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Ranking MVP Candidates: Does Dallas Mavs' Luka Doncic Make the Cut?

While ranking potential MVP candidates, DallasBasketball.com discusses Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic place in the race.

Despite the NBA schedule being not even halfway finished, a few teams and players made their mark. Heading into the season, the wise guys in the betting world figured Luka Doncic as the favorite to win league MVP. 

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and two-time winner Stephen Curry narrowly trailed the Slovenian star with their respective odds. 

Where does Luka Doncic now rank in the current field?

Doncic isn't the only superstar experiencing a difficult start to the season. Although the Dallas Mavericks currently rank fourth in the Western Conference, Doncic's numbers don't correlate with an MVP favorite.

At the same time, the league's power balance is off-kilter, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers rank outside of the home-court advantage tier. New teams ascended in the standings following successful off-seasons. ... and old faces came back into play.

The top of the MVP race includes Curry returning to 2016 form; the Warriors star is playing at a level similar to his past sole-unanimous-MVP peak. It's astonishing, especially considering the pieces on his roster now compared to six years ago. 

With Curry as the catalyst for an impressive 1team, it's apparent why he leads the pack. Without falling into the statistical rabbit hole, Curry's production reads as an MVP candidate.  

Making nothing out of something is one thing, but recapturing league dominance six seasons later? It boggles the mind. The true-shooting percentage typically favors big men, but excluding players 6-10 and taller, the two-time MVP Curry ranks sixth-best with a stunning .627 mark. Furthermore, considering his shot volume and shot difficulty, the number stands out.  

In the same nostalgic fashion, 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant leads his star-studded Brooklyn Nets squad with 28 points per game. The two-time NBA champion, not even a full two seasons removed from Achilles injury, appears as dominant as ever. Sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Nets find themselves in a favorable position while withstanding Kyrie Irving's absence. 

Unlike Curry's time with Durant, James Harden's presence hasn't hurt KD's chances of capturing another MVP trophy. Despite averaging 20 points, the former Houston Rockets guard seemingly took a step back in light of NBA officials' point of emphasis on unnatural foul-baiting. 

With Harden undergoing a few adjustments to his game and Irving away from the team, Durant is in the driver's seat, willing the Nets to the top of his conference. Barring catastrophic injury, Durant's place in the race seems solidified. 

Next in line in the MVP race, another player who is no stranger to the prestigious award: Giannis Antetokounmpo.

As a reigning NBA champion, producing fewer numbers following such a taxing journey is understandable. However, despite a slow start due to injuries and COVID protocols causing Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to miss a chunk of games, the Milwaukee Bucks currently reside as the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. 

Brook Lopez's back injury provokes more questioning as to what this team's future holds. However, in light of Giannis' defensive prowess, Lopez's absence isn't currently a grave issue. Even without Lopez in the rotation as the dependable defensive presence, Antetokounmpo's shift to the center position has softened the blow. 

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Withstanding all of the aforementioned injury issues, Milwaukee is priming itself for another deep playoff run by recording a 9-1 record in its last 10 games. Antetokounmpo, voters' fatigue be damned, has a chance to win his third MVP in four seasons.

Using Cleaningtheglass.com's leader stats, which don't account for garbage minutes, the two-time MVP leads soars above his peers, qualifying for the 99 percentile in point differential. With a whopping +24.2 point differential, Antetokounmpo is again establishing himself as the NBA's creme de la creme of superstars.

Sticking with the theme of “old faces new chases”, Denver Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic deserves some mention, especially considering he’s averaging career-highs in rebounds and points. 

However, it’s also worth noting the Nuggets currently rank seventh in the Western Conference, albeit due to numerous injuries. 

In light of the previously mentioned facts, J ranks ahead of Doncic. 

Due to stiff competition and the Mavericks' underwhelming start to the season, Doncic's status as MVP favorite seems like a long shot. While some will argue the coaching change hasn't helped Doncic's numbers, the shooting percentages also hinder the superstar's MVP chances. 

Currently averaging a career-low .535 true-shooting percentage, it's apparent the All-NBA guard requires a jolt in his offense. 

Digging deeper, it's more than shooting that holds Doncic back from the coveted NBA award. Advanced stats indicate Doncic's presence can't heal all wounds. Netting a -7.6 point differential leads to many a question.

What is causing Doncic's nightly heroics to go unnoticed in the advanced metrics?

What can Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd do to aid Doncic?

Can he get help from this roster that will both bolster his candidacy - and more important, the team's record?

With Dallas currently ranking as a bottom-nine offense, a foreign experience for a Doncic-led team, the Mavericks have more pressing issues than any individual award. Until Dallas as a team produces in a more elite manner, in addition to Doncic's necessary improvements in a few individual stats, No. 77 will continue to window-shop the MVP award.