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NBA MVP race 2023-24: Tyrese Haliburton and Luka Doncic’s big weeks strengthen case for MVP

We know who won the 2023 NBA MVP, but now we’re looking ahead to this season’s candidates to win The Michael Jordan Trophy. After coming so close to winning the MVP award in seasons past, Joel Embiid finally won his first trophy in 2023. Is the Philadelphia 76ers superstar on track to become the 15th player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVPs?

Not if previous winners like Giannis Antetokounmpo and defending champion Nikola Jokic can get in the way. Not to mention the several other high-level athletes that could take the next step in their careers, such as Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, or Anthony Edwards, who could all become serious contenders in 2024.

While there are many games to go, here are our early frontrunners to vie for The Michael Jordan Trophy, otherwise known as the MVP award, in 2024.

Related: Top 50 NBA players of 2023

10. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Last week: Not ranked)

anthony edwards
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
  • Anthony Edwards stats: 25.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.1 APG, 45% FG, 37% 3PT, 19.7 PER

The Minnesota Timberwolves are the best team in basketball. That’s a sentence I’ve never said or typed in my life. How could the NBA’s best team not have an MVP candidate? While Rudy Gobert’s resurgence, along with the return of Karl-Anthony Towns has been huge, Anthony Edwards deserves a larger part of the credit for the Wolves’ success. As the team leader, Edwards deserves a place on any list of NBA MVP candidates. You could make a case for Tyrese Maxey, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, or a few others to make the list, too, but we’ll go with Edwards because his numbers should only continue to improve this season.

Related: Updated 2023 NBA Playoff and championship predictions

9. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (LW: 10)

NBA: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Anthony Davis stats: 23 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.8 BPG, 53% FG, 27% 3PT, 25.3 PER

Once again, Anthony Davis is off to a red-hot start, leading the NBA in blocks per game. If he continues this production, he’ll be in the MVP conversation all year long, but first, he’ll have to make it through a full season. Davis hasn’t played more than 62 games since 2018, so durability may be his biggest hurdle to overcome, but he’s missed just one game thus far.

8. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (LW: 7)

nba mvp candidates: jayson tatum
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Jayson Tatum stats: 27.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 4.2 APG, 49% FG, 35% 3PT, 21.5 PER

Jayson Tatum is elite on both ends of the floor, yet he still hasn’t been able to permanently stamp his name into the MVP conversation. However, if Tatum can continue averaging near 30 points per game while providing excellent defense, there’s no reason he can’t add some hardware to his trophy case in the near future. Tatum’s having his most efficient season yet, but the new additions to the roster have also led to a slight reduction in shots taken for the two-way superstar.

Related: Highest-paid NBA players of 2023

7. Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns (LW: 8)

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Kevin Durant stats: 31 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 52% FG, 50% 3PT, 25 PER

After having the best shooting season of his historic career, Durant’s back to scoring tons of points while shooting a ridiculous 50 percent from distance. Unless his shot magically starts falling off, Durant will remain in the 2023 NBA MVP race all season long.

Related: Updated NBA power rankings

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 6)

nba mvp candidates: giannis antetokounmpo
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo stats: 30.2 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 61% FG, 29 PER

We’ve seen enormous growth from Antetokounmpo since he entered the league as the 15th overall pick in 2013. Sure, he’ll never be Steph Curry from a distance, and his shooting is still one area that could be improved. After hitting just 64.5 percent of his shots from the free throw line last season, if Antetokounmpo could return to the 77 percent rate we saw in 2017, his MVP candidacy would receive a huge boost. Getting Damian Lillard as a secondary option hasn’t hurt either, with the Bucks looking like one of the NBA’s best teams early on.

Related: NBA Rookie of the Year 2023-24 race

5. Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks (LW: 4)

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Dallas Mavericks
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Luka Dončić stats: 31.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 8.6 APG, 49% FG, 39% 3PT, 27.8 PER

We all know what Luka Dončić is capable of on a nightly basis, but he needed just one half to tally a triple-double against Utah. Jokic showed you could win MVPs without being a top defender, which should open the door for Doncic too. Even if he’s not the frontrunner right now, Doncic’s chances of becoming a top MVP contender are strong thanks to posting excellent numbers while leading the Mavericks to one of the NBA’s best records, but he’ll have to stay healthy to have a chance. That’s tough to do when he averages so many minutes, but Doncic has missed just one game so far.

4. Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers (LW: 5)

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tyrese Haliburton stats: 26.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 11.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 52% FG, 44% 3PT, 29.1 PER

Despite being in his fourth season, somehow Haliburton continues to improve his game each year. He’s once again up to career-highs in points, shot percentage, while also leading the NBA in assists per game. Not only is Haliburton playing at an All-NBA level, but he has the Pacers in playoff contention for the first time since 2020. Overall, with Haliburton’s efficiency and high assist rate, you can’t have a list of NBA candidates without mentioning Indiana’s star player.

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3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (LW: 3)

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stats: 30.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.6 SPG, 54% FG, 30.7 PER

We already saw the OKC Thunder become a fringe contender thanks to SGA’s development into an All-NBA talent a season ago. Now, he’s become one of the most efficient scoring threats in basketball. But Gilgeous-Alexander’s a complete player who brings the intensity on defense too, and currently leads the NBA in steals. The Thunder are making waves in the West, and SGA is a big reason why.

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 2)

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
  • Joel Embiid stats: 33.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 6.6 APG, 51% FG, 1.8 BPG, 32.9 PER

After winning MVP now Embiid can focus on the NBA Finals. Embiid may be more inclined to rest an extra game here and there, but when he plays, few athletes are better. Leading the Association in scoring for the third year in a row, Embiid is one of the top candidates to win NBA MVP in 2024.

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1. Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets (LW: 1)

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Denver Nuggets
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
  • Nikola Jokić stats: 28.6 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 9.8 APG, 54% FG, 30% 3PT, 32.9 PER

Jokic couldn’t join the elite group of three legends to win back-to-back-to-back MVPs, but the Denver Nuggets superstar remains a top candidate to win his third award going forward. We just don’t see players put up numbers like Jokic does. He may not be the league’s top scorer, but he’s an incredibly efficient player who somehow came close to averaging a triple-double last season and is doing so again. Of course Jokic is a top 2024 NBA MVP candidate, where he currently leads the NBA in rebounding while averaging new a new career-high in scoring.