Kia Race To The MVP Ladder

Kia MVP Ladder: Top 5 holds steady at All-Star break

An abundance of top candidates, including Luka Doncic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, will vie over the closing weeks.

Domantas Sabonis finished with a triple-double and the win in a head-to-head matchup with reigning NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic.

• Download the NBA App >

INDIANAPOLIS Setting the stage this weekend are the 14 players listed in this edition of Kia Race to the MVP Ladder set to showcase their talents at the 2024 NBA All-Star Game.

Of course, we’ll highlight the top five individually as always.

But first, let’s discuss a player on this list who isn’t playing in the All-Star Game.

Sacramento Kings forward/center Domantas Sabonis snapped a string of three consecutive triple-doubles Wednesday in a 102-98 road win over the Denver Nuggets. The vet logged his 50th double-double in the game and tallied three steals. The performance helped the 27-year-old conjure his third season with 50 double-doubles or more.

Yet the three-time All-Star finds himself and teammate De’Aaron Fox (who has 19 30-point games this season) on the outside looking in after the NBA announced the Western Conference All-Stars for 2024.

Naturally, the word “snub” immediately comes to mind.

But the talent pool in the West proved deep enough to sink the prospects for the seven-year veteran to return as an All-Star to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, where he previously played for the Pacers for nearly five seasons.

One stat to know: 18 — That’s the number of triple-doubles registered by Sabonis this season, which leads the NBA. With 50 career triple-doubles, Sabonis ranks as just the 11th player to reach that milestone and he’s sixth among active players in career triple-doubles.

What they’re saying: “It’s a tough talent pool. The best players are there. It would have been an honor and a privilege to be there with everyone.” — Sabonis, on not being named a 2024 All-Star.

Keep track of how our MVP rankings continue to evolve throughout the season.

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Last week’s ranking: No. 1

Season stats: 26.1 ppg, 12 rpg, 8.9 apg

His case: They’ll say the sky is falling in Denver with the club mired in just its second three-game losing streak of the season. Against Sabonis and the Kings on Wednesday, Jokic snapped a 15-game run of games with 20 points or more.

The two-time MVP failed to post a double-double for just the ninth time this season while finishing 0-of-6 from 3-point range. Jokic needed this break.

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week’s ranking: No. 2

Season stats: 31.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 6.5 apg

His case: The first-time All-Star starter owns the MVP momentum going into the break having spoiled Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando jersey retirement night Tuesday with a 32-point effort in a 127-113 Oklahoma City victory.

The 25-year-old reeled off 13 points during a dominant five-minute stretch in the third quarter of that game. Second in the league in points per game, Gilgeous-Alexander ranks No. 1 in steals (115) and is just 14 points from passing Giannis Antetokounmpo (1,662) for the league lead in total points.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Last week’s ranking: No. 3

Season stats: 31.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 6.4 apg

His case: Antetokounmpo goes into All-Star break tracking toward becoming the first player in NBA history to average 30-plus points on 60% shooting in a season. But overall, the two-time MVP and the team need this time away to work on getting everyone on the same page.

Milwaukee’s 113-110 loss at Memphis on Thursday demonstrated the choppy waters the Bucks continue to navigate in the wake of the firing of first-year coach Adrian Griffin and the hiring of Doc Rivers.

4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Last week’s ranking: No. 4

Season stats: 34.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 9.5 apg

His case: Named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday after leading the Mavericks to a 4-0 week in which he averaged nearly a triple-double, Doncic led his team to two more victories going into the break.

Circle the calendar for what should be a fun matchup coming out of the break on Thursday against Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns (7:30 ET, TNT), followed by a four-game road trip.

5. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Last week’s ranking: No. 5

Season stats: 27.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.8 apg

His case: Kawhi Leonard is breathing down Tatum’s neck for this spot. But the 25-year-old lit up Brooklyn for 31 of his 41 points Tuesday in the first half, dialing up his third 40-point game of the season and 25th of his career.

Tatum torched the Nets again the next night, combining with Derrick White for 47 points in a game that all of Boston’s starters sat in the fourth quarter.

The next five

T-6. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers (Last week’s ranking: No. 6)
T-6. Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings (Last week’s ranking: No. 7)
8. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers (Last week’s ranking: No. 9)
9. Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns (Last week’s ranking: No. 8)
10. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (Last week’s ranking: No. 10)

And five more (listed alphabetically): Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns; Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks; Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves; Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves.

* * *

Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.