Two months of NBA basketball gives us enough tape to form a rough picture of the MVP race.
Established stars are littered throughout most straw polls conducted recently.
The Golden State Warriors are off to a scorching hot start at 21-4 and Curry is the main reason why.
He’s averaging 27.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game on .439/.413/.934 shooting splits.
NBA MVP tracker:
1. Steph Curry
2. Kevin Durant
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
4. Nikola Jokic
5. Chris Paul
6. Rudy Gobert
7. Trae Young
8. Zach Lavine
9. DeMar DeRozan
10. Jimmy Butler
— Hoopers League (@HoopersLeague) December 10, 2021
But we are not interested in the favorites for this article.
We want to take a look at who could make a run at the award before the season ends.
Here are two dark horse candidates to bring home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
1. Joel Embiid
If he can remain healthy, Joel Embiid could make a second-half push for the award.
Embiid was a key contributor during Philadelphia’s strong start to the season that saw them race out to an 8-2 record.
He averaged 21.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game.
His strong start was cooled off due to contracting COVID which caused him to miss the next 9 games.
Embiid returned on November 27th against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After reportedly being bedridden due to the illness, the star center still played 45 minutes in his return.
He poured in 42 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while being a +11 in a one-point overtime loss.
Joel Embiid vs Wolves (45 min)
42 points (12-23 FG) (2 3’s) (16-21 FT)
14 rebounds 3 assists 2 blocks 1 steal pic.twitter.com/EFzl5MpOf5
— Jayhawks In The NBA (@NBA_Jayhawks) December 3, 2021
The game against Minnesota was one of two 40 point games Embiid has had since returning from COVID.
He has averaged 27.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks across 7 games.
While carrying the team offensively at times, he has also been terrific defensively.
He is pairing a career-best assist percentage with a career-best turnover percentage.
Embiid’s jumper is not falling as consistently as it was last season, but he is starting to play more bully ball in the paint.
A second star could help Embiid’s efficiency on offense while improving the Sixers’ mediocre record.
2. DeMar DeRozan
Second, we have the new Chicago Bull signee, DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan has never finished higher than 8th in MVP voting during his career.
He signed with Chicago this past offseason and has flourished in his new role.
DeRozan is averaging 26.4 points, good for 5th most in the NBA, to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
He also leads the league in 4th quarter scoring.
No one in the league has more points in the 4th quarter right now than DeMar DeRozan. pic.twitter.com/8YC3gmjMHd
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 3, 2021
The Bulls sit at 17-9, just 1 game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the top spot in the East.
However, DeRozan is slated to miss the next 10 games due to health and safety protocols, so we will see how important he is to the team.
DeMar playing alongside Zach LaVine could undercut his MVP resume.
LaVine appears in the top 10 along with DeRozan in most MVP rankings at the moment.
Zach is averaging 25.8 points per game himself to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
Nearly identical numbers to DeRozan.
LaVine has so far escaped health and safety protocols so has a chance to distance himself from his co-star.
But DeRozan is clearly the go-to option when it comes to crunch time.
And his +4.1 expected plus/minus is a top-20 figure in the league.
If Chicago can finish in the top 3 in the East and DeRozan continues his strong play, he could garner some first-place votes.NEXT: How Many 3-Pointers Can Steph Curry Make In His Career?