Early favorites, dark horses, and longshot candidates for 2021/22 NBA MVP

Steph Curry guards Luka Doncic
Steph Curry and Luka Doncic are among the NBA MVP favorites. Photo from Mavs Moneyball.

The 2021-2022 season is on the horizon. We can give you an early glimpse of the NBA MVP race 2021 with the majority of offseason business wrapped up.

NBA MVP race 2021

Heading into the season, a lot of teams were aggressive in free agency and trade market to bolster their lineup. Contending teams will be led by their superstars in the hopes of winning the championship. These players will surely put up crazy numbers while leading their team to the top.

NBA MVP 2021 favorites

Here are early NBA MVP award predictions in the 2021-2022 season…

Luka Doncic

Currently, Luka Doncic leads the 2021 NBA MVP race. After all, he averaged 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game last season. Even without much help, he led the Mavericks to clinch the fifth seed in the West while putting up video game-like numbers.

Heading into the season, Dallas added some solid pieces such as Reggie Bullock, Moses Brown, and Sterling Brown. It was also rumored that they want Goran Dragic to act as the secondary ball-handler next to Doncic. While this was not the offseason that they expected, it’s good enough to become Top 4 in the West. And this boosts Doncic’s chances of winning the MVP award.

Joel Embiid

Last season, Joel Embiid finished behind Nikola Jokic on the MVP ladder. He averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game while leading the Sixers to first-seed in the East. However, Embiid missed 21 games with a hyperextended knee. As a result, he lost the Embiid vs Jokic MVP showdown by a small margin.

Still, he is easily a top 3 MVP candidate. It’s just a matter of being healthy. Heading into the season, Philadelphia has yet to make a major move with Ben Simmons. If they flip him for an outside scoring threat, this can benefit Embiid as this will open up space inside the three-point line.


Whatever the outcome may be, Embiid will still continue to dominate the paint and lead the Sixers in the regular season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Finally an NBA champion, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a revelation for the past three years with his constant improvement. Last season, he averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game while leading the Bucks third in the East.

Milwaukee lost key role players in P.J. Tucker and Bryn Forbes in the offseason. However, they acquired Grayson Allen, Rodney Hood, and George Hill as replacements. As long as the Bucks remain competitive, Giannis will continue to be in the MVP conversation with his freakish athleticism. After all, he’s still just 26 years old.

Also, he’s currently leading the Giannis vs Davis showdown as the best power forward in the league. While Giannis certainly has weaknesses in his game, he’s not missing a lot of games due to injuries—unlike Davis.

Nikola Jokic

Drafted 41st overall by the Nuggets in 2014, Nikola Jokic has proved that fundamentals are enough to win the MVP award. He’s not flashy like Curry or a freakish athlete like Giannis, but he embraced his own simple yet effective game. The reigning MVP averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game last season.

As you can see, Jokic simply raised the bar for modern centers. Denver may have a quiet offseason overall (except the addition of Jeff Green), but he will continue to produce monstrous numbers in the upcoming season. After all, the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. will make the Nuggets competitive in the West

Stephen Curry

Last season, Stephen Curry was on fire—averaging 32.0 points (league-best), 5.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. It was his best season yet in terms of scoring.

The Warriors missed the playoffs last year as they were missing their second-best player, Klay Thompson. However, things are looking good for Golden State in the upcoming season since Thompson and Andre Iguodala are returning. Additionally, they also added two young pieces in Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

It’s still unclear whether or not they will make a major move in the offseason. But one thing’s for sure, they got better and are expected to make the playoffs. This is why Curry is a fan favorite in the 2021 NBA MVP race. After all, he’s a previous NBA MVP winner twice.

Kevin Durant

Now fully healthy, Kevin Durant is in tip-top shape for the upcoming season. In his 35 games with the Nets, he averaged 26.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. He’s clearly an MVP-caliber player when healthy.

As you already know, the Nets are stacked with a core of Durant, Harden, and Irving. They have six players with at least one All-Star appearance. Furthermore, they added key veterans such as Patty Mills, Paul Millsap, and James Johnson. The return of LaMarcus Aldridge from retirement also boosts their chances of finishing as a top team in the league.

It’s safe to say that Brooklyn is easily a top 1-3 seed in the East. And Durant will lead this group.

LeBron James

Even at age 36, LeBron James is still one of the best players in the league. He averaged 25 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game last season. However, he can’t carry the Lakers on his back alone. Los Angeles struggled in the regular and postseason due to injuries and lack of depth.

The Lakers have been aggressive in the offseason. They traded for Russell Westbrook and acquired veterans such as Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, Rajon Rondo, and many more. Clearly, Los Angeles will push for a championship run this season; and James will lead this squad in his 19th year in the league.

Dark horses to win 2021 NBA MVP

Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell is clearly a dark horse to win the MVP award. Last season, he averaged 26.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists per game while leading the Jazz to the first seed in the West. His efficiency improves year after year.

Albeit being bounced in the playoffs, Utah will always be competitive in the regular season. This raises Mitchell’s chances of getting the MVP award. After all, he’s barely scratching the surface and we might see the best version of him yet.

Trae Young

Another dark horse MVP candidate is Trae Young. He was a revelation last season wherein he averaged 25.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 9.4 assists per game while leading Atlanta to the fifth seed in the East.

The Hawks have a deep team heading into the season. As we’ve witnessed, they reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season for the first time since 2015.

While the Bucks defeated them, it’s clearly a successful year. This year, Atlanta has a huge chance in beating top teams in the East like Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Miami. It’s just a matter of being healthy and picking up where they left off last season.

Expect Young to go bonkers in 2021. After all, he’s still barely scratching the surface of his true potential.

Paul George

Let’s move on to the darkest horse—Paul George.

Last season, he averaged 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 47% on the floor.

As you can see, these are not MVP-worthy numbers. However, Kawhi Leonard’s knee injury opens more scoring opportunities for George. Should Leonard miss a significant amount of time, George is the clear No. 1 option for the Clippers. As long as Los Angeles remains competitive in the wild West, he’s a dark horse candidate in the 2021 NBA MVP race.

Longshot MVP contenders this season

Zach LaVine

Moving on to longshot MVP contenders, Zach LaVine is the first player that comes to mind. Last season, he averaged 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. Throughout the years, we witnessed his growth from being a dunk contest champion to an All-Star caliber player.

Chicago went aggressive this offseason and acquired Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso. These additions are enough to propel them as a legit contender in the East. Expect LaVine to lead this hungry squad, especially in scoring.

Devin Booker

Devin Booker is a longshot candidate in the 2021 NBA MVP race. His Kobe-esque game translated well with the ball movement-focused Suns team. Last season, he averaged 25.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists while shooting an efficient 48% on the floor.

After many years of rebuilding, the Suns finally have a championship-contending team. While they lost against the Bucks in the NBA Finals last season, it was clearly a successful campaign for them. Paul and Booker will continue to lead them in the regular season. Paul may be the floor general but Booker is the clear-cut superstar in Phoenix.

However, Booker’s game is not enticing for voters to consider him seriously in the MVP conversation. He might need to up his stats a little bit.

Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum is another longshot contender for the MVP award. It’s no secret that his game resembles Kobe Bryant with his elite iso scoring prowess.

He averaged 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists last season.

In the offseason, the Celtics acquired notable free agents such as Dennis Schroder, Enes Kanter, and Al Horford. This may not be enough to make them a top team in the East and go head-to-head with the likes of the Nets and Sixers but it’s a clear upgrade compared to last season. If their new roster meshes together, then there’s no reason to deny Tatum in the MVP conversation.

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About Jeremy Mallari 79 Articles
Jeremy lives and breathes basketball. He's an avid NBA fan for almost a decade now.

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