Perennial MVP candidates
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
3. Nikola Jokic
The two two-time MVPs are playing at an MVP level once again. Antetokounmpo started the season slowly, but found his groove lately, as he scored a career-high 64 points against the Indiana Pacers earlier this week. The Milwaukee Bucks are 15.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, and his two-way production, as demonstrated by his 32 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game, continues to be a big reason why.
The Denver Nuggets’ very own Jokic has slowed down in the past few weeks relative to where he has been earlier in the season. The two early-game controversial ejections contribute to the decrease in his statistics, but he also had a couple of very poor shooting games. His efficiency is subpar for his standards this season, but Denver’s net rating with him is +11.1, and they are 23.5 points per 100 possessions better with him than without him. He still has a strong argument to be as high as no. 2 on this list.
The best of the best
2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
1. Joel Embiid
After his breakout season last year, Gilgeous-Alexander continues to be the best two-way guard in basketball. He has carried the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 15-7 record when he played, and they destroy teams with him on the floor, outscoring their opponents by 12.3 points per 100 possessions. On top of his extremely efficient 31 points per game, he provides 2.7 steals, and 0.8 blocks per appearance and is an integral part of a successful defense. He will be top-three all season if he maintains this.
It’s becoming clear that Nikola Jokic’s primary rival in the MVP race is going to be Joel Embiid for the fourth season in a row. Regardless of what one thinks about the previous three MVP races and whether Jokic deserved to win over Embiid last season, the Sixers big man is playing the best basketball of his career. Much-improved passing has catapulted him into a tier by himself, as he is averaging a career-best 6.1 assists on top of a whopping 33.8 points per game. Philadelphia has been dominant with him on the floor, with a net rating of +13.3 and 17-4 record.
Embiid is a clear, deserving MVP so far, and Jokic has some work to do to catch up with him.