1. Luka Doncic
Season stats: 34.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 8.1 apg, 32.65 PER
Contrary to his usual trend of starting slow, Luka Doncic has begun the 2022-23 season with his hair on fire. Leading the league with a whopping 34 points per game, Doncic has managed to carry a Mavericks team devoid of other all-star talent to a winning record. Despite losing back-to-back games this week, the Don has been far too good to lose his grip on the top spot of the MVP race. Since his rookie year, Doncic has been forecasted as an MVP frontrunner, but slow starts have ended promising campaigns before they could even begin. Doncic kept his conditioning up all offseason, and looked phenomenal for Slovenia in the EuroBasket tournament. Doncic has had plenty of MVP-level stretches in his career, but this hot start could be the boost he needs to secure the award for real.
2. Jayson Tatum
Season stats: 30.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.6 apg, 26.35 PER
The reigning Eastern Conference Finals MVP has led the Celtics to a commanding 15-4 record, shutting down any whispers that last year’s scorching Finals run was a fluke. The Celtics were a below .500 team for much of the season last year, sitting at 17-19 by January 1st. They closed the season 34-12, barreling through the Eastern Conference thanks to some savvy defensive coaching from Ime Udoka. However, Udoka’s firing left fans wondering if the Celtics could recapture that same magic. With Tatum playing like he is ready to claim the throne as the best small forward in the NBA, those doubts can be put to rest.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Season stats: 31.0 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 5.5 apg, 28.46 PER
The Greek Freak has been a staple on MVP leaderboards for years, and it seems nothing can stop the two-time MVP from dominating basketball games. The Bucks have looked elite once again this year, even without Khris Middleton, their All-Star complement to Giannis. After an ugly loss to the 76ers, Giannis responded with a stellar week, scoring 36+ points in every game, finishing 2-1. As long as the Bucks remain near the top of the East standings, and Giannis continues to dominate on both sides of the ball, he has a chance to secure his third MVP trophy.
4. Joel Embiid
Season stats: 32.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, 29.04 PER
The only thing keeping Joel Embiid outside of the top three of the MVP ladder is a foot injury that caused him to miss the 76ers last few games. However, I cannot in good conscience move Embiid any further down than 4th, as he has been spectacular yet again this year. Many fans were frustrated last year, when Joel Embiid grabbed the NBA’s scoring title but failed to secure his first MVP trophy. Embiid fans have to be excited with how he has responded this year, as the crafty big man has put up some eye-popping numbers. The Process put together a gargantuan 59 point, seven block effort against the Jazz two weeks ago, and has kept the 76ers competitive despite losing former MVP James Harden to injury. If the Sixers can get back to the top of the East standings, and Embiid can stay healthy, he has a serious chance to capture the award.
5. Nikola Jokic
Season stats: 22.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 8.8 apg, 30.49 PER
The reigning back-to-back MVP started the season with some uncharacteristically inefficient games, but has bounced back in recent games. Jokic hung 39 points, nine assists, and 10 rebounds on the Thunder in an OT thriller, looking more like the player that dragged the Nuggets to the playoffs last year without his two best complementary players. The Joker has still been as absurdly efficient as ever, shooting 62% from the floor – but could benefit from a bump in his 3P% if he is going to win a third consecutive MVP. Jokic had his second MVP campaign boosted by a gaudy 13.8 rebound average, so a boost in that department could also go a long way in forcing voters not to be fatigued with the Serbian legend.
In the Hunt:
6. Stephen Curry
7. Devin Booker
8. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
9. Donavan Mitchell
10. Ja Morant
Tyrese Haliburton, IND; Anthony Davis, LAL; De’Aaron Fox, SAC; Trae Young, ATL; Jaylen Brown, BOS, Kevin Durant, BKN