Kia Race To The MVP Ladder

Kia MVP Ladder mailbag: Where are Luka Doncic and Pascal Siakam?

Fielding your questions on best player from best team, Bradley Beal's chances and much more

Despite the way it appears, there are no agendas or conspiracy theories with the first Kia Race to the MVP Ladder of 2019-20.

Dallas wunderkind Luka Doncic and budding Toronto star Pascal Siakam weren’t featured prominently enough (Doncic) or at all (Siakam) on that edition, an administrative oversight that will be rectified this week.

We heard you loud and clear as my inbox was on overload and the social media feed was equally robust, though not nearly as family-friendly.

Doncic has the Mavericks looking like a playoff contender in the West, leading them in points (28.3), rebounds (10.3), assists (9.1) and steals (1.1). He’s already gone toe-to-toe with LeBron James and looked every bit the future superstar many he thought he’d be after his Kia Rookie of the Year season.

Meanwhile, Siakam is continuing the breakout performance he put on in The Finals, his skill-level finally on par with next-level energy and effort. At 26.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 3.9 apg, he’s doing his best to fill the franchise anchor-sized void left by Kawhi Leonard’s exit.

More importantly, both Doncic and Siakam have their teams looking solid to open this season (the Mavericks are 6-4 and the Raptors 7-3).

With the heavy emphasis winning has on the MVP chase every season, there’s no way either of these young stars should be in the background of the conversation.

A word on Jokic: This is for the why-isn’t-he-higher-on-the-list crowd … He sank back-to-back game-winners and the Denver Nuggets are 7-2. Sure, he’s had a bit of a bumpy start to his season. But showing up when your team needs you at crunch time matters. The Nuggets have won four straight games with a visit from Atlanta up next.

Harden and Russ catch a vibe: How’s that experiment going in Houston? Just fine, it appears, with Harden leading the league in scoring (37.1) and is sixth in assists (8.2) while Westbrook is at 21.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 7.4 apg. Houston has some defensive issues to address, but they’ve won three straight heading into Wednesday’s showdown with the LA Clippers.

Now, let’s get into your comments about last week’s Kia MVP Ladder

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Welcome to Luka mania …

From: Jeff Hagen

Nov. 9, 2019 | 8:07 a.m.

I’m not even a Dallas fan but the guy nearly averaging a trippy double should probably be in your top 10…

From: Igor Jagušić

Nov. 9, 2019 | 1:18 p.m.

Don’t sleep on Luka … Step up your game or else you’ll end up on my “Luka Doncic doubters” montage when he wins his first MVP, just like Stephen A. Smith.

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My response: The Luka hype is warranted, Igor. He entered Monday night’s game against Boston third in the league in combined points, rebounds and assists, trailing only Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the last two Kia MVPs). Hey, I wear glasses. It took me a little longer to see it, but Doncic certainly belongs among the elite list early on this season.

Siakam needs some love!

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My response: The Siakam omission is more egregious than Doncic being outside of the top 10. Siakam has given Raptors fans a reason to believe that they’ll be a factor this season and for years to come. He’s another huge win for the Raptors’ player-development department, which has to rank among the best in the league.

What about the best player on the best team?

From: Dewayne Fowler

Nov. 10, 2019 | 10:18 p.m

Hi Sekou,

Just wanted to share my thoughts on the MVP race with you. I think ultimately the most important factor in the process is Top Player on Top Team. I think it is important, though, to include both sides of the ball. When a team is better offensively or defensively when a certain player plays as opposed to when they sit, I think that should be a major factor.

The Clippers are among the stingiest defense in the league with or without Kawhi, so for him, I think his MVP claim would come from them being a top offensive team — same with LeBron and AD. But for someone like Jokic on a top-tier offensive team, I think where they ultimately end up defensively should determine his MVP candidacy. With that being said I think Giannis is the MVP right now. I don’t doubt that whatever team he played for would instantly become a contender. He has the most impact on both sides of the ball. As for now my top 5 is Giannis, Lebron, Kawhi, Jokic, Embiid..

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My response: As you know, Dewayne, I’m a staunch supporter of the best player/best team theory to MVP voting. And every player in the mix is working within a context unique unto himself, so there will always be variables. The availability of said player, however, is the most important thing. You’ve got to be in uniform to have a chance to chase everything else.

Some love for … Lou Williams?

From: JD Klein

Nov. 9, 2019 | 9:12 p.m.

What does Lou Williams need to do to get some respect? He’s helped the Clippers far more than Lillard has helped the Blazers. Heck, Montrezl Harrel is more MVP so far than Lillard. In fact, Lou just hit the game-sealing 3-pointer against Lillard a couple nights ago, while Lillard had 0 in the 4th quarter. Forget familiar names — Williams for sure, and possibly Harrell — is/are as valuable as any player in the league right now. Heck, what has Harden done that’s so valuable?

Respect for LouWill! And don’t sleep on Trez (both had 34 points each as the Kawhi-less Clips almost beat Milwaukee).

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My response: I hear you JD, but there’s an award for what the Clippers’ outstanding reserves do. In fact, it’s practically named after Williams … and it’s not the Kia MVP.

Let’s all argue about Kawhi …

From: Eboni Gordon

Nov. 8, 2019 | 12:43 p.m.


I liked your post about the MVP ladder until you stated that Kawhi is the best player in the league. You made a statement, “Is this even a question?”

Well, it definitely is and many people do not agree … including myself. Please keep that in mind before trying to push a narrative about someone who can’t even play a full season.

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My response: Wait a minute, Eboni. Did I miss something since The Finals? I thought the debate ended then. Kawhi already settled it for me.

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From: Constantine Chatzilouis

Nov. 9, 2019 | 7 a.m.

Do you really believe that Leonard alone stopped Giannis in the conference finals? Or was that a combination of 3-4 players against Giannis with Leonard in the top?

Thanking you in advance for your answer …

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My response: I never said he did anything alone, Costas. But let’s be real about this: do you really think the Raptors win that title last season without Kawhi dominating on both ends? I hate answering questions with another question, but this seems like it should be plain to see.

More Beal, please

From: Sanjay Saravanan

Nov. 10, 2019 | 2:19 a.m.

I think Bradley Beal should be at least in the just missed the cut section. He is averaging 26.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 6.5 apg … those are MVP top 10 numbers. He is on a subpar Wizards team, but he individually is playing great. The award is for most valuable player, that means if a team loses him to injury, it’s is the team that will be impacted the most. It’s not greatest or highest numbers or the best triple-double guy.

The only fair MVPs in the last few years are Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the Wizards lost Beal, they would crumble. He is also a great community leader and a fan favorite in D.C. There should be a couple more awards like the scoring award, the team player, the MVP, and the Best Stats player. Hope you consider my opinion and my homie Beal.

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My response: Consider it considered, Sanjay. But I cannot promise you will see Beal’s name on the list anytime soon. Great player. All-Star. But MVP candidate … that’s a tough one.

A solid (backhanded) compliment

From: Landon Bangerter

Nov. 9, 2019 | 11:38 a.m.

I love your MVP ladders Sekou, as always. It’s inspired me to create one of my own that I think is worth a look. I think your top 4 is spot on, and then we start to disagree. I do not think Embiid, Lillard, or Irving are quite deserving to be in this race yet, given suspensions and their team’s low spot in the standings. I also think Doncic and Kemba Walker should be much higher. In any case, here’s my ladder:

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

2. LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

3. Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)

4. Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

5. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

6. Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

​​​​​​7. Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)

8. Montrezl Harrell (LA Clippers)

9. Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics)

10. Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

My honorable mentions: Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum, Lou Williams

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My response: There’s nothing like making your own list. And I agree Kemba’s impact on the Celtics isn’t being appreciated. But as I mentioned earlier Landon, this is the MVP conversation — not the Kia Sixth Man list.

Don’t forget about Brodie

From: Yisroel Majeski (in Israel)

Nov. 11, 2019 | 10:28 a.m.

Why don’t you have Westbrook in your top 10? He’s probably gonna end up averaging another triple-double. He’s been massively efficient so far this year and he’s still adjusting to his new team. I wouldn’t sleep on Brodie.

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My response: Greetings to you, Yisroel, and to all the NBA fans in your part of the basketball universe. Russ has been really good in Houston, better even than I thought he might be early on. And I was all-in on the move this summer. But it’s hard to shine appropriately with Harden on your team. It’s a long season, though. We’ll keep Westbrook in mind as the season evolves.

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Got thoughts on the Kia MVP chase? Hit me up via e-mail or send me a tweet and I’ll get back to you!

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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. 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 Turner Broadcasting.