With the All-Star break on the horizon, we’re almost at the (unofficial) midway point of the 2021-22 NBA season.
As the playoff picture begins to take shape, the battle for Most Valuable Player is as wide open as ever, with up to seven players having a real shot at taking home the award.
Last month, Nets star Kevin Durant took out the top spot in The Sporting News’ MVP Ladder. Since then, several players have boosted their chances.
So without further ado, we’ve got you covered with our top five, as of Jan. 11.
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A few players who deserve mention:
- Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
- Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns (Last month: No. 5)
- Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
- LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Embiid has returned to an MVP level of play over the past two weeks for the 76ers and could well have replaced Curry for the final spot in the top five.
For now, Curry hangs on to kick off our top five.
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Last month: No. 2
After his scorching start to the season, Curry has fallen back to fifth in the MVP race, with his scoring cooling off to some degree.
MORE: NBA Twitter celebrates Klay Thompson’s return
Curry hasn’t crossed the 30-point mark since Christmas Day and the Warriors have gone 4-3 in their last seven games. However, they remain at the top of the Western Conference, tied with the Suns for the best record in the league at 30-9.
With Klay Thompson now back in the lineup after a two-year absence, Curry can now defer some of the offense to his backcourt mate, which could well see his MVP chances suffer, but as it stands, he’s still the best player on the team with the best record in the league.
4. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Last month: No. 3
The injury-depleted Nuggets are hovering above .500, thanks largely to the monster production of Jokic, who is keeping them in the playoff hunt.
Jokic’s numbers this season have been nothing short of absurd, improving his play from his MVP-winning campaign in 2020-21, currently sitting second in rebounding, ninth in scoring and 13th in assists.
He is also currently tied with James Harden for the second-most triple-doubles in the league this season with seven, trailing only Russell Westbrook (9), and he has recorded three games of 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds, all coming in the past three weeks. The rest of the league has combined for seven such games, with no other player doing it more than once.
3. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
Last month: Unranked
DeRozan was just on the outside looking on the MVP race last month, but the Bulls star has strengthened his case, powering Chicago to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
MORE: Stats to know from Bulls’ nine-game win streak
Their surge has been fueled by a nine-game winning streak, which included back-to-back buzzer-beating game-winners from DeRozan, becoming the first player to do so since Larry Bird in 1985.
🎥 Watch DeMar DeRozan’s GAME-WINNER from every angle! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/d0fBEEYMoN
— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) January 2, 2022
DeRozan, who currently leads East guards in All-Star voting, is averaging 26.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists on the season.
2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Last month: No. 1
Durant has been one of the most consistent players this season and currently leads the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game, putting him on track for his highest scoring average since he won MVP in 2014 (32.0 ppg).
He is currently tied with Hawks guard Trae Young and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo for the second-most 30-point games this season (15), trailing LeBron James who leads the league with 18.
Durant has been his usual self lately, but it hasn’t been enough to prevent the Nets from going 2-4 in their last six games, dropping them to 25-14 on the season.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Last month: No. 4
After clearing health and safety protocols in time for the Bucks’ Christmas Day showdown against the Celtics, Antetokounmpo has been on a tear.
Antetokounmpo’s Christmas Day heroics included 36 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, one of which sealed the win.
POV: you’re getting blocked by Giannis. 🚫 pic.twitter.com/7SczzvDYPi
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 25, 2021
The Bucks have had a relatively light schedule in that span, but Antetokounmpo has been putting the hurt on teams, including 31 points in a win over Durant and the Nets.
Across his past eight games, the Greek Freak is averaging 32.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists on 57.8 percent shooting from the field.
With the Bucks climbing the standings to fourth in the East, just 3.0 games back of the No. 1 seed Bulls, Antetokounmpo is making his move on earning his third MVP in four seasons.