Nikola Jokic would have been considered a dark horse candidate for the NBA MVP Award prior to the beginning of last season. Yet the Serbian big man took home the hardware that so many in the league strive to win year after year.
In 2021-22, your typical candidates are Jokic, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Steph Curry, James Harden, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. After that group, any leaguewide All-Star in their prime could end up being awarded the MVP award if they have career years.
Here are my five dark horse candidates to win the KIA NBA MVP Award in the 2021-22 NBA season.
#5 Paul George
Paul George is going to have to carry the Los Angeles Clippers through Kawhi Leonard's absence this upcoming season. George has received an overwhelming amount of ridicule the past few seasons, despite regularly performing well in both the playoffs and the regular season.
Most people seem to be ready for the Clippers to take a notable step back in Kawhi's absence. If Paul George can remain consistent throughout the season and carry the Clippers to the top three seeds in the Western Conference, he could find himself garnering MVP consideration.
It's easy to forget that in 2018-19 George finished third in MVP voting behind James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. When healthy and at peak performance, Paul George deserves to be mentioned with the best in the game.
#4 Chris Paul
It's surprising that Chris Paul's name wasn't mentioned in the MVP conversation more often last season. The Phoenix Suns were regularly at the bottom of the Western Conference prior to Paul's arrival and he was a major aspect of their Finals run.
With that playoff campaign still fresh in people's minds, Paul could garner consideration if Phoenix finishes near the top of the Western Conference. While healthy, it could be argued that Paul is the best point guard in basketball, and his averages last season were certainly nothing to scoff at.
The 6'0" veteran tallied 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game last season. He did so while shooting 49.9 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three, and a league-leading 93.4 percent from the free-throw line.
If Paul remains healthy, is a league-leader in assists, and captains the Suns to an impressive record, then he could find himself in consideration for MVP.