NBA MVP Race: Feb. 26
This first half of the 2021-2022 NBA season has surely been memorable.
The fact that the Brooklyn Nets are currently in eighth place in a very average Eastern Conference is concerning for Kevin Durant and Steve Nash’s team.
On the other side of the league in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a brutal start to the Russell Westbrook experiment. The Lake Show has been plagued by injuries which doesn’t bode well for a team as old as they are. If Russell Westbrook’s play does not get better quickly as the playoffs are on the horizon, the Lakers are doomed and have wasted an incredible offensive season from LeBron James.
The Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns lead the East and West, but their leads are anything but certain.
The addition of James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers makes their title chances raise without question. Finally, Joel Embiid is getting a true counterpart that will never be afraid to shoot.
Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are another team that should not be overlooked. This team is only going to get better with time adjusting to Klay Thompson's return. With all that being said, this season is still anyones for the taking.
Let’s take a look at some of the MVP candidates that are keeping their teams in contention.
5. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Doncic now has this Mavericks team to himself. The questions in the past doubting if Doncic can truly take this Dallas team through the West seems to be motivating him.
He is currently averaging a blazing 36 points per game in February. It really isn’t crazy to think that the Mavericks will be better without Kristaps Porzingis. Dallas seems to believe in Jalen Brunson as its sidekick to Doncic.
Right now it seems as if the former Real Madrid legend is getting a bit overlooked. It is hard to see him without a top five finish in this MVP race. The Mavericks are a team to keep an eye on in the West, with so many questions surrounding teams.
4. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
DeRozan was the piece that the Los Angeles Lakers needed and passed on. Now, he is making the most in his first year in Chicago.
There were questions coming into the season about how good of a fit this would be, but Chicago is truly a top tier contender in the East now because of this move. DeRozan has never really had a season as good as this one, and he deserves a top-five MVP finish.
He and the rest of those Bulls are one of the many feel good stories that has come from this season so far. Give credit to DeRozan who was disrespectfully traded from the Raptors, who then won a championship after his departure, now he has found a new home and has helped a young franchise get some life back.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have run through the East and finished as a top-three seed in the last three seasons. They are now midway through their season after a long awaited championship for Milwaukee basketball.
But things haven’t necessarily picked up where most would have expected them to. The Bucks are currently sitting at an unimpressive fifth place in the East. Antetokounmpo may be having his best overall season so far in his short but successful career, but he seems to be an afterthought for the NBA MVP race as we reach the midpoint of this season.
He is currently shooting above 54 percent from the floor averaging just over 29 points per game. With how tight the East is currently, if the Bucks were to capture some of their magic from last year they could easily win the East which is Antetokounmpo’s chance to win his third MVP.
2. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Jokic currently leads his Nuggets in points, rebounds and assists. Jokic is playing an incredible amount of minutes and is taking all the responsibility running the offense with the absence of Jamal Murray.
The Serbian big man is becoming the model for all NBA teams looking to find their franchise altering center. Jokic is no doubt one of the best passers in the league and his ability to score at all three levels is something that we haven’t seen since Dirk Nowitzki.
Averaging around 14 rebounds and eight assists per game to go along with 26 points in most eyes makes this a two man race between Jokic and Joel Embiid.
Both big men will get a key counterpart returning to their lineups in the second half of the season which very well might end up deciding who wins this award.
1. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
All that Embiid has been through during his career seems to only be making him better, with the struggles that went on with teammate Ben Simmons and the early career injuries, there was cause for some doubt surrounding the former Kansas star. But Embiid has risen to the challenge and has made his case for being the best big man in the league if not one of the best players overall.
What will be the deciding factor when it comes to Embiid or Jokic winning this MVP award will be how good James Harden makes the Sixers. If Philadelphia wins the East and the combination of Harden and Embiid works like Daryl Morey has been envisioning it to, then “The Process” may win his first MVP, even if Harden takes some shots away.
The fact that Embiid has kept his team in it so far bodes well for his MVP case, now he’ll play with the most talented shooting guard the franchise has seen since Allen Iverson.
Sam Kirk is second-year studying broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Junior / Broadcast Journalism
Sam Kirk is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism at Penn State. He is a writer and podcaster for the CommRadio sports department. He is also featured weekly in the CommRadio news department on Thursday newcasts. Sam has written articles all across the board that deal with baseball, football and basketball. He is also working for a football media company called Inside the Hashes, writing articles, interviewing players and contributing to their YouTube channel.