Few NBA seasons possess an MVP race as tightly contested as the one we’re currently experiencing. With approximately 10 games left in the regular season, it’s truly a mystery whether a big man like Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid, a rangy forward like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jayson Tatum, or an exciting guard like Luka Doncic or Ja Morant brings home the high;y-coveted award.
Speaking of Morant, the Memphis Grizzlies star may be falling out of the running after tweaking his knee. But that doesn’t mean his MVP campaigning has to stop. It just means the 22-year-old guard is focusing his efforts toward another person — a fellow guard who has surged into the mix over the final few weeks of the season.
The NBA released its updated MVP ladder
Every Friday during the season, NBA.com releases the Kia MVP Ladder. The latest ranking saw a change at the top with Embiid overtaking Jokic for the top spot. The Philadelphia 76ers star is in the mix to win his first scoring title, averaging 29.8 points with 11.3 rebounds. Meanwhile, the reigning MVP is doing it all for the Denver Nuggets, averaging 26.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 7.9 assists.
Giannis then comes in at number three, as the two-time MVP is hanging around thanks to impressive averages of 29.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. However, the biggest changes to the list come just beyond the superstar trio.
There have been few players (and teams) hotter than Jayson Tatum and Boston Celtics. Since the All-Star break, Tatum is averaging 32.1 points on 50.7% shooting from the field and 43.8% shooting from three. Not only is he now scoring 27.0 points for the year, but Boston’s 29-9 record since New Year’s Day is second only to the Phoenix Suns.
The next two spots are then occupied by Doncic and Morant. Luka’s Dallas Mavericks have also been scorching hot, going 28-10 since 1/1. The Slovenian is a huge reason why, averaging 27.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.6 assists in his fourth NBA season. Ja, meanwhile, is putting up career highs across the board with 27.6 points on 49.3% shooting. His Grizzlies currently sit in the two-seed, but their 15-2 record without their star guard possibly hurts his MVP argument.
Ja Morant believes Devin Booker should be a serious MVP candidate
Thursday night, the Suns beat Jokic and the Nuggets 140-130 for their league-leading 60th win. They were aided by Chris Paul, who returned to action following a hand injury that cost him 15 games. But Phoenix wouldn’t have won Thursday’s game — or many other contests this season — without Devin Booker.
The 25-year-old dropped a season-high 49 points against Denver, bringing his season average to 26.3 points. But he’s reached a whole new level during Paul’s absence, averaging 28.2 points and 7.0 assists in 11 games after the All-Star break.
With Booker assuming the role as point guard before CP3 returned, the Suns didn’t miss a beat. And at 60-14, Phoenix ensured that this year’s postseason will run through the Valley.
Yet despite the best player putting up sensational numbers for the league’s best team, the NBA’s MVP ladder placed Book seventh on the list. While it’s an improvement from the previous week’s rank of ninth, it still trails six other stars including Morant.
On Friday, Ja quote-tweeted the top-five MVP leaders and threw a simple question out to his followers: “still no dbook?”
For what it’s worth, D-Book has never received MVP love period. The seventh-year veteran has never placed in any MVP vote, not even after Phoenix’s impressive 2020-21 season.
The days of Booker being overlooked as an MVP candidate are over
This season was Morant’s coming-out party. At this point, the entire NBA universe knows what to expect when the high-flying Grizzly takes the court each night. Booker, meanwhile, has been steadily consistent throughout his career. Whether it was for bottom-of-the-rung Suns teams or championship-caliber ones, the former Kentucky Wildcat is good for around 26 points year after year.
Though at some point, D-Book needs his due.
Much like Ja is in Memphis, Booker is the number one option in Phoenix. While the team took off upon the arrival of Paul, the franchise needs its 2-guard in order to contend in a top-heavy Western Conference.
As long as the Suns remain title contenders, Booker should be a viable MVP candidate. Much like Morant will be if the Grizzlies prove that their breakout 2021-22 season was no fluke.
Neither elite guard is likely to take the MVP crown this season. But you can expect Morant and Booker to not leave the conversation for years to come.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.