With a month of the season in the books, we are already somehow 20 percent done with the NBA regular season. That means we can credibly get away with our first (way too early) MVP rankings.
There have been plenty of breakout players thus far — I’m talking about you, Scottie Barnes and Tyrese Maxey. But for the most part, the very best players this year are similar to the ones from last year’s MVP race. These guys have both helped their teams get near the top of the standings and put up outrageous statistics in the process.
These have been the best NBA players through Thanksgiving weekend.
All statistics current as of Nov. 23, 2023
NBA MVP rankings
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Averages: 27.5 PTS, 13.1 REB, 8.9 AST, 0.9 BLK, 1.1 STL, 57.9% FG
Team record: 10-5, 3rd in Western Conference
You can debate with the rest of this order. But Jokic has (again) been the best player in the league. Most of his numbers are better than in his back-to-back MVP years, and he’s helped the Nuggets vault out toward the top of the Western Conference despite missing Jamal Murray for the past three weeks.
What more is there to say about Jokic? He’s the best passer in the league by a mile, he is unstoppable one-on-one, and he’s shooting better from 3 than he ever has in his career. If he keeps his foot on the gas during the regular season, then this is his award to lose.
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Averages: 31.9 PTS, 11.3 REB, 6.1 AST, 1.8 BLK, 1.0 STL, 49.7% FG
Team record: 10-5, 5th in Eastern Conference
The thinking was that the James Harden situation would make this a lost year for the Sixers. Instead, they’ve played even better without him.
Much of that success has been driven by Maxey’s emergence as an All-Star talent, but Embiid is still the best player on the team.
Embiid is once again leading the NBA in points per game, serving as the focal point of a Sixers offense that is No. 2 in the league. He’s also the anchor of the team’s defense, as always.
Where Embiid has made real improvements is as a passer. Nick Nurse has incorporated a less isolation-heavy offense, and Embiid’s assists have skyrocketed up to 6.2 per game, which puts him in the top 20 of the league.
It will be tough for Embiid to go back-to-back because of his playoff struggles and the higher bar that players generally have to clear after winning their first one. But he is still easily one of the best players in the league.
3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Averages: 30.4 PTS, 6.1 REB, 6.3 AST, 0.9 BLK, 2.4 STL, 53.8% FG
Team record: 11-4, 2nd in Western Conference
The Thunder have been the surprise of the season. They’re right in the mix for the top record in the Western Conference thanks in large part to Gilgeous-Alexander, who has gotten even better since his First Team All-NBA appearance last season.
For the fourth year in a row, Gilgeous-Alexander is leading the league in drives per game. Teams can’t prevent him from getting to his spots, which is a problem because he is a great finisher at the rim and deadly in the midrange. He’s seventh in the league in scoring, helping to lead the young Thunder to the No. 7 offense in the league.
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Averages: 30.5 PTS, 8.3 REB, 8.1 AST, 0.3 BLK, 1.2 STL, 49.1% FG
Team record: 10-5, 4th in Western Conference
The Mavericks have also been one of the nice surprises of the Western Conference. After missing the playoffs altogether last season, they’re poised to be a home court advantage team this year. Doncic has been terrific, topping 40 points twice already and recording two 30-plus point triple-doubles.
Doncic’s year is being driven by a much better 3-pointer than he’s shown in the past. He takes some of the toughest in the league, but he’s been hitting them at a crazy rate, making 42 percent of his 3s this year as compared to 34 percent for his career. He’s already so good at worming his way into the paint or bullying smaller defenders in the post. And now, only Steph Curry has more made 3s than him.
5. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Averages: 27.9 PTS, 9.1 REB, 4.1 AST, 0.4 BLK, 1.1 STL, 50.2% FG
Team record: 12-3, 1st in Eastern Conference
The case for Tatum’s first MVP award is pretty easy. He’s the best player on the best team in the league. The Celtics have been a powerhouse — they’re currently top five in both offensive and defensive rating. Leading the way is Tatum, who is No. 8 in the league in points per game.
Tatum’s pull-up 3-point shooting has been his biggest improvement this season. That shot completely abandoned him last year — he hit just 29.1 percent of his attempts. That’s up to a much more respectable 35.4 percent this season, and his 3s in general have been falling at a much higher rate.
That improved shooting, along with his dependable isolation scoring and defense, have made Tatum one of the five best players in the league thus far.
The best of the rest
LeBron James: The Lakers have completely fallen apart whenever LeBron has been off the floor. They’ve been a pretty good team with him on it, fighting their way to sixth place in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.
That LeBron is still averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists per game at age 38 shouldn’t be taken for granted. He’s still a top-10 player in the league.
Steph Curry: Curry would be higher up on this list if not for his team’s struggles. They’ve slid down the standings, losing six of their last seven heading through Nov. 22. Most of that is because Curry hasn’t had any help — he’s the only guy on his team averaging more than 14 points. He’s carried them to all of their wins, including a game-winning layup against the Thunder on Nov. 3.
At the ripe age of 35, Curry’s 29.4 points per game are the third-highest mark of his career. He’s shooting the ball better than he ever has before, hitting 45 percent of his 3s and 54 percent of his 2s.
Kevin Durant: Durant has had to carry the Suns with Bradley Beal and Devin Booker missing significant time due to injury. His offense is as good as it’s ever been — he’s averaging 31.4 points per game and hitting a scorching 51 percent of his 3s despite defenses loading up on him every single night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Bucks came out of the gate slow, but they’ve fought their way up to third place in the Eastern Conference behind Giannis’ superb two-way play.
Giannis is averaging 29.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. He’s been better than ever near the rim — his 80.9 percent at the restricted area is behind only LeBron James so far this year, per NBA stats.
Anthony Edwards: Edwards has been the man on a surprising Wolves team that is atop the Western Conference. He’s becoming a stopper on-ball with his incredible athleticism helping him hound opposing players on defense. And he’s been the engine of the Wolves’ offense, averaging 26.1 points and 5.1 assists per game.
Source : ESPN.com