Nikola Jokic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander find themselves as the two favorites for the MVP award this NBA season in what has become a wide-open race since Joel Embiid was deemed ineligible. These two stars have gone back-and-forth in the MVP rankings as of late, but Jokic has seemed to take firm control of the race in the few games played since the All-Star break.

When it comes to the standings and where both the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves, there is truly no differentiating. The Thunder are currently 40-17 on the season, while the Nuggets chase from behind at 39-19 overall. Even though Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder have taken down Jokic and the Nuggets in three out of four meetings this season, what Jokic has done proves that the Nuggets are still the team to beat.

Since the All-Star break, the Nuggets have gone 3-0, picking up wins over the likes of the Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, and Golden State Warriors. Despite these not being the greatest of wins, the way Jokic led his team to victories is why he has overtaken Gilgeous-Alexander for the slight lead in this week's NBA MVP rankings.

Against the Wizards, Jokic recorded 21 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 assists to become the third player in league history, joining LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, to record a triple-double against every single team he has faced. Better yet, this triple-double against Washington saw Jokic shoot a perfect 10-of-10 from the floor. Then, he followed up this performance with 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 14 assists against the Blazers. On Sunday night against Golden State, Jokic had 32 points, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists, leading Denver to a 16-point victory after trailing by 16 points in the first half.

This performance marked the third time in his career that Jokic had totaled at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists in a single game, passing Wilt Chamberlain (2) for the second-most such games in league history. He only trails the great Oscar Robertson, who did so 11 different times.

“Joker's 32 and 16 gave me complete hell tonight,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said after Jokic's big game. “And I'm just going to laugh about it because either you laugh or you cry, and so I'm going to laugh about it. I had absolutely no answers tonight.”

This seems to be the story regarding the Serbian big man as of late. Nobody in the league has been able to slow him down, and Denver has won 11 of their last 16 games as a result. Three straight triple-doubles coming out of the All-Star break have vaulted Jokic ahead for the No. 1 spot in the NBA MVP race.

Previous 2023-24 NBA MVP Rankings: Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

1. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets 

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) before the game against the Washington Wizards at Ball Arena
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Rankings: #2

2023-24 season stats: 56 games, 26.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 58.3 FG%, 35.1 3P%

This season, the NBA MVP race has been heavily dictated by the standings. With the Thunder beating the Nuggets three out of four times and Oklahoma City sitting at the top of the Western Conference for a little bit, Gilgeous-Alexander appeared to have a slight edge over Jokic. However, this has always been a statistical race, and the gap in the standings has shrunk.

There is still a very good chance that the Nuggets could walk away with the best record in the West, which would directly result in Jokic claiming his third MVP award. When looking at the statistics and numbers each player has put up, many would also argue that Jokic is having a slightly better season.

At the end of the day, the NBA MVP award is a popularity contest and simply a matter of opinion. Jokic, who has already won the award twice in his career, may be looked down on by some voters this season because he hasn't gone above and beyond what we've seen in the past. Then again, when was the last time we saw a big man nearly average a triple-double for the season while shooting roughly 60 percent from the floor?

Exactly. We have never seen this.

The sheer dominance Jokic has displayed lately while really not even using all of his effort is what makes him the favorite for MVP right now. The Nuggets are the defending NBA champions for a reason, and it's no coincidence that Jokic is always the one making the big plays. Maybe Gilgeous-Alexander deserves the award more for taking the Thunder from nothing to everything, but it is hard to argue against Jokic when he's breaking records held by Wilt Chamberlain.

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) smiles after a play during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Rankings: #1

2023-24 season stats: 56 games, 31.2 points, 6.6 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 54.8 FG%, 38.0 3P%

Shai has put together quite the MVP resume to this point. Not only is he the best player on arguably the best team in the Western Conference this season, but he currently ranks first in the league in total points (1,746), first in 30-point games (42), first in steals (2.1), second in scoring (31.2), and third in player efficiency rating (30.7). It is also worth noting that Gilgeous-Alexander leads the league in win shares and offensive win shares.

No matter how you look at it, this has been one of the best offensive seasons we have seen from a player age 25 or younger in quite some time. Gilgeous-Alexander has gone from a first-time All-Star last season to now being a no-doubt All-NBA First Team selection. The scary thing is that he is not going anywhere anytime soon and has yet to reach the peak of his career.

Regarding the MVP race, Gilgeous-Alexander doesn't even seem to be fixated on the award. Although it is definitely on his mind, as he discussed the meaning of possibly winning the award during the All-Star break, the young Thunder star simply wants to win and contend for a championship with his team. It is pretty safe to say that he will have plenty of chances to do so over the next several years.

3. Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts during the first half against the Phoenix Suns at American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Rankings: #3

2023-24 season stats: 49 games, 34.3 points, 9.5 assists, 8.8 rebounds, 49.2 FG%, 38.0 3P%

Behind Jokic and Gilgeous-Alexander in the MVP race is Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. After the All-Star break, Doncic has continued to put the Mavs in a position to move up in the Western Conference standings. In two games last week, he tallied 74 combined points, 17 total assists, and 15 total rebounds. Now 33-24 on the season, Dallas is still in the running for an actual playoff spot instead of one via the play-in tournament.

While he is currently third in these MVP rankings, Doncic could easily surpass Gilgeous-Alexander and Jokic based on how the Mavs do the rest of the season. His triple-double-like numbers hold a lot of weight, and Doncic certainly passes the eye test regarding the NBA MVP award, as the Mavs aren't even a playoff team without him.

“I don't think you're gonna win the MVP in October, November, or December,” Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said recently speaking of Luka. “I think it's more likely you win it in February, March, April, I think he's put himself in a great position to win the MVP.”

At some point in his career, Doncic will claim the NBA MVP award. However, he still has a lot of ground to make up between now and the end of the season in April.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) walks off the court after a victory against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Rankings: #4

2023-24 season stats: 56 games, 30.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 61.6 FG%, 26.8 3P%

Giannis Antetokounmpo is perhaps the only player from the Eastern Conference with an outside chance of winning the MVP award. Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has been doing a lot of talking recently to try and get his name in the running, but nobody has viewed Tatum as a legit MVP candidate next to the likes of Jokic and Gilgeous-Alexander, even though the Celtics own the best record in the league. For Giannis, he has single-handedly kept the Milwaukee Bucks afloat given all the struggles they have gone through.

An interesting fact regarding Antetokounmpo and the Bucks is that they have gone 2-0 against Doncic and the Mavs, as well as 1-1 against Jokic and the Nuggets. Giannis will take on Shai and the Thunder twice near the end of the season. When all is said and done, Antetokounmpo could possibly own a 5-1 record against the three players listed ahead of him, and maybe he can put the Bucks back in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference.

With the triple-double-like numbers he too is putting up, Antetokounmpo is certainly going to finish in the Top 5 of the NBA MVP voting for the sixth straight season.

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5. Domantas Sabonis – Sacramento Kings

 Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis (10) controls the ball during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Rankings: #5

2023-24 season stats: 56 games, 20.1 points, 13.2 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 61.9 FG%, 41.9 3P%

The Sacramento Kings can still turn things around at 33-23 on the season. There is absolutely a chance they finish with above 50 wins this season, and that is due to the fact that Domantas Sabonis is having an incredible season in the center position. Sabonis being left off the All-Star roster may just be the biggest snub in NBA history, as this guy has been nothing short of fantastic all year long.

Currently leading the league in triple-doubles, Sabonis has overtaken De'Aaron Fox as the most important player on the Kings' roster. Their offense flows through him, and the league leader in rebounding is able to create second and third scoring opportunities for his team. It is no coincidence that the Kings have been one of the better offensive teams in the league since they acquired him.

While he is not the scorer that others on this list are, Sabonis' value to the Kings is immeasurable. The 27-year-old has not missed a game all season, and his durability has to factor into his MVP campaign.

Just missing the cut

6. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics (Ranked No. 6 last week)

7. Donovan Mitchell – Cleveland Cavaliers (Ranked No. 7 last week)

8. Anthony Edwards – Minnesota Timberwolves (Ranked No. 9 last week)

9. Kevin Durant – Phoenix Suns (Ranked No. 8 last week)

10. Tyrese Haliburton – Indiana Pacers (Ranked No. 10 last week)