Kia Race To The MVP Ladder

Kia MVP Ladder: With Joel Embiid injured, Luka Doncic rises up to join Top 5

Joel Embiid's injury has opened the door for a new face to join a Top 5 chase that is suddenly more fluid.

Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley explain why they're worried about Sixers as Joel Embiid heals up.

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Setting the stage this week is a new top five of Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, fresh off Joel Embiid undergoing a left meniscus procedure Tuesday that will keep him out of action for at least the next four weeks.

The latest development effectively renders the reigning MVP ineligible for a shot at repeating, considering he’ll fall short of the NBA’s 65-game minimum to earn postseason awards. Embiid, 29, falls out of the race having played 34 games.

That’s unfortunate. Especially when you consider the seven-time All-Star would be leading the NBA in scoring at 35.3 points per game, not to mention he’s on pace to become just the second player in league history behind Wilt Chamberlain (1961-62) to average at least one point per minute played.

In 1,157 minutes, Embiid has racked up 1,201 points. But the fifth-place Sixers are 1-5 in the last six games the center has missed.

New to the top five: Embiid’s injury paves the way for a new entry into the top five.

So, everybody please welcome Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, the catalyst for his team winning three in a row for the first time since early January.

One stat to know: 8 — That’s how many rebounds Doncic needed to pass Erick Dampier for seventh on Dallas’ all-time rebounding list (3,211). He reached that milestone Thursday with eight boards in a 122-108 win against a shorthanded New York Knicks squad.

It’s very likely the 24-year-old will pass Michael Finley for fifth on the Mavs’ all-time list (3,245 rebounds) this season.

What they’re saying: “I talk to him every day. I feel really bad for him. He’s having a historic season. Just everything he’s done, from practicing hard and prepping hard, he was just doing everything at a super high level. I feel bad for him.” — Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse on Embiid’s injury.

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: 26.3 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 9 apg

His case: Jokic helped the Nuggets to their eighth win in 10 outings Thursday with 24 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists against the Lakers on the road. Despite squandering a 15-point lead in the second half, Denver closed on a 10-2 run in the final 2:18 for the win.

This season, Jokic has 32 games with 25 points or more, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists. He had 32 such games in total last season.

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week’s ranking: No. 2

Season stats: 31.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 6.6 apg

His case: Scored 28 points in combining with Jalen Williams (26 points) and Chet Holmgren (22 points) for 76 of his team’s 117 points in a loss to Utah that snapped a three-game winning streak.

Gilgeous-Alexander is the eighth player in NBA history to produce 30 games with 30-plus points in the first 41 games of the season. He’ll lead OKC on Saturday into what should be a fun road game in Dallas against Doncic (3 p.m ET, NBA TV).

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Last week’s ranking: No. 4

Season stats: 31.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 6.4 apg

His case: Antetokounmpo was limited to fewer than 20 points for just the fifth time this season Thursday as the shorthanded Bucks suffered their worst home loss of the season to Minnesota.

Milwaukee rested Antetokounmpo for the final 16 minutes with the game out of hand, which means he’ll be refreshed for Friday’s home matchup against Charlotte. Before the loss to Minnesota, the two-time MVP had scored 33-plus points in his three previous outings.

4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Last week’s ranking: No. 6

Season stats: 34.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 9.5 apg

His case: Lit up the ailing New York Knicks for 39 points on Thursday to lead Dallas to its first three-game winning streak since early January. The performance marked Doncic’s 34th 30-point game of the season, which ranks No. 2 behind Gilgeous-Alexander, not to mention his 29th double-double.

The Mavs tip off a four-game homestand on Saturday against Oklahoma City and sit just a game behind Sacramento for the No. 7 seed in the West.

5. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Last week’s ranking: No. 5

Season stats: 26.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.5 apg 

His case: Led by Tatum, the Celtics continue to take care of business at home, going 4-2 on this seven-game run that ends Friday against Washington (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass). The 25-year-old has flirted in triple-double territory in each of his last two games.

Tatum has put together 33 games with six-plus made 3-pointers, which ranks No. 2 in NBA history for a forward or center behind Paul George (52 games).

The next five

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

And five more (listed alphabetically): Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns; Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks; Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves; Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers; LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

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

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