Every NBA team has roughly 16 games remaining, which means that 80% of the 2022-23 season is in the books. Clear lines in the sand have been drawn in the MVP race, with a trio of international stars leading the charge. Nikola Jokic still holds down the top rung of the ladder and I can’t see anyone dethroning him at this late stage of the award race. Theoretically, there’s still enough time for another player to make a run at the crown and take out the award but it would take some serious doing.
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BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR
Kevin Durant, Suns (42 games) – 29.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.2 APG
Injuries derailed KD’s chances of seriously challenging for this award and this may be a theme we see throughout the rest of his playing days.
Devin Booker, Suns (39 games) – 27.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.8 APG
An MCL sprain kept Book out of 27 games earlier this year, all but ruining any hope he had of emerging as a serious contender. There’s every chance he throws his hat in the ring again next season though.
Anthony Davis, Lakers (41 games) – 26.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.5 APG
There was a glimmer of hope that MVP Ant Davis was going to show his head, although that optimism was short-lived. He’ll finish on the outside of this award race looking in.
Steph Curry, Warriors (41 games) – 29.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 6.4 APG
Earlier in the season I thought we may see a surge from Steph Curry to push for his 3rd MVP crown. Instead, his body had other ideas. I can still see him winning another trophy before it’s all said and done, but I’m sure Curry and the rest of Dub Nation would trade it for another ring every day of the week.
Kawhi Leonard, Clippers (40 games) – 23.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.9 APG
With the Clippers taking a long-term approach with Kawhi Leonard’s health, he never really stood a chance at this trophy. He has turned things around in the new year, averaging 27 PPG and 37 MPG, as Leonard and the Clips look to go on a deep postseason run.
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De’Aaron Fox, Kings (58 games) – 25.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.3 APG
Undoubtedly the best clutch performer in season 2022-23, De’Aaron Fox deserves the bulk of the credit for turning Sacramento’s fortunes around. Light the beam!
LeBron James, Lakers (47 games) – 29.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 6.9 APG
LeBron was destined to finish in the top-5 for voting after the stellar season he was producing. At the age of 38, father time may be starting to catch up with ‘The King’.
Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers (57 games) – 27.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.7 APG
Enjoying his best individual season yet, Donovan Mitchell could emerge as an annual threat for this award while he’s rocking wine and gold.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder (56 games) – 31.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.7 APG
Destined to claim Most Improved honours this season, SGA has vaulted himself into fringe superstar status. I can’t wait to see what he and the Thunder are capable of next season.
Ja Morant, Grizzlies (53 games) – 27.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 8.2 APG
Facing a stint on the sidelines for off-court reasons, Ja will lose all the momentum he built over the course of the season for this award. If he can get his mind right and control his entourage, there’s nothing stopping Morant from making an MVP push ASAP.
5. Luka Dončić, Mavericks (34-33)
Season Stats (57 games): 33.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 8.0 APG; 50.0 FG%, 34.9 3P%, 73.6 FT%
Last Rank: 5th
No one in the history of the NBA has averaged 33 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists for an entire season, however, there’s also no one in the history of the NBA who can make a genuine claim at the MVP award while owning a .500 record. Luka’s individual statistical brilliance has kept him in contention for the award all season long, but that alone isn’t enough to get him over the line. A 50+ win season from Dallas in the near future could be enough for Doncic to claim the trophy. Until then, he’ll have to settle for a 4th/5th place finish.
4. Jayson Tatum, Celtics (46-21)
Season Stats (62 games): 30.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 4.7 APG; 46.3 FG%, 35.5 3P%, 85.9 FT%
Last Rank: 4th
Tatum thoroughly deserves his place amongst the brightest stars in the league right now, catapulting his own profile and the Celtics with the best season of his career. A 30 PPG average, claiming All-Star MVP honours with a 55-point outburst and a 44-18 record with Tatum in uniform are all positive factors working in his favour. However, despite his best efforts, the three big men in tier one continue to outpace Boston’s transcendent wing. Some rough shooting nights are really the only blemish on Tatum’s résumé this season and he’ll remain every chance to take out the award in 2023-24.
3. Joel Embiid, 76ers (43-22)
Season Stats (52 games): 33.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.1 APG; 53.7 FG%, 36.3 3P%, 85.8 FT%
Last Rank: 2nd ( 1)
For the second consecutive year, it seems like Joel Embiid is going to claim the league’s scoring crown. Producing a career-best 33+ points a night, Embiid’s defensive impact is just as important for Philly and the play of their herculean center is a big reason why they own the 4th best record in the NBA. His prolific scoring ability has seen Embiid once again mount a believable case to win his first MVP award, but unfortunately for the Sixers center, I still rank a pair of players higher up the ladder rungs.
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2. Giannis Antentokounmpo, Bucks (48-13)
Season Stats (58 games): 25.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 10.7 APG; 49.9 FG%, 34.7 3P%, 69.8 FT%
Last Rank: 3rd ( 1)
A 16-game winning streak over January/February launched Milwaukee to the top of the standings league-wide. During their unbeaten run, the key cog for their success Giannis Antetokounmpo was at his unstoppable best, averaging a fraction under 32 PPG while shooting over 58% from the field. Antetokounmpo leapfrogged Embiid in my eyes thanks to the Bucks’ breathtaking run that he fuelled, although he hasn’t done enough to take pole position. If Milwaukee chalks up 60 or so wins, I can see a world where Giannis beats out Jokic for MVP honours, but he still faces an uphill climb to dethrone the favourite.
1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (46-20)
Season Stats (58 games): 24.3 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 10.0 APG; 63.0 FG%, 39.8 3P%, 81.6 FT%
Last Rank: 1st
63% from the field, the best record in the entire NBA, and a walking-triple double – Nikola Jokic can do no wrong right now. With no disrespect to the likes of Giannis and Embiid, Denver’s megastar is the clear-cut deserving winner for this year’s MVP award. There are other All-NBA talents around the league that accentuate a team’s offensive system, but Nikola IS his team’s offensive system. His passing ability opens up so many options for the Nuggets and with his sidekicks healthy, it’s no coincidence that Denver is rolling towards the No. 1 seed out West.
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