The 2022-23 NBA season has brought its fair share of surprises going into the new year. The Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans lead their respective conferences, while the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves are among the teams struggling to remain in the hunt.
The Most Valuable Player conversation has likely been narrowed down to a two-man race in previous years, but this year, there are five clear contenders for the award. Who is your selection to bring in the MVP this season?
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
In his third season with the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant is having an MVP-caliber season. For a team that endured a dramatic offseason and a 2-6 start to the regular season, the Nets have now won 16 of their last 17 games dating back to November 27, with Durant as the leading scorer in 10 of those games.
This season, Durant is averaging 29.6 points per game from a career-high 56.4% from the field. While his rebounding and assist figures are down from previous seasons, what the 34-year-old has done to this point in the season is remarkable. An MVP award for Durant would mark the second of his career, with his first coming from the 2013-14 season. Here is a comparative look between Durant’s 2013-14 run versus this season to this point:
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Could we see the fourth three-peat in league history when it comes to the MVP award? Nikola Jokic would join NBA royalty in Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlin, and Larry Bird as the only players to ever win MVP in three consecutive seasons. Jokic is putting together another impressive season, nearly averaging a triple-double as a big man.
While Jokic’s scoring figures are down, he is averaging a career-high 9.5 assists per game to this point in the season. He is also being smarter with his shot selections, shooting 66.3% from inside the arc. Here is a comparative look between Jokic’s 2020-21 and 2021-22 MVP runs versus this season to this point:
Giannis Anteokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks have once again put themselves into contender status in the Eastern Conference, and it’s in large thanks to two-time MVP Giannis Anteokounmpo. The Bucks opened the season by winning their opening nine contests and haven’t looked back since. Anteokounmpo has led the team in scoring in 26 games this season, including each of their last five outings.
This season, Anteokounmpo is averaging a career-high 32.1 points while shooting 53.3% from the field. In addition, he is bringing in double-digit rebound figures for the sixth consecutive season. Here is a comparative look between Anteokounmpo’s 2018-19 and 2019-20 runs versus this season to this point:
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
In his age 23 season, Luka Doncic has taken the league by storm. To this point in the season, Doncic leads the league in scoring with 34.3 points per game. This is the first season in which Doncic is expected to finish over 50% from the field, which is staggering considering he takes more shot attempts (22.8) than anyone in the league. Doncic has no previous MVP numbers to compare to, but his odds are among the elite in the MVP race. According to Bet MGM, Doncic is+400 to bring in the award, closing in on Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum as the favorite.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Arguably the favorite in the MVP race is none other than Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum. Following a trip to the NBA Finals last season, Tatum followed it up with career-high figures across the board this season. To this point, Tatum is averaging a career-high 30.9 points to go with 8.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He is also vastly improving from the field, shooting 47.3% across 21.4 attempts per game. Tatum doesn’t have an MVP to go with his legacy to this point in his young career, but the 24-year-old rounds out those in contention for the award this season.