Who is emerging as the early contenders for NBA MVP in 2023?
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named NBA Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season last year becoming the 13th player to win back-to-back MVPs. Jokic received the accolade after 65 first-place votes and 875 points to beat Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid in second and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in third. The early odds before the season got underway had Jokic in contention once again and he has enjoyed a strong start to this campaign. But he will be pushed hard to secure a three-peat in 2023 with the likes of Antetokounmpo, Ja Morant and Luka Doncic all racing out of the blocks and lining up to claim the honour. But who are emerging as the favourites this early into the season and who will eventually end up claiming the coveted prize in 2023? Here’s a look at some of the names to look out for for the remainder of the 2022/23 season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak dominated the NBA Finals in 2021 to take the Bucks to their first title in 50 years and in the process joined an illustrious club of players alongside Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as just one of three players to have earned MVP, DPOY and Finals MVP in their career. His stats speak for themselves and as long as he is healthy and his Bucks find themselves in the hunt for a championship, he'll be in contention for the NBA MVP. That's been the case over each of the past four seasons with Giannis continually proving himself as a generational talent. His points and assist average per game are in great shape which has helped the Bucks to a great start at 10-2 for the season from their first 12 games. He's still only 27 years old and has another half-decade in his prime at least before he starts to wind down. The future is bright for this powerhouse and he will likely be in the conversation for MVP once again come March.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic was the early favourite to win the MVP this season before the campaign got underway according to the sites offering the best betting offers and he still is after the first 12 games. An argument can be made that Doncic is coming off the best four-year run to begin his career as any player in modern NBA history. This season presents a clear path to the coveted award for the Slovenian sensation. His fifth-placed finish in the MVP charts last year certainly shows he's capable of being the recipient of the illustrious MVP award, and he's looking to lead the Dallas Mavericks once again this season. Still only 22 years old, before this season was underway he was averaging 26.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists in an impressive run in the NBA. However, the Mavericks have struggled thus far with a mediocre record of 7-5 presenting a tough position for Doncic to keep pace with the MVP pack. There are also still parts of his game that can improve; his overall three-point shooting can be better, his defence can improve too and he needs to control his temper with the officials too. Doncic is still young, but he’s the best player on a team capable of contending for the championship. If the Mavs can get back on track then Doncic is still a prime candidate for the 2023 NBA MVP.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Not only are the Nuggets starting to strike gold, but the Joker has also been doing his thing, coming close to averaging a triple-double this season. Jokic's scoring numbers have dropped but his overall play is keeping him in the running for MVP. The Nuggets are 9-4 after 13 games and Jokic has played a big part in their early success. This two-time reigning NBA MVP has been on a completely different level during the last two years, averaging 26.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game before this campaign. He is arguably one of the greatest passing big men in NBA history and his all-round skillset is unrivalled by anyone in this current crop of players. The Nuggets were eliminated in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors but with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. returning in style at the beginning of 2022-23, the Nuggets are looking in good shape to lay down an emphatic response. Look for Jokic to continue being a top-end candidate for the remainder of the year should the Nuggets continue this form and potentially earn a three-peat as MVP.
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
At the conclusion of the 2022 season, it was the Warriors who once again sat atop the NBA throne after another sensational run in the NBA Finals. Curry was a vital cog in the Golden State machine and his Finals MVP performance not only helped his side claim another championship but also cemented him as one of the best-ever point guards in the history of Basketball. Currys greatness was simply too much to overcome for Boston as his constant movement leaves even the best defences on edge and it once again proved to be the case in the Finals. It's because of this that makes it hard to put too much stock into the Warriors stumbling out of the blocks this campaign. Their stretch of defeats on the road is their worst since the 80s and probably a knock-on effect from their extremely long season last year in which they played 104 games. Five wins and eight losses does not make pleasant reading for Warriors fans but regardless they still have a roster stacked with talent that is more than capable of getting out of this rut and making another charge for the championship this season. Curry leads the way for them and he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer; if he can carry the form he showed in the post-season last campaign into the remainder of this one, producing some of his best-ever performances, then he will unquestionably be in the conversation for NBA MVP in 2023.