Warriors

Where Steph, KD, Ja stand in latest NBA MVP rankings

Warriors
Steph Curry

We are three weeks removed from the Warriors' opening night win over the Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2021-22 season is beginning to take shape.

The Philadelphia 76ers look to be just as effective without Ben Simmons as they were with the disgruntled star. The Lakers and Boston Celtics both have gotten off to surprisingly slow starts, leading Brad Stevens to reportedly reach out to Philly about Simmons' services.

Even without Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, the Warriors have opened up with a bang. Standing 8-1 heading into Monday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks, Steve Kerr's group is pacing the NBA in a number of categories and playing the best defense in the NBA.

As teams surpass the double-digit games played mark, let's go through our first NBA MVP rankings for this season, headlined by some familiar names to Warriors fans.

Honorable Mentions

Rudy Gobert

The three-time defensive player of the year once again is a menace in the paint. Gobert ranks first in the NBA in rebounding (16.1 RPG), first in field goal percentage (.746) and fifth in blocks (1.9 BPG).

Gobert's limited impact away from the basket makes him a more difficult choice over many of the others on this list, but there 100 percent is no better rim protector in the league. To go along with that, Gobert is more efficient than he has ever been offensively and ranks sixth in PER (26.3).

DeMar DeRozan

The veteran surprisingly wound up with the Chicago Bulls this offseason and has been tearing it up in the Windy City for a new-look squad. DeRozan is averaging 26.9 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

 

If DeRozan can lift the Bulls into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference standings and continue his strong start, don't be surprised if he rises up this list.

No. 5: Ja Morant

Warriors fans saw the dynamic playmaking ability Morant possesses twice over the final weeks of last season when the Memphis Grizzlies eliminated Golden State from the play-in tournament. In his third season, Morant has upped his per-game scoring average by six points (26.0) and is dishing out 7.2 assists and nabbing 1.6 steals a night.

Morant might run into the same issue Steph Curry experienced last year when elite stats are diminished by a middle-of-the-pack spot in the Western Conference standings for his team. But this Grizzlies team will go as Morant does, and if they end up in the top four of the West, Morant deserves strong consideration.

No. 4: Giannis Antetokounmpo

His Milwaukee Bucks have gotten off to a slow start after winning the championship this summer, but Giannis certainly has not. The two-time MVP is putting up 27.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.7 blocks per game and ranks second behind Jokic in PER (31.6).

After an extended postseason run, a sluggish first 10 games is not shocking. We will see if fatigue begins to catch up with Antetokounmpo, but his dominance will make him a candidate as long as Milwaukee can find its way back onto the other side of .500.

No. 3: Jimmy Butler

The human embodiment of "Heat Culture," the owner of Big Face Coffee is playing arguably the best basketball of his impressive career. Butler is averaging a career-high 25.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists as the Miami Heat have raced out to the second-best record in the East.

Butler's PER ranks third in the NBA behind Jokic and Antetokounmpo, and the Heat have the league's second-best net rating behind the Warriors. Butler has more win shares than any player and should be a finalist at season's end if he remains healthy and the Heat remain in the East's top four teams.

RELATED: Poole gives Steph massive praise for defensive ability

 

No. 2: Kevin Durant

KD might be the first athlete ever to come back and be even better after suffering an Achilles tear. Even at 33 years old, Durant leads the NBA in scoring (29.5 PPG) and has the NBA's fourth-best PER (29.1).

The Nets continue to play well even as Kyrie Irving remains MIA, and when KD is filling it up the way he is so far, it's hard to consider anyone a better choice for MVP.

No. 1: Steph Curry

After finishing third last season, Steph picked up right where he left off to start the 2021-22 campaign. Curry is averaging 27.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists as the Warriors have a league-best 9-1 record through the first 10 games.

Curry's improved defense and the Warriors' elite play edges him out over his former teammate. After his team's record kept him from taking home the trophy last season, the Warriors star could become a three-time MVP if he and his teammates maintain this pace.