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A Too Early Look at The Top 10 NBA MVP Candidates And Their Card Prices

We are a few weeks into the 2021–22 NBA season and that means it’s time for a too-early look at the top 10 MVP candidates (based on Vegas Odds) and their card prices. In order to normalize the analysis, key rookie cards (Prizm + Topps Chrome Refractors) are analyzed for the players on this list. The list is dominated by veteran players and the top 3 MVP candidates have tight odds to start the season. Remember, it’s early in the season and it is way too early to predict an MVP winner, but it’s fun to see how prices are trending based on play so far this season. 

1. Steph Curry — Golden State Warriors, +500 Odds to Win NBA MVP
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Steph Curry is currently the favorite to win NBA MVP as the Golden State Warriors are 7–1 with his 25.8 points per game and 6.8 assists per game. Curry is a 3x NBA champion, 2x NBA MVP, 7x All-Star, and is 2nd all-time in 3-pointers made behind Ray Allen. ESPN ranked Curry the 13th best NBA player of all time and the Golden State Warriors currently have the 4th-best odds of winning the 2021–22 NBA Championship. 

Curry’s 2009 Topps Chrome Refractor Rookie card is limited to just 500 copies, and a BGS 9.5 graded copy recently sold at Goldin Auctions for $59,040 on 10/25: 

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There are just 97 copies of the card in a BGS 9.5 grade and the last sale was for $36,900 on June 28th. This means that in just 4 months, this card has appreciated in value by 60%, or $22,140. 

The population 28 PSA 10 version of this card last sold on August 9th for $99,630, a 21% drop from the previous sale of $126,660 this past May. 

Curry’s 2009–10 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Autograph /225 in a PSA 10 grade sold at Goldin Auctions last month for $46,800, which was 8.8% ($3,810) higher than the card’s last sale in May of this year. 

This past July, Curry’s 1/1 Logman National Treasures Auto Rookie card set a record with a $5.9 million sale. Curry is one of the most accomplished and popular players in NBA history and it will be fun to watch the MVP race and how his card prices react if he’s the favorite as the season progresses. 

2. Kevin Durant — Brooklyn Nets, +550
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Kevin Durant is a former teammate of Steph Curry but now plays for the Brooklyn Nets, who are currently 7–3. Durant is a 2x NBA champion, 1x NBA MVP, and is currently ranked 26th amongst all-time NBA scoring leaders. Throughout his career, Durant has averaged 27 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 4.1 assists per game. ESPN ranked Kevin Durant the 14th best basketball player of all time, 1 spot behind Steph Curry. 

The Brooklyn Nets currently have the best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA championship. 

Durant’s 2007 Topps Chrome Refractor /1499 in a PSA 10 grade last sold for $21,300 on 11/4, down from its previous sale of $22,600 a week earlier: 

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The pop 191 refractor rookie card hit an all-time high in March of this year with a $56,500 sale but has since lost 62% of its value. The card sold 46 times in the past 12 months. Despite losing significant value in 2021, this card sold for just $1,824 in November of 2019. 

The BGS 9.5 version of this card hit a low of $5,877 in July but has rebounded lately with a previous sale of $10,100 on October 28th, an increase of nearly 72%. 

The Nets were edged out by just 1 game in a playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks last season, so perhaps a championship run could help Durant’s rookie card prices. If Durant plays the majority of games this season and continues to maintain his 27 points per game average, he could propel himself into the top 10 scoring leaders of all time. If one (or both) of these things happen, it will be interesting to see where his card prices end up. 

It’s also worth noting that a BGS 8.5 2007 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph card was recently sold at Goldin Auctions for $100,860. A BGS 9 version of the card with a two-color patch was sold 2 months earlier for $480,000.  

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo — Milwaukee Bucks, +550
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is just 26 years old and is already a 2-time NBA MVP, 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and 1x Most Improved Player. The Bucks are off to a rough 4–6 start, but currently have the 3rd best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA Championship. 

There are just 75 copies of his Prizm Silver PSA 10, but prices are on the decline with the latest sale of $18,500 on 9/11: 

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The card hit $30,600 in August before the season but has since lost 39% of its value. A BGS 10 copy of this card was sold at Goldin Auctions in October for $44,280. 

His base rookie card has a much higher population with 2,656 copies graded PSA and last sold for $1,850. 

Last August (2020) his Prizm Base PSA 10 rookie hit a record price of $7,300 and his Prizm Silver PSA 10 his a record $42,930 price. 

Since their record highs, the Prizm Base lost 74% of its value and the Prizm Silver lost 57% of its value. The market may have built-in multiple NBA championships at those prices and has since cooled off. Antetokounmpo’s card prices have remained relatively consistent as of late and he’s still a young talented player with plenty of his career left. 

4. Luka Doncic — Dallas Mavericks, +750
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Luka Doncic is one of the most exciting young players in the NBA and he didn’t disappoint with a game-winning 3-pointer against the Boston Celtics on 11/6. Doncic is only 21 years old and has averaged 25.7 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game, and 7.7 assists per game so far in his career. He’s already accomplished a lot in a little over 3 seasons with a Rookie of The Year award, 2x NBA All-Star selection, 1x First Team All NBA selection, and has a top 4 MVP voting finish. 

And at one point, his National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto Logoman 1/1 was the most expensive basketball card ever sold with a price tag of $4.6 million. 

There are 2,089 copies of his Prizm Silver in a PSA 10 grade, and while the card sold for over $9,700 this past March, it last sold for $4,526 on 11/6: 

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In the past 24 months, the card has been sold 923 times, at an average price of $4,835 with a total market cap of $9.45 million. In May of 2019, this card sold for $398, meaning the card has appreciated 1,037% in value in 2 1/2 years. 

Doncic’s cards still command significant value on the market, with recent sales of his 2018 Prizm Blue Ice /99 PSA 10 for $93,480, 2018 Rookie National Treasures Horizontal Patch Autograph /49 for $59,040, and his 2018 Panini Flawless Star Swatch Signatures Green /5 for $133,200. 

The Dallas Mavericks currently have the 11th best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA Championship, but Doncic finds himself with the potential to be in the top 4 of MVP candidates this year.

5. Joel Embiid — Philadelphia 76ers, +1200
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Joel Embiid finished 2nd in NBA MVP voting last season and has averaged 24.7 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game, and 3.1 assists per game in his 5-season career with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers have made playoff appearances in the last 4 seasons, but haven’t made it past the Conference Semi-Finals. Embiid has struggled with injury throughout his career but has been an NBA All-Star 4 out of his 5 active seasons. 

Despite Ben Simmons’ absence from the team, the Sixers are off to an 8–2 start. Embiid’s population 69 Prizm Silver PSA 10 last sold for $1,952.43 on 10/31: 

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Embiid’s Prizm Silver PSA 10 hit a record $5,700 price in March of this year but has been on the decline since. The card has lost 65% of its value since that sale. 

Embiid’s 2014 National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto /99 BGS 9.5 was recently sold at Goldin Auctions for $7,995 after hitting a high price of $24,600 this past March, a 67% loss of value. 

The basketball card market generally does not value centers as highly as guards, but Embiid is 27 years old and the Philadelphia 76ers currently have the 9th best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA Championship. Perhaps an MVP win or NBA Championship appearance could change the trends for Embiid rookie cards. 

6. Nikola Jokic — Denver Nuggets, +1600
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Nikola Jokic was the NBA MVP for the 2020–21 season and is a 2x All-Star. He’s averaged over 25 points per game in his last two seasons and is a high-scoring Center like Embiid. 

Joki’s population 127 Prizm Silver PSA 10 rookie card last sold for $3,438.33 on 10/25: 

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So far in 2021, the card hasn’t dipped below $3,410 despite selling for as low as $925 in 2020. The card hit an all-time high in March of this year with a $6,000 sale and sold for at least $5,000 twice since record sale. Jokic’s 1/1 National Treasures Rookie Autographs Platinum also sold at Goldin Auctions for $61,200 this past June. 

It’s clear that his MVP win boosted his card prices, but he currently has the sixth-best odds at a repeat and the Denver Nuggets currently have the 10th best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA Championship. 

7. LeBron James — Los Angeles Lakers, +2200
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ESPN ranked Lebron James the 2nd best NBA player of all time. James is a 4-time NBA MVP, ranks 3rd all-time in most points scored in NBA history (and has a legitimate shot to take the #1 overall spot), is a 4x NBA Champion, holds the record for most points scored in the NBA playoffs, and is a 17-time NBA All-Star. 

While he has the 7th best odds at NBA MVP this season, the Los Angeles Lakers currently have the 2nd best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA Championship. James is already one of the most accomplished NBA players of all time but still has a legitimate opportunity to add to that resume. 

James’ population 171 Topps Chrome Rookie Refractor recently sold for $84,040 on 10/25: 

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Despite this card hitting a record high price of $286,530 this past March (a 70% loss of value), it’s appreciated in value by 51.83% over the past 12 months. 

His higher-end cards continue to sell for 7-figures with a Goldin Auctions October sale of his 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph (Jersey #) /99 for $2.46 million. 

8. Damian Lillard — Portland Trailblazers, +2500
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ESPN ranked Damian Lillard as the 72nd best NBA player of all time. Lillard won the Rookie of the Year award and is a 5-time NBA All-Star, but has yet to win an MVP award or an NBA championship. In his 9 seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, he’s averaged 24.6 points per game and 6.6 assists per game. He’s also scored 60 or more points in 3 NBA games, where just 4 players have had more 60-point games. 

Lillard’s Prizm Silver PSA 10 has a low population of just 32 cards and was last sold in June for $5,256: 

CardLadder

In the past year, the card has sold just 7 times and hit a record price of $9,840 in April of this year. Over the past 2 months, the card has appreciated 295% and sold as low as $1,330 last March. His Prizm Base PSA 10 (population 974) last sold for $770 and has remained generally stable in price since July. 

Lillard is 31 years old and is an exciting scorer, but is still without an MVP award or an NBA championship. The Portland Trailblazers currently have the 16th best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA Championship and are 5–5 to start the season. 

9. James Harden — Brooklyn Nets, +2500
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ESPN ranked James Harden as the 32nd best NBA player of all time and he is a 1x NBA MVP, 3x NBA Scoring Champion, 9x NBA All-Star, and 6x All NBA First Team selection. Harden has not won an NBA championship during his career but is currently on a Nets team that is favored to win the championship this season. 

Harden’s 2009 Topps Chrome Refractor /500 has a population of 24 in a PSA 10 grade and last sold in May for $22,800:

CardLadder

The card has sold just 7 times in the past 24 months and hit a high price of $40,000 this past March. Harden’s Base Topps Chrome is limited to just 999 copies and only 57 have been graded a PSA 10. 

The base PSA 10 last sold in July for $6,555 a 79% decrease from a previous record sale of $32,100 in March of 2021. 

Unless Harden moves up in the NBA MVP odds rankings, it’s more likely that an NBA championship with the Brooklyn Nets would drive his card values upward. Harden is a polarizing player but the 32-year-old has an accomplished career and is in a position to add the most important piece to his resume: an NBA championship. 

10. Paul George — Los Angeles Clippers, +2800
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Paul George is a 7x NBA All-Star, 1x All NBA 1st team, 4x NBA All-Defensive team, and 1x Most Improved Player Award winner. He’s never won an MVP award (although he finished 3rd in the 2019 season voting) and has not won an NBA championship. 

George has scored 20+ points in 18 consecutive playoff games (only Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant have accomplished this). Over the course of his career, he’s averaged 20.3 points per game and 3.5 assists per game. Through the first 8 games of the season, he’s averaging nearly 28 points per game. 

The Los Angeles Clippers currently have the 8th best odds to win the 2021–22 NBA Championship but are off to just a 4–4 start. George may be a dark horse to win NBA MVP this season but has had an accomplished career so far. 

George does not have a Topps Chrome or Prizm rookie card, but his 2010 National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph /99 is recognized as his top rookie card. 

The card has a population of 58 in a BGS 9.5 grade and last sold for $2,851 on 10/31: 

CardLadder

The card has increased in price since June but is still well below the record $7,000 price tag when it sold in September of 2020. The card dropped to a low price of $2,251 before gaining 26% value with its latest sale. 

George’s 1/1 NBA Logoman National Treasures Rookie Patch Autographs was sold at Goldin Auctions this past summer for $39,600. 

Without a flagship rookie card product, many of Paul George’s rookie cards are very affordable, but serious collectors will likely look to his National Treasures rookie card. 

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