Kia Race To The MVP Ladder

Kia MVP Ladder: Top 5 performances to open 2022-23

Ja Morant and Giannis Antetokounmpo were among those who shined brightly in Week 1.

Michael C. Wright explains why individual performances carried the day, led by Ja Morant's scoring showcase Oct. 21 vs. Houston.

You’re staring at the screen, wondering where your guy checks in on this list. Don’t fret just yet if he’s nowhere to be found. We’re just letting this young 2022-23 season percolate a little more before pouring the fresh brew of a Kia Race to the MVP Ladder that ranks the players.

We dropped a list of the top 25 candidates to watch last week to start this series, and for this edition, we’ll run down some of the top single-game performances around the league during Week 1 of the regular season. Interestingly, four of them took place against the Brooklyn Nets.

So, while you won’t see Kia Race to the MVP Ladder mainstays such as Nikola Jokic, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Trae Young on this list, keep your eyes peeled for next week’s edition. At that time, we’ll shift to ranking the top competitors vying for the 2022-23 Kia Most Valuable Player Award in one of the most wide-open fields in recent memory.

Until then, here’s a look at some of the best showings of opening week around the NBA:

1. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Stat line: 49 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists at Houston Oct. 21

Notes: Morant broke his own record in this one, setting the Memphis franchise mark for most points scored through the first two games of a season (83). The Grizzlies high-flying guard scored 28 points in the second half. Still, we can get too caught up in Morant’s scoring and miss out on his defensive prowess, which is needed with Jaren Jackson Jr. missing time. Morant nearly hit his head on the backboard on a fourth-quarter chase down block on Jalen Green in this contest.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Stat line: 43 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists vs. Brooklyn Oct. 26

Notes: A two-time MVP, Antetokounmpo is in his 10th season. Yet the veteran keeps peeling back more layers to his game, as described by colleague Steve Aschburner. This performance marked Antetokounmpo’s second 40-point heater in a row, as he poured in 17 points in both the third and fourth quarters to churn out his third double-double. You could even argue that Antetokounmpo’s 44-point showing three nights prior against the Rockets was better than this one.

Ja Morant sets a franchise record for most points through the first 2 games of the season with 83, breaking his own record.

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Stat line: 41 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists at Brooklyn Oct. 27

Notes: Doncic delivered four of his 14 dimes in OT, including back-to-back assists on 3-pointers on the way to becoming just the 10th player in NBA history to log three or more career 40-point triple-doubles. In all, the 23-year-old set up three triples in the his 41-point game vs. Brooklyn.

Luka Doncic records his third career 40-point triple-double in an overtime win over the Nets.

4. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

Stat line: 37 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists at Brooklyn Oct. 21

Notes: It’s early, for sure. But Siakam probably deserved more love in this space last season after averaging 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game en route to All-NBA Third Team honors. This triple-double took place in a loss to the Nets, but you can clearly see an upward trajectory for Siakam. Plus, he matched a career-high with 13 assists five nights later in a 119-109 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Pascal Siakam posts 37 points, 11 assists & 13 rebounds vs. Brooklyn Nets.

5. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Stat line: 37 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists at Miami Oct. 19

Notes: Already without Lonzo Ball (knee), Chicago received news at shootaround that Zach LaVine would miss the opener against the Eastern Conference heavyweight Heat. That didn’t faze DeRozan, who stepped up to torch a Miami squad that dropped the Bulls last season in all three matchups. The 33-year-old guard scored 28 points in the second half to become just the second player in franchise history to tally at least 35 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season opener, joining Michael Jordan (who accomplished that feat twice).

DeMar DeRozan finishes with 37 points in a win against Miami.

Honorable mentions:

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
41 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists vs. Phoenix Oct. 21

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
40 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists vs. San Antonio Oct. 22

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
40 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist at Orlando Oct. 22

Paul George, LA Clippers
40 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists at Sacramento Oct. 22

Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies
38 points, 1 rebound, 7 assists vs. Brooklyn Oct. 24

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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 Twitter.

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