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NBA MVP Rankings: Joel Embiid Emboldens His Case For a Second Trophy

The 76ers star’s 70-point performance this week pulls him further ahead of Nikola Jokić.

Sports Illustrated’s NBA MVP rankings are back with some movement in the top five. There were some noteworthy moments for many of the names on this list in the last week, though it would appear for now Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has tightened his grip on the award since our last check in. Let’s get to the rankings.

(All stats through Jan. 25. The previous rankings can be found here.)

1. Joel Embiid

How did Embiid follow up his dominant two-way performance against Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 16? He dropped a Philadelphia 76ers-record 70 points against Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs less than a week later. The head-to-head matchup with Jokić definitely added a feather in Embiid’s cap. The 70-pointer … gave him a new hat? Whatever metaphor you want to use, Embiid is averaging more points per game than minutes. That’s MVP effort.

Embiid scored 70 points this week to strengthen his case for MVP.

Embiid scored 70 points this week to strengthen his case for MVP.

2. Nikola Jokić

Though the Joker has been on an ultra-efficient tear of late, the loss to Embiid was a little bit of a shot to his case. Look, I think Jokić is the best player in the NBA. And is reducing the MVP to a head-to-head matchup silly? Of course! It’s hard to get past Embiid’s beyond-gaudy scoring numbers right now, though. The Denver Nuggets, only eighth in net rating, are in position to go on a tear. Only 21 of their 46 games have come at home so far this season. And the Nuggets and 76ers battle again in Denver on Saturday.

3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The Oklahoma City Thunder keep chugging along as the second seed in the West. OKC’s net raring with SGA on the floor is plus-11.5, per Cleaning the Glass. That’s actually better than how the Sixers and Nuggets perform with Embiid and Jokić on the floor, respectively. 

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4. Giannis Antetokounmpo

An interesting week for The Greek Freak, who is maybe feeling the slightest bit of lingering heat after the firing of Adrian Griffin. Multiple reports indicated there was some friction between Antetokounmpo and Griffin. Antetokounmpo will now be playing for his third head coach in fewer than nine months. To Antetokounmpo’s credit, he posted a triple double in the Milwaukee Bucks’ first game without Griffin. And the Bucks remain in second place in the East amid the drama.

5. Jayson Tatum

The Boston Celtics’ biggest strength is in the collective talent of their starting five, but Tatum is the head of the snake. This team doesn’t need JT to post huge numbers. He’s averaging 27 points a game anyway, while being a force on the defensive end. Tatum puts so much pressure on opposing defenses and he’s flanked by a near flawless supporting cast. The result is the Celtics looking by far like the best team in the league.

Honorable mention: Luka Dončić.