stephen Curry was historically brilliant for the Warriors last season and that still wasn’t enough to get them to the playoffs due to a play-in game loss to the Grizzlies.
He averaged 32.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on 48 percent shooting while constantly fighting double- and triple-teams.
Steph Curry X Kobe Bryant
Different animal, same beast. pic.twitter.com/5s3fCwxX9Y
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) September 13, 2021
With his “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson expected to return to the floor in 2021-22, the Dubs hope to return to title contention.
Curry could end up being one of the oldest players to hoist the MVP trophy. A huge factor in what happens “By The Bay” depends on whether the Warriors retain the young core or use them as trade pieces.
Nikola Jokic, the reigning MVP is fourth on this list. This isn’t a knock on him, but rather a testament to how great the other players listed ahead of him are.
With Jamal Murray sidelined late last season with a torn ACL, Jokic took the opportunity to step to the forefront of a rather close MVP race and take home the hardware.
The Nuggets went 17-8 minus their dynamic floor leader Murray, and that had everything to do with the multi-dimensional big known as the Joker, who averaged 31.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists during that span.
Jokic is still only 26 years old. There’s no reason to believe that his Nuggets team will drop off moving forward. Another great season could lead to back-to-back awards for the Serbian.
5. “KD” Easy Money Sniper
It’s all about KD and “The Big Three”staying healthy. If Kyrie is available come playoff time and Harden can take care of his body and slow down on the extra curricular activities, then that opens the door for KD to be at his best. His best is usually top three in MVP contention. And the Brooklyn Nets will be in the NBA Finals.
Durant, 32, has played a total of 35 regular-season games since the end of the 2018-19 season. An argument can be made that KD is injury-plagued at this point in his career. That’s fine. But let’s not cheat the “Slim Reaper.”
He remains a top MVP candidate. In the 35 games he played for the Nets last season, they went 24-11. Durant also averaged 34.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 12 playoff games. Durant literally carried the Nets shot-for-shot in the undermanned team’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
Despite being named a finalist for the 2020-21 NBA MVP, Joel Embiid’s candidacy took a hit due to the fact that he missed roughly a quarter of the 76ers’ regular-season games.
Since entering the league in 2014, the generational talent from Africa has not played in more than 64 games in a season. This is troublesome.
When he was on the court, Embiid averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds for a Sixers team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers might be looking to move Ben Simmons as a way to find Embiid a better No. 2 option. Philly’s premature playoff exit is shaping up to be the final chapter in Simmons’ Philly career However it shakes out will have ramifications on Embiid’s 2021-22 MVP candidacy.
You can never disregard LeBron James. He jumped out the window in the early stages of the 2020-21 season and hit the ground running on some Carl Lewis circa ‘84 flow.
James is a three-time MVP and always a top-end candidate for this individual award. He’s probably been cheated out of three more. Unfortunately, an ankle injury cost him 27 games during an already truncated 72-game schedule. His absence from the court was enough for him to be eliminated from contention.
But that won’t be the case in 2021-22. Even at 36 years of age. James is still playing at an elite clip. His Lakers have reloaded with top-tier (although long in tooth) veteran talent and remain legit NBA title contenders — even after a first-round exit in the playoffs.
LeBron will be an MVP candidate until he ultimately hangs those shoes up. However, there’s a new crop of stars who are becoming fan favorites and being recognized as the fresh faces of the NBA’s next generation.