The 2022 NBA Season has been one for the ages. The scoring outbursts during the second half of the season, poster dunks, game winners, exciting rookies, and of course, the best of the best in a race for the legendary MVP award. No one player has really separated themselves from the rest of the group the entire year, making it the closest MVP race in years.
About 5 or 6 players have a legitimate argument for MVP. These players being Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and Devin Booker. Some Honorable mentions are Lebron James, Ja Morant, Stephen Curry, Demar Derozan, and Kevin Durant. These are the cases for each player to win the MVP award.
Nikola Jokic has been out of his mind this season. The reigning MVP has somehow taken his game to another level and is currently the MVP favorite according to Nba.com and Vegas.
Jokic is averaging
- 26.6 PPG
- 13.6 RPG
- 8.0 APG
- 66.2 true shooting %
Along with these historic numbers, Jokic has easily been a top 3 playmaker this year, top 10 scorer, and a top 10 rebounder. He leads the league in 90% of advanced stats as well. Jokic has played the entire season without 2 max contract players in Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal murray yet has carried the Nuggets to a 46-32 record currently. Denver will most likely finish as a 4-6 seed in the Western Conference.
A big knock on Jokic throughout the years has been his defense but it has taken a massive leap this year. He has been a borderline elite off ball defender and help defender. His pick and roll defense has also improved because of his prominent basketball IQ. The only aspect Jokic is still a negative in, is his perimeter defense, but that has improved as well. He is top 5 in the league in DRPM, DWS, defensive rating and Defensive RAPTOR rating.
Nikola Jokic’s impact has been undeniable this year. The Nuggets seemingly fall off every time he isn’t on the court but see refinement whenever he checks back in the game. His numbers and impact are his largest argument for MVP.
Joel Embiid, just like Jokic, was an MVP candidate last season who expanded his game to another level. He’s been a force all year for the 76ers and the driving force of their team.
Embiid is averaging
- 30.0 PPG
- 11.5 RPG
- 4.2 APG
- 61.0 true shooting %
Embiid truly has no weaknesses in his game as he is a prolific scorer and dominant defender. Fans criticize him for the number of free throws he attempts, but this is actually one of Embiid’s greatest skills as a scorer. Defenders have to foul him because they can’t stop him without doing so. Embiid has the 76ers at a 46-30 record and a 4th seed in the East without Ben Simmons (when he was on the team) this season.
Embiid is top 3 in the league in Points Per Game and his playmaking has gotten better since last year. His passing out of the post has improved, as well as his passing out of double teams. He has become a dominant offensive player while controlling the defensive end as well. He is one of the only players in the league who are elite on both sides of the ball. Embiid’s excellent two-way play and impact are his best case for MVP.
Giannis has been one of the best players in the league for years now, and this season nothing has changed. He’s been having one of the best seasons of his career.
Giannis is averaging
- 30.1 PPG
- 11.7 RPG
- 5.8 APG
- 63.5 true shooting %
This is the most Antetokounmpo has ever averaged in a season and his first year breaking 30 Points Per Game. It is also the second most efficient season of his career, and overall arguably his best scoring season. Giannis is already a two time MVP who has only gotten better this season.
He’s leading the Bucks to a 48-29 record and a top 2 seed in the East while being absolutely incredible offensively and defensively. With game winning blocks, shots, and his electrifying dunks, Giannis is once again a top candidate for MVP. Similarly to Embiid, Giannis’ two-way play and rise in numbers is his best argument for the award.
Many have stated in the past that Giannis can’t lead a team to a championship, which was proven wrong. Analysts have stated that Giannis can’t be a closer, which was proven wrong. He is one of the most unstoppable players in the league and you shouldn’t be surprised if he wins his 3rd MVP award.
Luka Doncic has been picked before the season starts for MVP by many people for years now, though he is yet to win the award. Despite this, Luka is once again making his case.
Doncic is averaging
- 28.3 PPG
- 9.1 RPG
- 8.6 APG
- 56.9 true shooting %
To say Luka is a a top 5 offensive player in the league is an understatement. He has a case to be the best playmaker in the league and a top 5 scorer. There is nothing he can’t do on the offensive end. He’s also leading his team to a 48-30 record and a 3-4th seed in the West. The Mavericks don’t have another star player aside from Luka, so his incredible impact is seen clearly through their record.
Doncic has gotten better defensively since his first couple of years, being a positive on that end. He’s a better on ball defender, help defender, and decent inside because of his size. If it weren’t for the dominant big men this season, Luka would be talked a lot more in the discussion, but he still has a very compelling case.
Jayson Tatum has always been talked about as a guy who has unlimited potential, and we are beginning to see how good he really is this season.
Tatum is averaging
- 27.1 PPG
- 8.0 RPG
- 4.3 APG
- 57.7 true shooting %
He’s advanced in every facet of the game. Scoring, playmaking, defense, everything has gotten better year by year. The Celtics are 48-30 on the year but the biggest story has been their rise during the second half of the season. They were 23-24 at one point and are 25-6 since. During that stretch, Tatum is averaging nearly 30 points a game.
Although it is unlikely Tatum will win MVP, he is most certainly playing at an MVP level with his elite scoring, borderline elite defense, and improved playmaking ability.
Booker used to be criticized for “empty stats” on a losing team, but that narrative quickly shifted as the Suns are now arguably the best team in the NBA, largely due to Booker’s play.
Booker is averaging
- 26.6 PPG
- 5.0 RPG
- 4.9 APG
- 57.4 true shooting%
His basic numbers might not be as eye popping as the other candidates, but Booker is still one of the best scorers in the NBA. With his star teammate, Chris Paul, injured for a month, Booker led the Suns to an 8-3 record while averaging 28 and 7 a game.
Devin Booker has also improved as a playmaker. His advantage creation has become great and his decision making out of double teams has also gotten better. Defensively, Booker isn’t elite by any means but he isn’t a negative to his team either. He’s stirred up conversations after a few explosive performances lately and his best argument for the MVP award would be, being arguably the best player on the number 1 seed Suns, who sit at 62-15 at the top of the league.
Lebron is defying father time and refuses to decline as he is leading the league in scoring in his 19th season. He’s playing at an unbelievable level once again, but the MVP award requires the team to have a positive record, which the Lakers do not have. Though the Lakers struggles are not due to Lebron’s play, he won’t be getting any votes because that’s just how the award works.
Curry is averaging 26 this year on a top 3 seed, but he’s statistically having a down year. Obviously a down year for Steph is a career year for 95% of players, but his efficiency is worse than usual, and the Warriors without Draymond Green were struggling, which brings down Curry’s case. He’s also injured for the rest of the regular season, which destroys any chance he had.
Ja Morant has taken the league by storm this season with his thunderous dunks and shifty finishing. He’s been playing at an MVP level, but he’s been injured quite a bit, reducing his odds. The Grizzlies without Ja are also 20-2 and some people believe it proves Ja isn’t as valuable as everyone thinks. I don’t think this means the Grizzlies are better without Ja, but it definitely diminishes his chances for MVP.
There has been chatter for Derozan being the MVP but I don’t think there is a real case. Don’t get me wrong, he is peaking as a player and scorer and has had multiple clutch plays and game winners all year, but his defense and playmaking aren’t at an elite level, and the Bulls as a team have dropped to the 6th seed recently.
Durant when healthy is playing like a top 3 player in the league. The reason he isn’t in talks for MVP is because of the injury he suffered which kept him out for 2 months. If he never got injured, there might not even be an MVP conversation right now as he very well could’ve ran away with the trophy.
Trae is playing great. Elite scoring and playmaking, but like Lebron and Durant, his team has been underachieving this year, leaving him out of MVP discussions.
If I had to guess who the MVP trophy would go to, I’d put my money on Nikola Jokic. ESPN recently had a straw poll with MVP voters and Jokic had a fairly large lead with 62 first place votes. There is still a week or two left in the season so this can definitely change. Giannis and Embiid have the best odds after Jokic and all three of them are playing at all time great levels as of late. Absolutely anything can happen. This is the closest MVP race in years and I’m here for it.