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NBA MVP Rating: Luka Dončić Holding off Giannis, Tatum and Field of Surprises | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

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NBA MVP Rating: Luka Dončić Holding off Giannis, Tatum and Field of Surprises

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    Tim Heitman/Getty Images

    Brace yourself. Shakeups are coming at the highest of our second NBA MVP ladder.

    This tends to occur so early right into a season. Stats and narratives and general impressions shift by the sport. Short-term injuries affect a big portion of the schedule. It paves the way in which for turbulence.

    Still, this yr feels more topsy-turvy than most.

    Availability looks as if it’ll matter greater than ever, since the level of play on the tippy top is that gloriously preposterous. This will likely be reflected in my inability to decide on…across multiple instances.

    The sector should clear up in the approaching months. Time has a way of eroding MVP optionality.

    For now, it’s incredibly, impossibly deep.

    As usual, this rating is supposed to reflect a snapshot in time—what my ballot would appear like if the season had ended prior to Monday night’s games, which thankfully it didn’t, because this remained really hard.

Honorable Mentions

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 7: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns talks to Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the game on November 7, 2022 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    T-10. Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid

    Kevin Durant Previous Rating: Unranked
    Joel Embiid Previous Rating: Unranked

    Embiid is averaging 40.0 points, 5.3 assists, 2.8 blocks and 16.5 free-throw attempts since rejoining the Philadelphia 76ers rotation 4 games ago. He hasn’t played enough to be placed any higher, but his case will proceed to strengthen while James Harden is sidelined.

    Durant is just on fire. He’s shooting and scoring and passing and defending his butt off, and the Brooklyn Nets appear like an actual basketball team following Kyrie Irving’s suspension. Keep your eyes on KD’s MVP stock, too.

    9. Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets

    Previous Rating: 8

    The Nuggets are beginning to look dominant. Their schedule might need something to do it, but so, too, does Jokić. He owns the highest net-rating swing within the league—a testament to some wonky bench returns but additionally wild because he has visibly de-emphasized scoring (and three-point shooting).

    8. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

    Previous Rating: 4

    Falling 4 spots lower than a month into the season is just not unprecedented—or an enormous deal. The Grizzlies spit fire when Morant is on the ground, but he’s shooting under 31 percent from three and sub-67 percent from the charity stripe because the last ladder.

    7. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

    Previous Rating: 5

    Scoring regression from Chris Paul. Injuries to Paul (heel) and Cameron Johnson (knee). No Jae Crowder. Still. Borderline vanishing acts from Deandre Ayton. And yet the Suns remain a regular-season machine.

    Booker continues to be the first reason why, a steadying force each on and off the ball who scales to so many alternative lineups and offensive approaches that quantifying his impact becomes increasingly difficult. His rating third in plus-minus is place to begin but nowhere near the finish line.

T-5. Stephen Curry and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA - NOVEMBER 09: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacts during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Paycom Center on November 09, 2022 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)Ian Maule/Getty Images

    Stephen Curry’s Previous Rating: 6

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s Previous Rating: 7

    BuT bOtH sTePh AnD sGa PlAy FoR tEaMs WiTh LoSiNg ReCorDs.

    This is simply too true. And wins are most definitely a player stat. (They are not.)

    Selecting between Steph and SGA was hard. So, I simply didn’t. And I am unable to bring myself to care that the Golden State Warriors are comfortably below .500 and combusting on defense or that the Oklahoma City Thunder ended their four-game losing streak by beating the shorthanded Toronto Raptors and sad-sorry-directionless Latest York Knicks.

    Each Steph and SGA can only be accountable for what’s happening after they’re on the ground. And their teams are winning those minutes.

    Golden State has a net rating of plus-7.9 when Curry plays—a 27.2-point increase over its differential per 100 possessions without him. Playing inside a killer starting five while getting spelled by a terrible bench actually helps bump up the returns, but that does not make his job any easier.

    Curry uplifts everyone around him by virtue of existing. He needs neither the ball nor actual numbers to interrupt defenses. Granted, he has the numbers anyway: 32.8 points and 6.5 assists per game while finding nylon on 64.8 percent of his twos and 43.4 percent of his 11.9 three-point attempts per game.

    Putting Curry any higher would feel not less than a bit off. Over 70 percent of his possessions have come alongside Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. A bench heavy on misses unnecessarily exacerbates Steph’s importance.

    Gilgeous-Alexander, meanwhile, is averaging 31.1 points, 5.7 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game on mind-melting efficiency of his own. Amongst everyone to try not less than 35 pull-up jumpers, only Curry and Kevin Durant have higher effective field-goal percentages. SGA is shooting 73 percent on the rim and 51.7 percent on step-back jumpers (15-of-29).

    This all comes on what can only be described as end-all usage. Out of 273 players to seem in not less than 10 games, Luka Dončić is the just one with a better share of unassisted buckets. Through all of it, Gilgeous-Alexander has kicked it into high gear on defense. And the Thunder have outscored opponents by 33 points when he plays—one point greater than the Dallas Mavericks have outpaced enemy teams by with Luka himself.

4. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors on November 11, 2022 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

    Previous Rating: 2

    Donovan Mitchell dropped two spots from last time through no fault of his own. The highest-five landscape is a gauntlet of megastar power.

    Two missed games due to an ankle issue over the past two weeks coupled with a number of shaky performances from beyond the arc set the stage for Mitchell’s teensy-weensy dip. Is that this splitting near-invisible-size hairs? And do I hate myself? Absofreakinglutely—on each counts. But that is the way it goes atop the early-season mountain.

    Anywho, Mitchell continues to slay defenses from, er, in all places.

    The share of his shots that comes on the rim is at its highest since 2018-19, a considerable feat given a number of the lineups during which he works. More disarming: He’s dropping in 75 percent of his looks on the basket, a logic-liquefying number even by early-season standards.

    Exactly one player is a greater high-volume off-the-bounce three-point flamethrower. Mitchell is burying 40.7 percent of pull-up triples on greater than five attempts per game. The one player with a better conversion rate on that volume: Stephen Curry.

    Everyone ought to be impressed with how Mitchell has handled playing in a recent environment. A few of the timing and placement of his passes can get weird, but his turnover rate has not exploded, and he’s averaging as many assists per 36 minutes as he ever has to associate with a career-high scoring rate.

    Darius Garland’s return should diminish the Cleveland Cavaliers’ reliance on Mitchell. That is thing. Mitchell is averaging 39.1 minutes per game. That may and can and must come down. Whether the pull-back alongside Garland will adversely impact Mitchell’s MVP case stays to be seen. And it doesn’t matter. And it’ll proceed to not matter as long as the Cavs appear like contenders with him.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

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    ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 7: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket during the game against the Atlanta Hawks on November 7, 2022 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

    Previous Rating: 1

    There is precisely one number that prevented Giannis Antetokounmpo from successfully retaining the highest spot: three.

    Left knee soreness cost him three of the Milwaukee Bucks’ previous 4 games entering Monday night. He ranks outside the highest 150 in minutes played.

    Quality over quantity, it’s early and blah, blah, blah. The margins are razor-thin so early into the season. Other players are providing profoundly impactful performances across larger samples. That counts for something.

    It also does not imply Giannis will likely be here endlessly. He won’t. (Related: How ridiculously high is the bar for him that third place on a friggin’ MVP ladder feels too low?!)

    Giannis is averaging 31.8 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks while downing 59.4 percent of his twos and deleting entire possessions from existence on defense each on and away from the ball. Opponents are shooting 50 percent against him on the rim—considered one of the seven stingiest marks amongst 78 players to contest as many close-range attempts.

    Overindulgence from the perimeter is the only real knock against Giannis when he’s on the ground. Should almost one-third of his looks be coming from mid-range if he’s shooting 25 percent? Perhaps not. But there’s value in the quantity. The identical goes for his pull-up threes. They keep defense on tilt.

    Also: Sub-30 percent from mid-range is low for Giannis. Also also: None of this matters. He’s a dominant anomaly.

2. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

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    DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 12: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics stands on the court during the game against the Detroit Pistons on November 12, 2022 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

    Previous Rating: Unranked

    Discuss your big, bloated, inexcusable misses. Jayson Tatum was left off the last MVP ladder. I too heavily weighted what happened within the Boston Celtics’ losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, along along with his slumping efficiency on off-the-dribble jumpers.

    I used to be incorrect, and I’m sorry.

    Tatum got here pretty darn near topping this whole ladder. His numbers induce drool. He’s averaging 32.3 points and 4.1 assists per game with 65.3 percent true shooting while attending to the foul line at a career-high clip. His pull-up jumper continues to miss the mark, but he continues to be, one way or the other, converting 80 percent of his looks on the basket.

    Boston has increased its reliance on Tatum over the past couple of weeks. He has responded by reminding us all that, yeah, the playmaking leap is real. His potential assists are up, and he’s never been more unpredictable or on track as a live-dribble passer. If anyone has the within track on the best way to guard against his over-the-shoulder kick-outs, please let me know.

    Almost no other player is as vital to his team at each ends of the ground. As I wrote previously, on a separate topic: “It seems like the Celtics have him checking harder assignments, he stays disruptive away from the ball, and he’s turning blocks from behind into an art form.”

    That Tatum is doing a lot of rattling near every thing with a left wrist injury makes zero sense. Sure, his MVP credentials could also be hard-pressed to fend off Giannis Antetokounmpo and a certain-someone-to-be-named-in-three-seconds over the course of a season. But when he recaptures his off-the-dribble jump-shooting mojo, he might need an airtight case because the NBA’s most complete player.

1. Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks

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    DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 12: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 12, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

    Previous Rating: 3

    The extent to which the Dallas Mavericks depend on Luka Dončić is staggering. And in addition historical.

    Just two other players have ever posted a better usage rate: 2016-17 Russell Westbrook and 2018-19 James Harden. Absurder still, almost 91 percent of Dončić’s made baskets have gone unassisted. Amongst every player to average not less than quarter-hour and appear in five or more games, his 90.7 percent mark could be the biggest share of unassisted field goals made within the NBA’s tracking database, which matches back to 1996-97.

    All-consuming usage doesn’t routinely translate to substance. There will likely be those that argue Dončić cannot play some other way—that he needs to be an unprecedented point of interest.

    Perhaps there’s validity to that stance. We would not know. The Mavs have never armed the offense enough to explore displacing Dončić from the ball. Left untouched, this roster is not built to make that shift. Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood mix to open additional offensive doorways, but Dallas has opted against playing all three together.

    Oh, yeah, here’s the opposite thing: Dončić is wrecking worlds playing this fashion. His 34.3 points per game lead the league and are available on 60.9 percent shooting from contained in the arc—including a 50ish percent clip from mid-range. His sub-30 percent success rate from beyond the arc will rankle some and played an element in holding him back last time, but he’s downed 35.6 percent of his treys since then…while still attending to the foul line a crap ton.

    Dončić’s 8.1 assists per game don’t do his passing justice. He’s third in potential assists per game (16.3), trailing only Tyrese Haliburton and Harden.

    Conventional wisdom suggests Dončić cannot keep this up, because, well, we have never seen anything quite prefer it. He’s looked drained in certain games. However the all-Dončić-everything model is working now. The Mavs are eighth in net rating despite being just two games over .500. If there’s anyone who can sustain this, it is the 23-year-old who has never been on a Dallas team equipped to saddle him with anything apart from unreal usage.

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleansing the Glass and accurate entering Monday’s games. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes.

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