Early NBA MVP Rankings


Image Credit: Fox News

Noah Cahill, Sports Editor

The talent in the NBA is currently at an all-time high. As of right now, there are a whopping 9 players averaging over 30 points per game. This level of scoring across so many players is unheard of in years past. As we approach the 1 month mark of the 2022-23 season, I want to look at the best of the best, in a league that is better than ever.

1. Giannis Antetokoumpo

The best player in the league unsurprisingly tops this list. The Greek Freak led the Milwaukee Bucks to their best-ever start to a season at 9-0. The team has since dropped to 10-3 but was without Antetotkoumpo for one of the losses, and continues to lack depth due to injuries. All-Star guard Khris Middleton and key rotation player Pat Connaughton are both big absences, and they make Antetotkoumpo’s performances all the more impressive. His numbers speak for themselves, as he averages 31.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg, and 5.2 apg on 52.6% from the field. What separates him from the pack, however, is his defensive impact. He averages 2.4 combined steals and blocks per game while holding his opponents to 37.6% shooting in the paint. In Vegas, he is the betting favorite for both the Defensive Player of the Year and MVP awards. It is clear to see why.

2. Jayson Tatum

Some may have expected me to put Luka Dončić here, but I feel Tatum has propelled himself firmly into this race, especially with his performance over the past week. Despite the Bucks’ hot start, it’s the Celtics that sit atop the East at 11-3, their only losses coming against the Bulls and twice in OT against the Cavs. Tatum is averaging 31.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 3.9 apg on 49.1% from the field and 36.8% from 3-point land. After making a massive leap defensively last season, he has continued his improvement on that side of the ball this year. He averages 2.3 combined steals and blocks largely due to his length and quickness in the passing lanes. He can switch one through five due to his size, length, and quickness. His versatility is a big reason why the Celtics have such high defensive potential, especially come playoff time. With all the turmoil over head coach Ime Udoka’s suspension, Tatum’s play has steadied the ship in Boston when it’s been needed most.

3. Luka Dončić

Luka Dončić’s numbers are out of this world. He is averaging 34.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, and 7.8 apg on 49.7% from the field. If he gets his 3-point percentage up from 29.1%, we could be looking at one of the greatest scoring seasons in NBA history. However, he isn’t higher on this list because his team is only 5th in the West at an 8-5 record. His insane usage rate on the offensive end has pretty much single-handedly carried the Dallas offense. However, it leaves little left in the tank on the defensive side, which is another reason why Tatum and Antetokoumpo are slightly ahead. He can easily win this award if he keeps the numbers up and gets his team to around 50 wins, but this will be a tall task. I consider this a 3-man race with a drop off from 3 to 4 as of right now.

4. Donovan Mitchell

That last statement should take nothing away from the season Donovan Mitchell is having with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Just because those three are on such a ridiculous level right now does not mean Mitchell wouldn’t make the All-NBA First Team if the season ended right now. That is how well he has fit into his new role in Cleveland. He is averaging 31.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 6.1 apg on 51.3% from the field and 43.4 percent from 3-point range. These are outstanding numbers, especially the massive improvement in efficiency from last season. However, what sets him apart from the player I have fifth on this list, is the effort he has shown on defense. He’s always had the tools to be a great defender with his strength, quickness, and 6’10” wingspan, but has never put it together for a whole year since his rookie season. So far, he has met the challenge of checking elite guards, which is important for a backcourt that contains Darius Garland, who struggles on that end due to his size. He has led the team to an 8-5 record at 4th in the East, making huge plays in two OT victories over the Celtics. It’s safe to say that the trade was a success for Cleveland.

5. Ja Morant

Rounding out the top 5 is Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant. Arguably the best leaper in the league, Morant is must-watch television. On top of the raw athleticism, he is a polished scorer and playmaker, averaging 29.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 6.8 apg on 48% from the field and 40.3% from 3-point range. He has led his team to a 6th place spot in the West with a 9-6 record. I place him below Mitchell because he continues to be a sub-par defender, a side of the ball that I think is too often overlooked when evaluating a player. Like all these guys, he carries a massive load offensively but hasn’t done it as productively as the top guys on this list so far. Let that take nothing away from how incredible he has been.