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NBA MVP Rankings: Nikola Jokic Leads Wide-Open Race; Having Slight Edge Over LeBron James And Stephen Curry…See Shocking Reason

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We’re nearing the halfway point of the 2021-22 NBA season, and the MVP race is, at this moment, looking like it could come down to a photo finish. There’s a lot of context to this year’s discussion. Three of the top four candidates have been without an All-Star teammate for the entire season.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo has played just 18 games alongside Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. LeBron James is trying to keep a painfully flawed Lakers team afloat as Anthony Davis, who can’t hit a 3-pointer to save his life and hasn’t looked anything like the 2020 version that helped lift the Lakers to a title, nurses an MCL sprain.

There’s still a long way to go. The trade deadline could shake some things up. But as of January 3, 2022, this is my MVP ranking.

 

 

1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

I can’t deny it any longer. Jokic, at this point in time, is the MVP. I haven’t been willing to make that leap in my head because Denver is barely above .500, but the season this guy is having is ridiculous — even better than his MVP campaign from a year ago, which was also ridiculous.

 

 

Right now, Jokic is the best player in the game. Close your eyes and throw a dart at an encompassing advanced metric — RAPTOR WAR, Total RAPTOR, VORP, BPM, OBPM, PER — and he’ll be leading it. He’s even leading Defensive RAPTOR and ranks second in Defensive Win Shares, and those aren’t statistical deceptions. He’s been legit awesome on the defensive end.
He has three game-winning blocked shots.

 

 

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Giannis is well within range of his third MVP. The Bucks are 21-9 with him in the lineup and 4-0 since he returned from health and safety protocols on Christmas. Over that span, Giannis has averaged 33 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists on 58.5 percent shooting. He’s also gotten to the free-throw line over 10 times per game and knocked them down at just under a 75-percent clip.

 

 

The Bucks, who’ve still only played 18 games with Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday all active, are 15.5 points per 100 possessions better with Giannis on the floor, per CTG, and beating opponents by 12 points per 100, a differential that trails only Curry and the Warriors on this list.

 

 

Giannis, the league’s third-leading scorer and the only player averaging at least 25 points, 11 rebounds and one block per game, trails only Jokic in VORP, BPM and PER and Total RAPTOR.

 

 

3. Stephen Curry, Warriors

Curry was the frontrunner for a long time and for many people he still may be, but his shot has been off long enough — relatively speaking — for me to drop him in the rankings.

Curry was shooting under 40 percent from 3 until he went 6 for 12 in a win against Utah on Saturday. He made just 40 percent of his shots in the month of December. His 43.4 overall shooting percentage would go down as a career low. He has never been worse, by a wide margin, from the midrange.

 

 

All this said, I’m admittedly holding Curry against his own historically high shooting standards. For anyone else in the universe, 40 percent from 3 on an NBA record 13.5 attempts per game would have our heads spinning. For Curry, we say he’s struggling.

 

 

Ultimately, the Warriors have the best record in the league (27-6 with Curry playing) and are outscoring opponents by 15.8 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the court.

 

 

He’s the league’s fourth-leading scorer, continues to rank among the elite of the elite in all the advanced stats, and projects to get even better upon the imminent return of Klay Thompson, who should distract a few of those defenders that have been swarming to Curry in packs.

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