The NBA MVP Race
The MVP Race is a point of discussion for NBA fans the minute the season begins. Now, with the regular season coming to a close, it is a great topic of debate within the community. I remember in the beginning of the year, the two major names that were being tossed around were Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. But midway through the season, Durant succumbed to injuries and Curry shot himself out of the race with his inconsistency through the early months of 2022. Various players throughout the season were in and out of the MVP discussion, but as we wind down, it is time to decide on a select few that are legitimate contenders for the award. Now from what I have heard from the mix of analysts and fans, there seems to be a consensus on the three top guys: Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. However, I believe that there is one player being severely overlooked in the MVP race. Here are my top 4 MVP candidates:
The Joker is currently sitting atop the MVP ladder and has been there comfortably for weeks now. The reigning MVP’s stats are just absurd, averaging 26.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. With those stats alone he would be in the conversation, but when you take account of the situation he is in it becomes even more impressive. This entire season he has played without the team's second and third best players on the court, those being Jamaal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., respectively. His second option has now become Aaron Gordon, who has shown signs of regressing compared to his previous years. Even with all these obstacles, he has been able to lead the Nuggets to a top 6 seed in the Western Conference. It is certain that without Jokic the Nuggets would be in a significantly worse position, maybe even missing the playoffs entirely. The resume is there and obvious to anyone who has watched basketball this year, but I see one problem that Jokic has to face: recency bias. Although it did not happen too long ago when Giannis won back to back MVPs, it is very rare for something like that to occur when it comes to this award. That being said, Jokic has done more than enough to deserve the award for a second consecutive year, so I can not say I would be shocked if he ended up being a two time MVP by the time this year ends.
Giannis has definitely been one of, if not the most, consistent players over the last 3 years, racking up two MVPs along with a championship ring. This year is no different for the Greek Freak. He is averaging 30.1 points per game, the most out of any player on this list, along with 11.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Although it was a slow start for the Bucks, with them falling as low as the 11th seed even early on, they stormed back triumphantly. They now sit at the two seed and are only 1 game away from the #1 seed Miami Heat. Although the Bucks did bring back most of their championship roster in free agency, they did lose Donte DiVincenzo at the trade deadline. Losing DiVincenzo really should have been a big loss, especially to the Bucks three point shooting, but instead they have thrived under the leadership of Giannis (who is shooting a surprising 30% from behind the line). Khris Middleton has also had a relatively down year, despite him bouncing back as of late, which has not made it any easier. Despite all of this, Giannis has kept up his phenomenal play along with carrying the Bucks to a top seed in the East. The main issue when it comes to his case is that his team struggled heavily early in the season, so the team's success has not been completely consistent. Additionally, it is hard to see the panel awarding Giannis 3 MVPs in 4 years, especially with plenty of the other candidates who have not received the award even once. Yet much like Jokic and my next candidate, I would not be surprised if The Greek Freak became a 3 time MVP by the end of the season.
Much like last year, Joel Embiid is showcasing why he is one of the most dominant centers in the league. He is leading the league in scoring with 30 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game, and 4.3 assists per game. Additionally, to my surprise, he has stayed relatively healthy throughout the season. He has done this also with little to no help for most of the season, with players such as Ben Simmons sitting out and Tobias Harris having a really down year. Despite this, Embiid has been able to carry his team to one of the top 4 in the East fighting for the first seed. While the 76ers added James Harden at the trade deadline,, they have been one of the top teams in the East all season and that is all because of Joel Embiid’s dominant play. It may have taken a few years, but I think we are finally witnessing the superstar player we expected back when he was drafted back in 2014. If I were to pick a clear favorite to win MVP based on the media and the analysts, it would probably be Embiid. But the next candidate I am going to talk about is my personal pick for MVP.
Now I know how this might look like biased, considering in my last article I selected the Bulls as the best team in the league. But I truly believe no player has had a bigger impact on their team’s success than Demar Derozan. Last year the Bulls missed the play-in with 2 All-Star caliber players in Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. They also had solid young pieces like Coby White and Patrick Williams, yet they still were not able to put it all together. The Bulls then decided to go all in on free agency bringing in guys like Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and biggest of all, Demar Derozan. Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball were great additions, but they have been battling injuries all season long, so their true impact has been little to none. Even with those injuries, Demar has been able to take the team on his back and catapult them into a top 5 seed in the East. The Bulls have even held the 1 seed for multiple stretches this season. Derozan has scored the most points in the league, while averaging 28 per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 5 assists.. His stats are not as impressive as the other players on this list, but his impact on the Bulls has been huge.To me the MVP award is incredibly flawed, as it never truly goes to who is most valuable to their team’s success. Take any of the “top” 3 candidates off their teams, will the team be worse? Most definitely. But will they miss the playoffs? That I am not too sure about. The top 3 guys all have strong teams built around them or great coaching. But with the Bulls, we know that for the most part the same exact team minus Demar Derozan missed the play-in last year. They have held the 1 seed and are a top 5 team in the stacked East. That’s such a huge difference that I believe is being severely overlooked by fans and analysts alike. Unfortunately, the award will most likely go to one of the top 3 candidates above, marking yet another year of an undeserving MVP recipient.