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NBA MVP race 2021-22: Nikola Jokic wins second consecutive MVP

Vincent Frank
NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021-22 NBA regular season was fun. Now that it’s over, reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic remains in the running to win the award for a second consecutive year.

The usual top candidates in recent NBA MVP races have struggled to remain healthy, including the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

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This has left Jokic and 2021-22 NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid as the two favorites to win the award when it’s announced during the playoffs. They are joined by two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as official finalists for the award.

While the announcement is official, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Nikola Jokic is the NBA MVP.

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10. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (last week: 10)

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
  • Karl Anthony Towns stats (2021-22): 24.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.6 APG, 53% shooting, 41% 3-point, 24.2 PER, 10.3 win shares

Towns’ defense might leave a bit to be desired, but his ability to lead Minnesota to the playoffs can’t be ignored. The big man proved over and over again that he’s among the most-skilled offensive players in the modern game.

Over the course of the final 12 regular-season games, Towns averaged 26.2 points to go with 10.1 rebounds. That included a 60-point outing against the San Antonio Spurs.

9. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (last week: 9)

nba mvp rankings: stephen curry
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
  • Stephen Curry stats (2021-22): 25.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.3 APG, 44% shooting, 38% 3-point, 21.6 PER, 8.0 win shares

For pretty much the first quarter of the season, it seemed like Curry was well on his way to earning a third NBA MVP in his heralded career. Unfortunately, some major shooting struggles coupled with a foot injury made this impossible.

Still, Curry has to be considered one of the top-10 finalists with the season now over. Despite the trio of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green suiting up for all of 11 minutes together, the Warriors were still able to win 53 games. That’s impressive. And in reality, it’s a testament to what this three-time champion still brings to the table at 34.

8. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (last week: 8)

nba mvp rankings: demar derozan
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
  • DeMar DeRozan stats (2021-22): 27.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.9 APG, 50% shooting, 35% 3-point, 23.1 PER, 8.8 win shares

At 32 years old and in his first season with Chicago, DeRozan put up a career-best regular-season performance. He’s also utilizing an all-around game to help the Bulls earn their first playoff appearance since back in 2016-17.

DeRozan finished up the regular season on an absolute roll despite his Bulls struggling with injuries. He averaged 30.1 points per game on 52% shooting over the final 35 regular-season outings.

7. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (last week: 7)

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
  • Ja Morant stats (2021-22): 27.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.7 APG, 49% shooting, 34% 3-point, 24.4 PER, 6.7 win shares

Having just returned from injury, Morant stands pat in our final NBA MVP rankings. The biggest issue here is the nine games that he missed before returning to score 21 points in the second-to-final regular season game.

With that said, the third-year guard was simply remarkable this season, leading Memphis to the second-best record in the NBA. He’s going to win the NBA MVP at some point. It’s just a matter of time.

6. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (last week: 6)

nba mvp rankings: jayson tatum, boston celtics
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
  • Jayson Tatum stats (2021-22): 26.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, 45% shooting, 35% 3-point, 21.8 PER, 9.6 win shares

After some major struggles to open the season for the Celtics, Tatum helped this squad turn it around big time. After a 25-25 start, these Caltics have looked like the best team in the Eastern Conference.

For his part, Tatum was just next level during the post All-Star Beak portion of the schedule. That included him averaging 30.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 50% shooting in 20 games. It’s not a coincidence that the Celtics won 16 of those games leading into the playoffs.

5. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (last week: 5)

nba mvp rankings: devin booker
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Devin Booker stats (2021-22): 26.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 47% shooting, 38% 3-point, 21.3 PER, 7.6 win shares

We previously had Booker’s teammate, Chris Paul, as a contender for this award. But it’s too hard to ignore just how good this two-guard has been for the NBA-best Suns. It’s insane what he has done recently as the Suns heading into the playoffs as the top overall seed.

The NBA MVP candidate looked like an absolute force, averaging 29.5 points and 5.9 assists on 50% shooting in his final 22 games.

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4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (last week: 4)

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
  • Luka Doncic stats (2021-22): 28.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 8.7 APG, 46% shooting, 35% 3-point, 25.1 PER, 7.6 win shares

After a slow start to the season, Doncic picked it up big time. Not only does he have Dallas as a top-five seed out west in the playoffs, the stud guard improved in each category as the campaign advanced.

The kid averaged 31.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists on a resounding 40% shooting from distance in his final 36 regular season games. Absolutely insane.

Related: Find out how we rank NBA defenses in 2022

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (last week: 3)

nba mvp rankings: giannis antetokounmpo
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo stats (2021-22): 29.9 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 55% shooting, 29% 3-point, 32.1 PER, 12.9 win shares

Since returning from a COVID-mandated absence, Antetokounmpo is averaging 31.9 points, 11.7 rebounds an 5.8 assists on 57% shooting in 40 games.

Most recently, the Greek Freak tallied 40 points and put up a game-winning block on Joel Embiid as his Bucks earned a huge conference win over the 76ers. By all accounts, that was an MVP performance from Giannis.

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (last week: 1)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at San Antonio Spurs
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
  • Joel Embiid stats (2021-22): 30.6 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 50% shooting, 37% 3-point, 31.2 PER, 12.0 win shares

Embiid has already found a connection with new acquisition James Harden after several games heading into the playoffs.

Dating back even further, Embiid has been on an historical roll in recent weeks. Dating back to mid-December, he’s aveaging 33.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 52% shooting in 49 games. That’s enough to make the call. Joel Embiid should be your 2022 NBA MVP.

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (last week: 2)

nba rookie of the year rankings: nikola jokic
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
  • Nikola Jokic stats (2021-22): 27.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 7.9 APG, 58% shooting, 34% 3-point, 32.8 PER, 15.2 win shares

Finishing with a 48-34, the Nuggets came on strong this past regular season despite the absences of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Why? The performance of reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. The big man was on an absolute roll this past regular season, including an absolutely dominant recent triple-double.

Jokic’s post All-Star break perfomance has him as him as one of the favorites to come awa with the award. Duing that 22-game span, he averaged 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 7.9 assists on 61% shooting.

Now, Jokic joins an iconic group in basketball history as back-to-back NBA MVP. He joins Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019-’20), Stephen Curry (2016-’17), LeBron James (2009-’10), Steve Nash (2005-’06) as future Hall of Famers who won consecutive MVP honors.

Only three players have won NBA MVP in three consecutive years. However, considering it hasn’t happened since Larry Bird won the honors from 1984-’86, don’t count on Jokic joining the company of Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

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