NBA MVP power rankings: Who’s the frontrunner a month in?
WASHINGTON – Five minutes and 35 seconds into Wednesday’s game between Dallas and Washington, the Mavericks had 23 points – and All-Star guard Luka Doncic was responsible for 21 of them.
He scored 13 points coming on two mid-range jumpers, two 3-pointers ad three free throws, and he delivered three assists, two going to Derrick Jones Jr. on corner 3s.
Doncic finished with 26 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in what looked like an effortless performance in the Mavs’ 130-117 victory.
It required effort, but Doncic made it look easy, and that’s an important takeaway from Doncic’s impressive start to the 2023-24 season.
With a revamped roster, offense is easier for Doncic now. He averages 30.7 points, 8.1 assists, 7.8 rebounds and shoots 50.2% from the field and 42% on 3-pointers. The Mavs are 9-3.
It’s a much different story now that it was a year ago when Doncic was critical of himself, his usage rate was high and Mavs coach Jason Kidd was concerned about Doncic’s minutes and workload.
Doncic still plays significant minutes (34.7 per game) and his usage rate is high, but the Mavs added Grant Williams, drafted Dereck Lively, Tim Hardaway is strong off the bench and the Mavs are just deeper with better shooters this season. Plus, Kyrie Irving was still with Brooklyn a year ago.
The Mavs have the No. 2 offense, scoring 120.5 points per 100 possessions, and are No. 2 in pace, pushing the basketball and searching for open shots early in the shot clock.
Even though the Mavs were 5-11 with Doncic and Irving on the court following the in-season trade, they liked what the duo provided, especially offensively. With more familiarity between the two and roster improvements, Dallas’ coaching staff envisioned a productive offense.
They put Irving and Doncic in different spots on the court and designed plays where they didn’t always need to have the ball to aid the offense. It’s working.
Doncic, 24, finished eighth in the MVP voting last season, was fifth in 2021-22 and sixth in 2020-21. If the Mavs keep winning and Doncic keeps playing like this, he’ll be in the mix in April when votes are due.
Here’s USA TODAY Sports’ early-season look at MVP candidates:
NBA MVP power rankings
10. Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant
2023-24 stats: 30.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.2 bpg, 51.4% FG, 45.5% 3-point FG, 86.1% FT
Durant is just hoopin’ like he likes to do. The Suns need to get healthy and start winning games for him or one of his teammates to stay in the MVP discussion.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
2023-24 stats: 28.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6.0 apg, 2.6 spg, 51.1% FG, 91.9% FT
He has established himself as one of the league’s best players and has the young Thunder ready for a serious playoff push.
8. Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey
2023-24 stats: 27.6 ppg, 6.7 apg, 5.1 rpg, 48.6% FG, 42.9% 3-point FG, 94.5% FT
We’re watching a star emerge in real time – 50 points on 20-for-32 shooting and seven assists, five rebounds and three blocks in a victory against Indiana on Sunday was special.
7. Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry
2023-24 stats: 32.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 48.8% FG, 44.6% 3-point FG, 93% FT
Curry’s sore right knee has sidelined him for a few games, but in his 11 games, he has been fantastic.
6. Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton
2023-24 stats: 24.7 ppg, 12.5 apg, 4.2 rpg, 1.1 spg, 52.8% FG, 43.6% 3-point FG
Haliburton is the leader of the NBA’s best offense, has been in double-digits in assists in nine of 10 games and is shooting lights out.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards
2023-24 stats: 26.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.2 apg, 46.7% FG, 37.1% 3-point FG, 82.8% FT
His emergence as an MVP candidate has been percolating since last season, and his campaign is heating up now, especially with the Timberwolves winning games.
4. Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic
2023-24 stats: 30.7 ppg, 8.1 apg, 7.8 rpg, 50.2 FG%, 42% 3-point FG, 76.1% FT
As Doncic gets older and wiser on the court, we’re seeing his offense expand, especially with this Mavs group.
3. Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum
2023-24 stats: 28.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.1 apg, 51.6% FG, 39.8% 3-point FG
The Celtics are 9-2, Tatum is shooting the ball at an outstanding rate and he had 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in Boston’s win against Philadelphia on Wednesday – without Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis available for Boston.
2. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid
2023-24 stats: 31.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, 50.4% FG, 87.3% FT
Last season’s MVP is off to another impressive start, and the Sixers have the victories to back it up with the Eastern Conference’s second-best record at 8-3.
1. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic
2023-24 stats: 30 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 8.4 apg, 57.9% FG, 80.3% FT
The two-time MVP (2021, 2022) and 2023 Finals MVP continues to prove why he is considered the best player in the league.
Worth watching: Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell; Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker
Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on social media @JeffZillgitt