The 2020-21 NBA season ended with the Milwaukee Bucks lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy into the air, but before they did so, Nikola Jokic was named the league-MVP. The Serbian big man became the first Denver Nuggets player to ever win the award and the lowest drafted player to ever win the league-MVP award, as he was drafted 41st overall in 2014. 

Last season, Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and shot 56.6% from the floor, 38.8% from three-point range, but the most impressive stat from last season was the fact that he played in all 72 regular season games. 

Jokic wound up winning the award over the likes of Joel Emibid and Stephen Curry by a very wide margin, as the Nuggets’ big man received 91 of the first-place votes. The interesting thing about Jokic winning the award though was the fact that the Nuggets finished as the 3rd best team in the Western Conference and the 5th best team in the league record-wise.

With Nikola Jokic winning the MVP award last season with the Nuggets, who were not the best team in the league, 12 of the last 20 MVP award recipients were members of the team that had the best record in the league during the NBA regular season.

Jokic also finished last season with the highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in the league, making 11 of the last 13 winners of the league-MVP award the player who ranked first in PER at the end of the year. 

The 2021-22 NBA season is right around the corner and as a result, it is time to take a look at who could be the early top candidates to win next season’s MVP award.

#5 James Harden – Brooklyn Nets

After being traded to the Brooklyn Nets in January 2021, James Harden played in a total of 36 regular season games with Brooklyn, averaging 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 10.9 assists and shooting 47.1% from the floor, 36.6% from three-point range. The former 2017-18 MVP nce again finds himself as a favorite to win the league-MVP award, even though he is on a team with two other superstars. 

Kevin Durant is going to get all the attention as being the Nets’ “go-to” scorer and best overall player and Kyrie Irving is going to get a fair amount of the attention as well since he is one of the better scoring guards in the league, but James Harden actually has the best chance to win MVP in my mind out of these three guys because of all the things he can do. 

He has led the league in assists before, he was arguably the best rebounder stats-wise on the Nets during his time there last season and we all know what Harden can do scoring-wise with the ball in his hands. Fully healthy and on the court next to two of the other NBA’s best talents, James Harden could really flourish as the all-around top-tier player he really is. 

The Brooklyn Nets are going to be entering the 2021-22 season as the “team to beat,” even though the Milwaukee Bucks are the defending World Champions, so if they live up to their expectations, it will be hard for either Harden or Durant to not receive votes for league-MVP. 

This 2021-22 Nets squad has a chance to be very special and if they finish with the league’s best record, James Harden will very much have an appealing case to be had to win the 2021-22 league-MVP award.