I’m aware that it’s perhaps premature to pose this query. Only a little more than 40% of the 2022–2023 regular season has passed, and a number of variables, including injuries, team performance, and others, might change the outcome of the MVP race.
The Celtics forward Jayson Tatum took the top spot in the first ESPN MVP straw poll earlier this month, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks, Luka Doncic of the Mavericks, Stephen Curry of the Warriors, and Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets. In the two weeks since that survey was done, a lot has transpired, including Curry suffering a shoulder injury.
Tatum, a real two-way force and the top player on the league’s best team, continues to shine. Even though Antetokounmpo has impressive statistics, the Bucks are struggling after losing four straight games. Doncic has produced astounding numbers throughout the entire campaign, but especially recently. In the Mavs’ comeback victory over the Knicks on Tuesday, he set an NBA record by finishing with a stat line of 60 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Joel Embiid of the Sixers has undoubtedly advanced in the rankings, largely as a result of his improved health. He has led the league in scoring for the second straight season while helping Philadelphia advance in the Eastern Conference Standings. Kevin Durant, who is playing for the rising Nets, who have won 14 of their last 15 games, is having possibly his best season.
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 (or perhaps even be the favorite). Yet in ’22/23, they are mere afterthoughts.
Despite the belief that voter fatigue may work against him, Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, may have the greatest case of all, as John Hollinger of The Athletic highlighted a few days ago (the same thing was said last season).
With a record of 22-12, the Nuggets and Pelicans share first place in the West. Jokic is once again the NBA’s top performer in a number of advanced metrics, including player efficiency rating (32.3), win shares (6.6), box plus/minus (12.2), estimated plus/minus (8.3) from DunksAndThrees.com, and RAPTOR wins above replacement (9.5; Doncic is second at 7.5) from FiveThirtyEight.com.
The 27-year-conventional old’s stats are also amazing; after 31 games, he averaged 25.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 9.4 assists, and 1.5 steals while shooting.619/.324/.806 as a whole. His 68.8 true shooting percentage is the greatest among high-volume scorers, and his 62% mid-range shooting is the best in the league. His 9.4 assists per game would be an NBA record for a center.
The Nuggets are plus-10.9 with the Serbian on the court and minus-13.4 when he is off, according to NBA.com, which is possibly the most astounding figure of all. Jokic presently holds a 45.1% lead in the MVP award standings on Basketball-Reference.com, ahead of Doncic (21.7%), Embiid (9.6%), Tatum (6.3%), Antetokounmpo (4.9%), and Durant (4.5%). Durant (4.5%) and (4.9%).