Kia Race To The MVP Ladder

Kia MVP Ladder: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid leading the way

Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid rank No. 1 and No. 2 as the Kia MVP chase gets underway this season.


With Nikola Jokic again looking like a Kia MVP, the Nuggets hold the league’s best record at 8-1.

Nikola Jokic assuredly predicted the postgame questions the way we’re expecting the Denver Nuggets center to drive this season’s Kia MVP conversation.

“Actually, I can just talk because I know what you’re going to ask,” he said.

But we’ve got a good idea of what “The Joker” might do in 2023-24, fresh off a title run and NBA Finals MVP honors.

Before rattling off two minutes of answers to anticipated questions after Monday’s 134-116 win against New Orleans, Jokic climbed another rung up the league’s all-time triple-doubles list to seize fourth all-time (108). In doing so, the 28-year-old broke a tie with LeBron James and Jason Kidd.

The milestone pushes Jokic into pole position for this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder.

Find out why Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid open the season atop the Kia MVP Ladder as’s Michael C. Wright joins GameTime.

Setting the stage this week is Jokic, who followed up his big night Monday by dropping a season-high tying 35 points, 13 rebounds and five assists Wednesday in Denver’s 108-105 win against Golden State. Jokic made mistakes late, but the Nuggets held on.

One stat to know: 70.7% — Jokic has taken 22.7% of his shots from 3-point range, up from just 14.6% last season. But he remains more effective inside the arc. And his 70.7% on 2-point shots was the best mark (by a healthy margin) among 46 players with at least 75 2-point attempts through Wednesday. (via John Schuhmann)

Highest 2-point percentage, 2023-24

Player 2PM 2PA 2P%
Nikola Jokic 94 133 70.7%
LeBron James 63 94 67.0%
Alperen Sengun 51 80 63.8%
Jayson Tatum 50 80 62.5%
Donovan Mitchell 54 87 62.1%

Minimum 75 2-point attempts (46 players)
Through Nov. 8, 2023

What they’re saying: “He approaches the game different game to game. I felt like he was really aggressive today.” — Warriors center Kevon Looney.

And now, the top 5 in the 2022-23 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. 

1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Season stats: 29.1 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 8.0 apg

His case: Back-to-back 35-point performances left Jokic laboring late Wednesday, which likely played a role in some critical mistakes he made down the stretch. Still, the two-time Kia MVP produced his ninth double-double in leading Denver to a league-best 8-1 record.

Next up? Two road games (at Houston and at New Orleans) are sandwiched around an In-Season Tournament home game vs. the LA Clippers.

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Season stats: 31.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 5.9 apg

His case: Lit up Boston for 13 of his 27 points Wednesday in the third quarter. The Sixers outscored the Celtics 56-40 in the paint with Embiid tallying his fifth straight double-double after none over the first two games.

He notched four blocks, too, after recording just three the previous three games combined. With the James Harden drama in the rearview, the big man should continue to roll. 

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Season stats: 31.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 8.8 apg

His case: Dallas sits at No. 2 in the West heading into tonight’s In-Season Tournament game against the LA Clippers (8:30 ET, NBA League Pass), and Doncic deserves credit. In a loss to Toronto on Wednesday the 24-year-old delivered his 233rd game with 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists.

Mavs coach Jason Kidd wants Doncic to simply participate on defense. He’ll continue to do that. Doncic swiped four steals against the Raptors.

4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Season stats: 28.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.6 apg

His case: Racked up 30 points or more in four consecutive games before finishing Wednesday with 16 points in a loss to Philadelphia. While he struggled offensively in that game, Tatum made an impact on the glass with a season-high 15 rebounds (his fourth double-double of the season).

The 25-year-old needs to step up tonight in an In-Season Tournament matchup vs. Brooklyn (7:30 ET, ESPN) to prevent a three-game skid after Boston won five straight to open 2023-24. 

5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season stats: 28.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.4 apg

His case: Who knows how long Gilgeous-Alexander remains in the top five? But he’s now scored 30 points or more 50 times since the start of last season, which ranks as the most in the NBA over that span.

Gilgeous-Alexander has scored 30-plus points in five of seven games. But the road becomes more treacherous with two straight road games on deck at Sacramento and Phoenix.

The Next Five:

6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
7. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
8. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
9. Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

And five more (listed alphabetically): Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors; Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers; Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns; Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks; Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers.

* * *

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

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