The 32-year-old is averaging 26.4 points – his most since the 2016-17 season – with 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 steals for the 17-9 Chicago Bulls. He currently leads the league in 4th quarter points, proving over and over this season that he is easily one of the best closers in the NBA. Overall, no one can deny this remarkable turnaround for the second-place Bulls has been thanks, in large part, to DeRozan playing some of the best basketball of his career. And that’s exactly why a poll of 100 media members, once again, threw his name into the middle of the MVP race.
ESPN conducted a straw poll that was made to mimic the end-of-season voting process for the MVP award. The 100 media members were asked to submit a five-player ballot, and a total of 12 players ended up on the final list. Stephen Curry walked away as the clear favorite to win his third MVP award with 94 first-place votes. Kevin Durant checked in at second with just two first-place votes and 61 2nd-place votes.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Chris Paul were the next three to make the list before DeRozan’s name appeared. The NBA’s 4th-leading scorer received a total of 31 votes, 23 fewer than Paul. According to Tim Bontemps, this is only the second time DeRozan earned votes in a straw poll. The first time came in 2018 when he was in Toronto, which was also apparently the only time DeRozan received MVP votes at the end of the season (finished 8th). For what it’s worth, however, Basketball-Reference does list DeRozan as finishing last in voting during the 2016-17 season.
Speaking of finishing last, Zach LaVine made his way onto this latest straw poll tied for 12th with Joel Embiid and Donovan Mitchell. LaVine is the NBA’s 7th-leading scorer and holds the 3rd-most 4th quarter points. Bontemps shared that this was the first time LaVine ever earned even a single vote in one of these MVP polls.
Regardless of where either player ranks on this list (it’s hard to read too much into things 30 percent of the way through the season), there is no question this is some notable and well-deserved recognition. Seeing two Bulls players with their names anywhere around MVP is the perfect example of how drastically things have changed for this franchise in a little under two years. Not only are the victories flooding in on the court, but the respect for the talent on this team is the highest it’s been in nearly a decade. And knowing the chance of either DeRozan or LaVine winning MVP is slim, that’s what matters most to me about this poll. The Bulls are one hell of a talent group, and the league knows it.
Make sure to check out the full poll below:
New ESPN story: The latest edition of the MVP straw poll is out, and it produced one big conclusion: Stephen Curry is, so far, the runaway favorite to step into rarified air and claim his third MVP award. https://t.co/nlikGGCgRh
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) December 10, 2021