MVP awards aren’t won in late November, and the race for the most coveted individual trophy in the NBA continues to take twists and turns. No one has been able to usurp the king of the rankings, but there was a lot of additional movement on the ladder since the last check in. With a quarter of the season in the books, how is the MVP race shaking out?
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Honourable Mentions: Damian Lillard, Ja Morant, Anthony Davis, Trae Young, Joel Embiid
10. Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers (12-8)
Season Stats (20 games): 19.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 11.3 APG; 47.6 FG%, 38.0 3P%, 85.0 FT%
Last Rank: N/A
Not only is Tyrese Haliburton leading the NBA in assists, but he’s also recorded more double-doubles than any other player so far this season. Indiana’s lead guard deserves a ton of credit for helping this offence realise its potential, with the Pacers currently sitting 4th in the East. Over the last three contests, Haliburton made history becoming the first player to chalk up 40 assists and 0 turnovers since the league started recording TO’s in 1977/78. At just 22 years old, it’s clear they’ve found a star for the future.
9. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder (8-12)
Season Stats (20 games): 31.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 6.1 APG; 50.6 FG%, 33.9 3P%, 91.9 FT%
Last Rank: 9th
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is scoring the ball like a legitimate superstar this season. OKC’s lead man is excelling by scoring more than half of his points in the paint, using his tight handles to create space and get off the open shot. The Thunder seemed destined to sit on the outs of the playoff bubble, but watching SGA score at will through a quarter of the season is an encouraging sign, indicating that Oklahoma City’s residence at the bottom of the standings may be coming to an end.
8. Kevin Durant, Nets (11-11)
Season Stats (22 games): 30.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.4 APG; 54.8 FG%, 34.6 3P%, 91.9 FT%
Last Rank: 10th ( 2)
Brooklyn’s off-court drama seems to have subsided (for now) and they now finally have a chance to find some momentum. The only reason they still reside at .500 is because of KD’s play, with the 2013-14 MVP winner producing perhaps his greatest statistical season so far. Having played every game for the Nets, Durant is shooting a career-best 54.8% from the field, all while defences throw everything they have at him to quell his influence. Could a streak of W’s from Brooklyn help vault him higher up the ladder?
7. Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers (13-8)
Season Stats (19 games): 28.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.0 APG; 48.8 FG%, 41.0 3P%, 88.2 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 4)
Fresh off his worst game of the season, the Donovan Mitchell-led Cavaliers have fallen back to Earth. Since the last ladder, Cleveland has a 5-7 record, with injuries playing a small factor. Aside from an ugly 8-point showing against Toronto, Mitchell’s play is still keeping the Cavs afloat, with the star guard averaging career-highs in points, shooting percentages and minutes. Some still view Cleveland as a pseudo-contender in the title race, and although they boast some young star power, this team will go as far as Donovan Mitchell can take them.
6. Devin Booker, Suns (14-6)
Season Stats (20 games): 27.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.8 APG; 47.0 FG%, 35.2 3P%, 88.0 FT%
Last Rank: 4th ( 2)
I can’t fully endorse Devin Booker as a legit MVP threat yet, even though his Phoenix Suns currently sit atop the West. Book and Co deserve a shout-out for getting to this point with Chris Paul only playing in half of the games, and their lead guy has been filling up the box score in almost every regard. He has flirted with his first career triple-double a few times this season, but his 44 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals in a recent win over the Kings might be his best effort of the season. Expect Booker to remain firmly in the mix for this award.
Image from nbcsports.com
5. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (13-7)
Season Stats (17 games): 23.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 8.8 APG; 62.3 FG%, 29.4 3P%, 84.5 FT%
Last Rank: 8th ( 3)
The back-to-back winner is starting to find his mojo playing alongside Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, working hard to re-establish his sidekicks after their lengthy layoffs. Jokic’s per-game numbers have dipped slightly, but there’s no denying that Denver is a better team and a more genuine championship threat with a healthy list and offseason additions like Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope joining the cause. Should the Nuggets continue to vie for a top seed in their conference, Jokic is every chance to be in the running for a 3rd consecutive Maurice Podoloff trophy
4. Steph Curry, Warriors (11-11)
Season Stats (20 games): 31.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 7.0 APG; 51.8 FG%, 43.6 3P%, 90.7 FT%
Last Rank: 5th ( 1)
Individually, Steph Curry has been straight up awesome this season. Golden State’s franchise icon continues to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and after a horrid run to start the year, the Warriors are sort of back on track. There are still issues and concerns with their bench and the play of Klay Thompson/Jordan Poole, but luckily for Dub Nation, Curry has been nuclear through 20 games. At the time of writing, Steph is shooting a better clip from midrange than DeMar DeRozan, converting more iso’s than Durant and posting more points in the paint than Giannis Antetokounmpo. Elite solo heroics, now Curry just needs the Warriors to get it together.
3. Luka Doncic, Mavericks (10-10)
Season Stats (19 games): 33.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 8.6 APG; 50.5 FG%, 31.5 3P%, 72.3 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 1)
13-14 wins would have seen Doncic maintain his place inside the top 2 contenders. However, despite his statistical excellence, the Mavericks haven’t looked great to start this year, with Luka already looking tired at the pointy end of games. It’s harsh to penalise him with Dallas’ basketball genius averaging 33/8/8 across 25% of the season, and there’s a world where Luka still goes on a charge to win this award. To do that though, the Mavs are going to need a few more wins and the recent addition of Kemba Walker should hopefully help ease the backcourt burden on Doncic.
2. Jayson Tatum, Celtics (17-4)
Season Stats (20 games): 30.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.6 APG; 48.1 FG%, 34.7 3P%, 87.0 FT%
Last Rank: 7th ( 5)
Any doubt over Jayson Tatum’s legitimacy as a superstar has been squashed through the early portion of the 2022-23 campaign. Taking his game to the next level on both sides of the ball has helped Tatum dominate, and in turn, the Celtics are now the proud owners of the best record in the league. Nearly averaging a steal and a block a game, Tatum’s defensive presence has been noteworthy for Boston, all while he maintains his epic scoring rate as one of seven players averaging 30+ PPG. He’s well and truly earned his high ladder rung, but can he maintain it?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (14-5)
Season Stats (16 games): 30.9 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 5.4 APG; 53.4 FG%, 22.9 3P%, 60.0 FT%
Last Rank: 1st
Watch a full Bucks game and tell me Giannis Antetounkmpo isn’t the MVP right now. Milwaukee doesn’t own the best record in the league, but they’ve won 73.7% of their games and are doing it without their second-best player in Khris Middleton. A huge reason why they sit where they do is because of Giannis’ play, with the Bucks superstar leading the association for points in the paint and fast-break baskets. Antetokounmpo has never averaged 30 PPG over an entire season and when Middleton does eventually return I expect his scoring to dip, but his efficiency should benefit.
Banner from celticsblog.com
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