NBA MVP Poll: Curry or Durant?  What 100 experts think about the race for the MVP

More than five years after winning his second Most Valuable Player award, Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry could be on his way to claiming a third award.

Curry, who ranks second in the NBA in scoring and first in triples made and attempted, garnered 94 of the 100 first-place votes cast in the 2021-22 debut of ESPN’s MVP poll, which took held from December 3 to December 6.

If Curry wins the MVP award, he would tie Wilt Chamberlain for the largest award gap (six years) in NBA history. Curry, who turns 34 in March, would also become the third-oldest MVP in league history, behind Karl Malone in 1999 and Michael Jordan in 1998.

While Curry is firmly planted in the MVP spotlight, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, another mainstay in the poll discussion, did not receive a vote for the first time in the eight polls conducted since the 2016 season. 17.

To gauge where the race is at roughly 30% of the season, ESPN asked 100 members of the media to participate in an informal poll that mimics postseason awards voting. To make the voting as realistic as possible, there were at least two voters from each of the league’s 28 markets, along with a representative sample of national and international reporters.

As with the official NBA vote at the end of the season, voters were asked to submit a five-player ballot and the results were tabulated using the league’s scoring system – 10 points for each first-place vote. , seven points for the second, five points for the third, three points for the fourth and one point for the fifth.

Curry (978 points) was followed by Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (610 points, two first-place votes) and Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (471 points, three first-place votes). Last year’s MVP, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (256 points), got the other first-place vote and placed fourth overall.

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul (160 points) completed the top five.

Others who received votes: Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (sixth); Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler and Suns guard Devin Booker tied for seventh; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (ninth); Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (10th); and LA Clippers guard Paul George (11th). Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Bulls guard Zach LaVine each got one vote to tie for 12th.

Curry’s 94 first-place votes create the highest percentage of first-place votes received in any of the opinion polls, surpassing the 91 votes that James Harden received in spring 2018, the season in which he would win his only award. MVP while with the Houston Rockets.

Curry, Durant and Antetokounmpo were named on all 100 ballots, the first time that up to three players were unanimous selections in any iteration of the poll, and a sign of the separation between them and the rest of the group.

In fact, there is much more separation across the board at this point in the season than last year, when James, Embiid and Jokic were separated by just 164 points and combined for 94 first-place votes. Curry, on the other hand, received that amount for himself, and there are 368 points that separate him from second-place Durant, who is the current leading scorer in the NBA. That’s more than double the gap between first and third in the first run of last season’s poll.

There is a clear stratification between each of the top six in the survey.

Curry leads Golden State’s return to the top of the NBA rankings after the team missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, following five straight trips to the NBA Finals. He is averaging 27.5 points and is on track for 445 3-pointers, breaking his one-season record of 402 set in 2016 when he became the only unanimous MVP in league history.

Durant is off to a stellar start for Brooklyn, which ranks first in the Eastern Conference. He leads the league in scoring with 28.4 points and is shooting more than 50% from the field for the ninth consecutive season. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists for the Bucks, who have returned to the top of the East standings after an injury-filled first month.

Jokic has picked up where he left off for an even more injury-plagued Nuggets team, one without point guard Jamal Murray due to an ACL tear suffered in April, and now without forward Michael Porter Jr. for an indefinite period thereafter. from back surgery on December 1. Jokic is averaging 26.1 points, 13.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists, and his 34.07 player efficiency rating would easily be the highest in NBA history for a full season.

Paul, whose 10.1 assists per game lead the NBA, and Booker received credit for Phoenix’s position near the top of the NBA rankings after an 18-game winning streak. They are the third group of teammates to finish in the top seven in opinion polls, joining Curry and Durant, who did so in both polls conducted during the 2017-18 season, as well as James and Anthony Davis. , who did so in both surveys conducted during the 2019-20 season.

Who did not receive votes is equally revealing.

While James continues to add spectacular numbers (25.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists), he has played only in 14 of the Lakers’ 26 games.

It should also be noted that no survey was conducted during the 2018-19 season, when James missed many games with a groin injury. That leaves Antetokounmpo the only player to have received at least one MVP vote in each of the eight opinion polls that have been conducted over the past six seasons.

But while James has spent nearly half the season off the court, the same cannot be said for Harden and Davis, who have played nearly every game and were also notable absentees from the vote.

Harden is shooting 40.1% from the field, the lowest of his career, and his 20.9 points per game are the lowest since he was the sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Davis is averaging 24.0 points and 10.2 rebounds, but Los Angeles is 13-13 and fighting for a spot in the Western Conference play-in.

Damian Lillard, who was in all four polls in the past two seasons, also didn’t get a vote after a slow start to the season for both him and the Portland Trail Blazers (11-15).

At the other end of the spectrum is DeRozan, who, prior to entering NBA health and safety protocols on Monday, was key behind the Bulls’ push to contest in the Eastern Conference. DeRozan leads the league in scoring in the fourth quarter and his 26.4 points per game rank fourth in the league.

It’s only the second time DeRozan has received votes in the poll, and the first time since 2018, when he was with the Toronto Raptors. That was also the only season in DeRozan’s career that received MVP votes at the end of the season.

This also marked the first time that both Young and LaVine received votes in an informal poll. Young is fifth in the league in scoring and third in assists. LaVine is seventh in scoring with 25.8 points per game while starring alongside DeRozan in Chicago.