I realize that it’s probably too early to ask this question. We’re only a little over 40% of the way through the 2022/23 regular season, and a variety of factors — injuries, team results, etc. — could swing the MVP race in multiple directions, especially with so many strong candidates.
In the first edition of ESPN’s MVP straw poll earlier this month, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum led the field, followed by Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. A lot has changed in the two weeks since that poll was conducted, including Curry sustaining a shoulder injury.
Tatum continues to excel as the best player on the league’s best team, a true two-way force. Antetokounmpo has great numbers, though the Bucks are in a rut, having lost four straight games. Doncic has put up mind-boggling statistics the entire season, but especially recently, becoming the first player in NBA history to record a stat line of 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in the Mavs’ comeback victory over the Knicks on Tuesday, as ESPN’s Tim MacMahon writes.
Sixers center Joel Embiid has certainly climbed the rankings, mostly due to being healthy, leading the league in scoring for the second straight season while carrying Philadelphia up the Eastern Conference standings. The same can be said for Kevin Durant, who is having perhaps his finest season for the resurgent Nets, winners of 14 of their past 15 games.
In another year, stars like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Donovan Mitchell, and Zion Williamson — all of whom are having phenomenal seasons — would garner significant attention as well. Yet in ’22/23, they are mere afterthoughts.
As John Hollinger of The Athletic noted a couple days ago, Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, might have the strongest case of all, despite a strong sentiment that voter fatigue will work against him (the same thing was said last season).
The Nuggets are 22-12, tied with the Pelicans for the best record in the West. Jokic once again leads the NBA in several advanced statistics, including player efficiency rating (32.3), win shares (6.6), box plus/minus (12.2), DunksAndThrees.com‘s estimated plus/minus (8.3), and FiveThirtyEight.com‘s RAPTOR wins above replacement (9.5, with Doncic second at 7.5), among others.
The 27-year-old’s traditional numbers are just as impressive. He’s averaging 25.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 9.4 assists and 1.5 steals on .619/.324/.806 shooting through 31 games. Those 9.4 assists per game would be an NBA record for a center, his 68.8 true shooting percentage is the best mark among high-volume scorers, and he’s somehow shooting 62% from mid-range, which tops the league.
Maybe the most staggering statistic of all is the fact that the Nuggets are plus-10.9 with the Serbian on the court and minus-13.4 when he’s off, according to NBA.com. Jokic currently leads Basketball-Reference.com‘s MVP award tracker at 45.1%, trailed by Doncic (21.7%), Embiid (9.6%), Tatum (6.3%), Antetokounmpo (4.9%) and Durant (4.5%).
That leads us to our poll: Will Jokic three-peat as MVP? Vote and then head to the comments to weigh in with your thoughts.