Will Murphy ‘23
Ja Morant has begun this season with the Memphis Grizzlies scorching hot. Morant appears poised to lead the Grizzlies on a playoff run, thanks to the considerable improvements that have been evident in all aspects of his game. The three-point shot, once a hole in Morant’s game, has developed into an asset. He now makes almost two three-pointers per game on five attempts, shooting around 35 percent. Morant is even more dangerous off the bounce because defenders must respect his jumper. One crucial characteristic of an MVP is their ability to improve the play of their teammates, an area in which Morant excels. He consistently blows by his primary defender and forces the defense to collapse on him in the paint, and his vision allows him to kick the ball out to wide-open shooters at the three-point line. Morant is top ten in assists in the league, something that has been invaluable for a Grizzlies squad with many capable shooters who are comfortable spotting up and awaiting a dime from Morant.
Morant is also fearless when attacking the rim, willing to climb the ladder against rim protectors even when he’s often almost an entire foot shorter. This willingness to slash to the basket leads to countless momentum-swinging dunks that often end up as highlights on SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays. His scoring has also seen an impressive jump from 19 points per game last year to almost 27 this year, which is good for fifth in the league. What’s more is that he has been able to boost his scoring volume rather efficiently, shooting just a shade under 49 percent from the field, which is extremely impressive for a lead guard tasked with being his team’s primary shot creator.
Morant is also one of the best rebounding guards in the league, bringing down six per game. A point guard’s ability to grab rebounds is an asset for a team, allowing them to push the ball up the court quickly before the defense gets set without needing an outlet pass from a center to a guard. MVPs are not only difference-makers on offense, but impactful defenders. At point guard, he guards the opponent’s elite playmakers. His elite lateral quickness allows him to stay in front of even the shiftiest guards. He also has a knack for timing steals perfectly, in the league’s top 15 in steals per game at just under two. Morant will likely be the best player on the court each game this year, but even in games when he’s not, he will be the most valuable to his team, which is why Morant will take home the 2021-2022 MVP award.
Leo Hainline ’22
Right now, there is no better basketball player in the world than Stephen Curry. The Warriors star has led his team to a league-best 11-2 record without fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson and the team’s raw but talented center James Wiseman. No signs suggest that Curry will slow down this season and he has established himself as the rightful favorite to win the NBA’s 2021-2022 MVP award.
Curry is second in the league in points-per-game average at 28.1, trailing only Kevin Durant, who is providing 6.7 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 made 3’s a contest. These statistics are on pace to surpass his 2014-2015 MVP campaign numbers and are similar to his 2015-2016 statistics, a season in which he led the Warriors to a record-breaking 73-9 regular season record while recording 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.4 rebounds a game. Despite posting similar individual numbers last season, Curry finished third in MVP voting behind winner Nikola Jokic and runner-up Joel Embiid. The main factor preventing Curry from winning his third MVP this past season was the Warriors 39-33 record and failure to make the playoffs. Judging from the first month of the season, this year is a different story for Golden State.
The Warriors have a legitimate chance to grab for the one-seed in the competitive Western Conference, an achievement that would undoubtedly reward Curry with this third MVP trophy. What would make this feat even more remarkable is the fact that without Curry, the Warriors would probably be a sub-50 team. There is no single player who contributes more to his team’s success.
What further helps Curry’s case is that he has already broken NBA records this season. At only 33 years old, he has broken Ray Allen’s record for most three-pointers made in the history of the NBA. Do not be surprised if Curry continues to set and break records this season, adding to his resume and making him the clear choice for NBA MVP. Furthermore, Curry is the type of player who people enjoy watching and adds to the game of basketball. His shooting and general offensive skill is objectively fun to watch, and Curry is one of the most likable athletes in the world. This will only help his case for winning the prestigious award.
Curry’s play this season has been literally the most valuable out of any player in the league. Continued production out of the Warriors’ point guard will seal his position as the award’s frontrunner, and he will walk away from the 2021-2022 season with his third, and likely not final, MVP trophy.