NBA MVP Ranking: Stephen Curry clearly first favorite; Kevin Durant carrying nets with an unstoppable shot

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It doesn’t sound like it, but we are approaching the pole quarter of the 2021-22 NBA season. It’s still early days, of course, but at least some things are starting to take shape. The MVP race is one of them. Coming into play on Monday night, in my opinion, the first three are clear, although the order is up for debate.

Perhaps the most interesting conversation after that is between teammates in Chicago. And who do you have so far? Jimmy Butler, Paul George or Giannis Antetokounmpo? Let’s get into it.

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Curry, relatively speaking, has had an erratic start to the season. Then he started to cook. He’s up 41 percent from 3 on career volume (13.1 attempts per game). Coming on Monday, Curry is second in the league in scoring, behind Kevin Durant, and is set to make more than 415 trebles, which would shatter his own NBA record of 402.

You could argue that Curry hasn’t been the league’s best traditional player this season, but his intangible effect on games and his team still seems impossible to properly measure. Either way, it was spectacular. He’s already made at least nine three-pointers on four occasions. That’s almost half the number of nine-three games Damian Lillard and James Harden have played in their careers.

Curry’s gravity is more devastating than ever, his assists are more and more numerous to score and shoot around him, and even his defense has been very good. With the Warriors holding a league-best 15-2 record coming into play on Monday, Curry is the first favorite clear enough to win his third MVP trophy.

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For my money, Jokic has been the best player in the league so far. He was off the charts by winning the MVP last season, and he’s been better this year in the absence of Jamal Murray and, recently, Michael Porter Jr. Again, Jokic leads pretty much all advanced measures, and those he does not have. in the lead, he is second. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only player in the league to average close to 26 points, six assists and 13 rebounds from Jokic.

Coming in on Monday, Jokic shoots 59% from the field, 41% from 3 and 65% from 2 with a live shooting percentage of over 66, all absolutely elite scores and career highs of a mile. The Nuggets outperform their opponents by over 29 points per 100 possessions when Jokic is down, and 18 of those points are earned on defense. It is not an empty metric. Jokic has been legitimately good in defense this season.

Jokic’s massive, space-devouring presence has always been underestimated as people have strained his defense over the years, but this year he moves significantly better in ball screen actions, playing the ball. level if necessary, withdrawing to stop the lobs, moving his feet head-to-head.

Faced with a speed demon like Tyrese Maxey, he will fall deeply. If a shooter comes out, he is often in some kind of gentle fall, between a fall and a full double or a hurdle, not giving the ball carrier a clear decision to shoot up or attack the rim, almost to the same way only one Defender on a 2v1 break will wait as long as he can to engage. This way he can challenge the shots while still giving himself a chance to stay ahead and / or retreat to stop the lobs.

The Nuggets have been in the top-five in defense for most of the season, and it’s no coincidence that they have abandoned Jokic in the last two games with a wrist issue, the most recent of which saw Denver. yield a high of 126 points. at Phoenix.

None of this means Jokic is an elite defender, just as Curry’s strong defensive metrics don’t say that about him. It is not a heavy duty rim protector. He lacks athleticism to legitimately keep the perimeter. But he’s as smart as he is huge. He understands spacing and knows how to navigate the gray areas of the blanket very well. Now is the time for us to stop talking about Jokic as a one-sided player.

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Durant is the league’s leading scorer with a 56.7 / 42.7 / 84.5 split on Monday. The man shoots 66 percent from 15 to 19 feet, according to NBA.com. It’s such a stupid number, especially since every hit he takes is disputed, that I don’t know how to do it justice. All told, Durant shoots 58% of the midrange, according to Cleaning the Glass, by far a career high for what was already arguably the greatest midrange shooter in history.

As James Harden slowly returns to his old form, Durant does everything for Brooklyn. In addition to his shots and goals, he has a career assists rate, according to Cleaning the Glass. Top 10 by all catch-all measures, Durant continues to be the eye test champion. He can get any shot he wants. Defense borders on insignificance. No one makes scoring easier. The Nets are a contender, at this point, almost entirely because of him.

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The dealership’s choice for who was better in Chicago, DeRozan or Zach LaVine. I’m going with DeRozan for the simple fact that he’s the one who attacks the Bulls when they really need a bucket. And for good reason. DeRozan remains a mid-range machine. He’s one of the safest bets in the league to come up with his spot (the short midrange is the money zone), and once he does, he’s doing better than 52% of his career-high 10- to 16-foot jumpers.

DeRozan is also taking 2.6 points to 3 points per game, his highest volume since his last season in Toronto, but this year he doesn’t feel pressured. He takes them in rhythm and does them at a rate of 37%, by far a career high. Entering Monday, the Bulls have 23 points per 100 possessions better with DeRozan on the ground, per CTG, double the impact of anyone on the team (that said, don’t let LaVine’s minus 10.7 mark deceive you; it depends on the composition and small sample deception).

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Reasonable minds might have Jimmy Butler, Paul George, or Ja Morant there, but give me Antetokounmpo for now. Close your eyes and point to an encapsulated advanced metric and he’ll be in the top five. Giannis is not scoring with his normal efficiency, but it is coming. Giannis hasn’t even played two full games with possessions alongside Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, both of whom have missed a lot of time.

As mentioned above, only Jokic shows better numbers of points-rebounds-assists than Giannis 27.8 / 12.2 / 5.8, and when you throw Antetokounmpo’s 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals by match, he’s in a league of his own. The Bucks, more importantly, have over 33 points per 100 possessions better with Antetokounmpo on the ground, per CTG.

Honorable mention


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