We’re in the middle of a wild, unpredictable NBA season, and we’ve got a lot more questions: How good are the Bucks? Networks? Can Golden State flip the switch? – what answers. The midpoint also means we know which players have put themselves in the spot for NBA post-season honors. Throughout the week, we will be choosing the top NBA awards at this point in the season. Today:
NBA Most Valuable Player: Luke Doncic
This is the most open MVP race I can remember and from my perspective six or seven players could walk away with this award. Joel Embiid is outside the top five, mainly due to missed games (this may change in the second half of the season). Stephen Curry is in the same situation. Before the shoulder injury, he could have led the MVP race, but missed a lot of time. Curry will be back soon, maybe this week.and if he plays enough games/minutes by the end of the season, the dynamics may change.
Luka Doncic wins the mid-season award not only because of his insane naked numbers or his efficiency in getting them — 34 points per game, 8.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 61.3 percent shooting — but also because of his workload. which he had to take over to keep Dallas winning. No high-level minor playmaker after Jalen Brunson chose New York, Doncic had to take on an insane offensive load (his 38.6 usage percentage is second in the league). The Mavericks moved on to a fully heliocentric offense around Doncic and he put them on a 23-18 record and forced them into fourth place in the West. He also has the best game of the season with a triple-double with 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists.
From my perspective, the six players in the MVP mix split into two tiers (separated by just half a step), with Jokic and Durant at the top tier with Doncic. There are good reasons for any of them to be the MVP of the moment. Durant was at the center of the Nets’ midseason pivot and is averaging 30 points per game with 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists on a ridiculous 67.5 shooting percentage. Jokic continues to post insanely effective numbers: 25.3 points per game, 10.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists, 68.7 percent shooting, and the Nuggets are 22.7 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court.
Tatum is the best player on the league’s top team (at least when they’re focused), averaging 30.8 points per game and an impressive 61.1 shooting percentage, but since Boston has stumbled lately, he’s not lived to be Billing MVP leader. Same with Giannis Antetokounmpo. While he continues to rack up numbers—32 points and 11.8 rebounds per game—he’s not as effective, though in part because he has to take on more shot-making workloads with both. Chris Middleton and Jrue Holiday missed time. If Embiid stays practically healthy until the end of the journey, he will be heard in this race.
Some fans try to blame others but Zion Williamson (who probably misses too much time anyway), donovan Mitchell, Anthony Davis and others a notch below that six (or seven, if you count Curry).
It’s like a season where the MVP race could lead to the last weeks of the season – and it won’t be a clear, almost unanimous choice. Like the season, this race will be wild and unpredictable.
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NBA Off-Season Awards: Mavericks’ Luka Doncic – MVP originally appeared on NBCSports.com