NBA MVP Watch: Jan. 27

Story posted January 27, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Donaldson

We’re about halfway through the NBA season, which means these upcoming weeks are crucial not only for the playoff standings, but for the award races as well.

The MVP award is about as undetermined as ever. Although right now, it’s hard to argue that the top-three aren’t three international big men. Just when we all thought that it was a guard’s league!

Let’s take a peek at those top-three, as well as some others.

1. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid is the most unstoppable force in the NBA right now. Since Embiid has returned from his bout with COVID-19 early in the season, he’s begun to find his groove and has put the league back on watch.

Since Christmas, Embiid is averaging a whopping 34.7 points per game, which is first in the NBA by a comfortable margin. Following his 42-point outing against the Pelicans on Jan. 5, his third 40+ performance in four games, Embiid is averaging 29 points per game on the season, which trails only LeBron James (29.1) and Kevin Durant (29.3).

Embiid has improved his playmaking, averaging a career-high 4.3 assists per game, is as dominant as always down low and when his jump shot is on, it’s lethal. Especially from mid-range. Whether it’s a move inspired by Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Hakeem Olajuwon or even Dirk Nowitzki, Embiid’s bag is packed with tricks that make him truly unguardable.

If Embiid can keep up this pace, he’ll likely be adding an MVP trophy to his case much like each of those Hall of Famers.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

If you haven’t accepted that already two-time MVP and reigning NBA Champion Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a household name in these conversations for the rest of his career, well, then it’s time to.

The Greek Freak hasn’t been quite as dominant as Embiid, but he’s been pretty darn close. Antetokounmpo has really picked up the pace following a slow start to the season and is back to his usual, relentless bucket-getting self.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and a career-high six assists per game this season and has the Bucks in the thick of the Eastern Conference as he continues to take his game to new heights.

The Bucks still have some things to figure out if they’re looking to defend their title, but the one thing that’s certain is that Antetokounmpo is going to bring it every night, and there isn’t much anyone can do to stop him.

3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic has taken no steps backwards following his dominant 2021 season, and to this point, the reigning NBA MVP is making a very promising case to take home the award in back-to-back seasons.

Jokic has posted a triple-doubles in four of his last seven games, just narrowly missing the mark in the other three. He also posted a 20 point, 21 rebound, nine assist stat-line this week – even if it was against the Pistons. He's averaging 13.8 boards this season, which by far the highest of his young career.

The Joker has singlehandedly kept the Jamal Murray-less Nuggets afloat in the Western Conference and hasn’t taken any steps backwards from his historic MVP season last year. In fact, he’s arguably even better, which is scary for the rest of the league.

4. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Devin Booker and Chris Paul could probably be 4a and 4b here. But the bottom line is, the Suns have been the best team in the NBA this season and one if not both deserve MVP recognition.

Paul is undoubtedly the glue, but without Booker, the team is not near what it is. Not taking anything away from the Point God, but the Suns have a handful of young, athletic, fiery guards that fill in for Paul just nicely.

It’s time that Booker starts getting some love for MVP because he’s having a sensational season and is a vital piece to the Suns’ puzzle on both ends of the floor. Booker is the Suns' main source of offense, averaging a 25 points per game on 44.2% shooting.

The numbers arent too flashy, but that's an ode to the the team style of basketball that Phoenix plays. Simply put, Booker is the best player on the best team in basketball. He's been on fire as of late as well, going off for 40+ points in two of his last five games.

The Suns’ success along with Booker’s scoring prowess and improvements on the defensive end have him right in the thick of MVP conversation.

5. Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry began the season sizzling hot and was the heavy-favorite to win the MVP award, but has significantly cooled down since and the Warriors have slipped slightly in the standings.

Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Curry has been struggling mightily, and that’s not an exaggeration. Curry’s averaging just 20.6 points per game in the new year and shooting a measly 29.8% from long range. It has plummeted his season-percentage to 37.3, which is by far the worst of his career (excluding 2019-2020 when he only played five games before he hurt his wrist).

It doesn’t end there. This season, Curry has put together the three worst shooting performances of his career (4-12, 5-24, 5-21) and it would be the five worst if not for a 5-21 game his rookie season.

Curry hasn’t fallen completely off the list because he’s still an accomplished leader, terrific playmaker and has been finding other ways to get it done while his shot hasn’t been falling. This is likely just a slump, albeit a bad one, but Curry’s going to break out of it. The question is not if, but when?

HM:

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

 

Zach Donaldson is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zach.donaldson1@gmail.com.