Updated NBA MVP rankings: Nikola Jokic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lead race heading into final stretch of season

Our MVP rankings haven’t changed much since the last time we did this.

Back in November, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid were neck-and-neck for the top spot, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum rounding out the top five. Embiid is no longer eligible due to the 65-game minimum to qualify for the award. Jokic remains at the top of the top. And the other stars in the league have continued their dominance. 

Here’s how they all stack up with only a third of the season remaining. 

MORE: Five crazy ideas on how to fix the NBA All-Star Game

Updated NBA MVP rankings

Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets

(NBA Entertainment)

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Stats: 26.0 PTS, 12.1 REB, 9.1 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.9 BLK, 58.2% FG

Team record: 37-19, 4th in Western Conference

Jokic proved during last year’s championship run that he’s the best player in the NBA. He’s maintained that crown this season. 

The Joker is the best passer in the league by a mile, and he could probably lead the league in scoring if he wanted to. He’s been unstoppable inside the arc, hitting an absurd 62.8 percent of his 2s. His 35.2 percent from 3 isn’t too shabby either. There is no defense capable of stopping him. 

He’s also been extremely healthy, missing only two games thus far this year. His production has been outrageous, and he’s helped prop up the Nuggets during the regular season after Jamal Murray’s battles with injury. 

MORE: Nikola Jokic joins LeBron James, Russell Westbrook in exclusive triple-double club

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

Stats: 31.1 PTS, 6.6 AST, 5.5 REB, 2.1 STL, 0.9 BLK, 54.7% FG

Team record: 38-17, 2nd in Western Conference

The Thunder are going to massively outperform the 44.5 win total set by Vegas during the preseason, and it’s because Gilgeous-Alexander has taken yet another leap in his game. 

SGA has maintained his excellence as a volume driver, where he’s led the league for the past four seasons. His shiftiness is impossible to stop. He’s vastly improved his shooting percentages from a year ago when he was a First Team All-NBA guard. 

He’s taken a leap defensively, becoming a legitimate two-way star. He leads the league in both steals and deflections per game, using his extraordinary hand-eye coordination to knock the ball loose constantly. He’s also become a great weak-side rim protector, rotating over to affect shots when teammates get beat. 

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Stats: 34.3 PTS, 9.6 AST, 8.8 REB, 1.5 STL, 0.6 BLK, 49.2% FG

Team record: 33-23, 6th in Western Conference

Nobody has had as many big performances as Luka this season. His 73 points are the most scored by a player all year, and he also had 50 points with 15 assists on Christmas against the Suns. 

Along with those great games, he’s been remarkably consistent, never scoring less than 16 points this year. He’s missed only eight games, fighting through nagging injuries to help carry the Mavs in an extremely tight Western Conference playoff race. 

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Stats: 30.8 PTS, 11.2 REB, 6.4 AST, 1.4 STL, 1.1 BLK, 61.6% FG

Team record: 35-21, 3rd in Eastern Conference

Antetokounmpo is having another consistently great year. Damian Lillard hasn’t quite been at the same level as he was last season, and the Bucks would be completely lost without the Greek Freak. 

Antetokounmpo is all over the NBA leaderboards. He’s second in total points, fifth in total rebounds, 12th in total assists, seventh in total steals and first in free throw attempts. 

The two main things holding Antetokounmpo back seem to be voter fatigue (he’s already won the award twice) and the Bucks’ struggles. They’re on their third coach and have had difficulty adjusting to their significant roster turnover. Antetokounmpo has battled through the turmoil to have another fantastic year. 

MORE: Dame Time is preventing Giannis from being Clutch Player of the Year

5. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Stats: 24.0 PTS, 6.1 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.9 BLK, 53.0% FG

Team record: 36-18, 3rd in Western Conference

Kawhi is back near the prime version of himself. The Clippers were thought to be dead after initially trading for James Harden and losing six straight. Instead, they turned into the hottest team in the league. It’s been Leonard who has been the driving force behind that play. 

The Claw has always thrived in getting to his favorite spots on the floor. That is still true today, where he’s unstoppable from midrange. Making him even harder to guard is that he’s hitting a career-high 45.0 percent from 3. 

Leonard’s defense is back, too. After falling off over the past few seasons, he’s once again a terror one-on-one. He will rip the ball away from players and make it look like taking candy from a baby. 

Most importantly, he’s as healthy as he’s been in years. Leonard’s missed only five games thus far this season and is top 40 in minutes played.

MORE: Predictions for the final stretch of NBA’s regular season

The best of the rest

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) 05142023

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Jayson Tatum, Celtics

The Celtics are the best team in basketball, and Tatum is their clear best player. He’s having another excellent season, averaging 27.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while playing solid defense on the other side of the floor. 

Tatum’s one weakness has always been his somewhat suspect shot selection, particularly late in games, but he’s gotten dramatically better on his pull-up 3s since changing his form after Christmas, hitting 39.2 percent of those looks subsequently.

Kevin Durant, Suns

Durant has maintained his excellence through his age-35 season, averaging 28.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists for the Suns. He’s still one of the best shooters in the league, hitting 43.7 percent of his 3s. And he’s been relatively healthy — he’s 18th in minutes played this year.

MORE: Kevin Durant spares Mavericks fans from ejection after being called a ‘b—’ before the game

Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers

The Cavs have surprised a lot of people by overtaking the Bucks as the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. They’ve jumped up to that spot despite injuries to Darius Garland and Evan Mobley for large chunks of the season. 

Mitchell has been the driving force behind that winning. He’s averaging career-highs with 28.4 points and 6.3 assists per game. He’s upped his playmaking considerably, helping the Cavs become a much more dangerous 3-point shooting team this season. And his defensive effort has never been better. 

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