NBA

Who is the 2023-24 NBA MVP?

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If you can believe it, approximately six weeks stand in the way between now and the start of the NBA postseason. Now that the trade deadline came and went, it’s time to shift gears to the final month and a half of this year’s regular season.

Which means it’s the perfect time to also take stock of the current, highly contentious MVP race. Candidates like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic are each seeking their third MVP while the rest of the field equally has as much of a case to land this year’s honor.

Think of this less as an official ballot and more a general list of who is clearly in the running this season. The names mentioned will most certainly be the ones you should keep an eye on as we start to look ahead to mid-April.

With all that said, let’s get to the candidates.

Nikola Jokic

  • Stats (60 games): 25.9 points, 12.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per game
  • Team Record: 42-20 (third in Western Conference, fourth in NBA)

An MVP this season for Jokic means he could be the first player to win three MVPs in four years since LeBron James in the mid-2010s. He continues to be a triple-double machine on a night-to-night basis with 19 this season (second-most in league). Jokic’s shooting splits across the board are down compared to his MVP-caliber performance last year, but this is also his second-straight season averaging north of nine assists per game. If Denver can get up to a clear one-seed by the end of the regular seating, it will be tough to dethrone The Joker this time around.

Jayson Tatum

  • Stats (58 games): 27.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per game
  • Team Record: 48-13 (first in Eastern Conference and first in NBA)

This becomes the point where the conversation can become a bit tricky. Even with a loaded roster, Tatum remains the best player on the Celtics. Boston currently sits 5.5 games above Minnesota for best record in the lead and holds an eight-game lead over Cleveland and Milwaukee for first seed in the East. Tatum is also still top-10 in scoring with relatively similar numbers to last year.

On the flip side, his individual stats fare just behind most of this season’s contenders. But again, Boston sits miles ahead of the rest of the pack. In a team context, the “most” in Most Valuable Player becomes more difficult to evaluate.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • Stats (59 games): 30.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game
  • Team Record: 41-21 (tied for second in Eastern Conference and fifth in NBA)

Milwaukee faced a tough start during Adrian Griffin‘s short tenure, but Giannis and company responded have since responded. The Greek Freak continues to put up video-game numbers, as he boasts a top-three mark in the league in scoring and a near-66% true shooting percentage. Giannis’ numbers are easily better when you compare them to Tatum, but with the Celtics way out in front in the standings, how much closer can Antetokounmpo get the Bucks to Boston?

Luka Doncic

  • Stats (54 games): 34.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 9.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game
  • Team Record: 34-28 (eighth in Eastern Conference and 16th in NBA)

As it’s been the past in previous years, Luka Doncic continues to shoulder the majority of the statistical production as Mavs remain a fringe postseason team. At 34.5 points per game, he remains the league’s leading scorer by over three points above second place (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander). The overall counting stats are also notable – his 12 triple-doubles are third-most in the NBA this season. Doncic’s individual numbers are once again MVP-caliber, but how well the Mavs can finish down the end here will determine a lot on where he’ll end up on the final ballot.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

  • Stats (60 games): 31.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game
  • Team Record: 42-19 (second in Western Conference and third in NBA)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s stock gets higher by the minute, and after finishing fifth in last season’s MVP race, he’s put himself in a better spot this year. Once again, he’s averaging over 31 points per game (second-best in NBA) but is field goal percentage (55%) and true shooting (65%) are both at career-high marks. Like Antetokounmpo and Embiid, Gilgeous-Alexander’s defensive value serves as a key differentiator. Unlike pretty much most of the field, Gilgeous-Alexander possesses all three of a) impressive counting stats, clear team success and a valuable narrative.

Anthony Edwards

  • Stats (59 games): 26.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game
  • Team Record: 43-19 (first in Western Conference and second in NBA)

While he is certainly more of a long-shot candidate, Edwards has taken another leap this year to push Minnesota into one of the best surprise stories this season. Like Tatum, his numbers compare a bit lower to most of the field. At the same time, he’s been a clear driver of team success and will at least be in the conversation for the top-five.

Joel Embiid

  • Stats (34 games): 35.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game
  • Team Record: 35-26 (T-6th in Eastern Conference and T-12th in NBA)

Two things can be right at once. First, Joel Embiid will clearly not be this year’s MVP given his continued absence due to injury. Yet, it’s also true that he was undoubtedly playing like one. For the third consecutive year, Embiid’s points per game is north of 30 without any regression on efficiency. After winning MVP last year, Embiid was averaging a league-leading 35.3 points with a 65% true shooting percentage. Since his injury, the Sixers went from at the top of the standings to Play-In Tournament territory. Talk about putting the valuable in Most Valuable Player.

Now it’s your turn: how would your top-five MVP ballot look right now?

About Dominic Chiappone

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