NBA Awards Rankings: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander surges up MVP leaderboard

The MVP race is starting to heat up as new contenders emerge.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages
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The NBA MVP race has been a pleasant mix of old and new in 2023, at least so far. There are still the well-worn frontrunners of Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, but the cases have never been stronger for potential first-timers like Luka Doncic.

In general, basketball is being played at a ridiculously high level across the league. The volume of legitimate MVP candidates — and moving further down the grape vine, the volume of viable All-Star candidates — is absurd. In any normal season, Anthony Edwards' breakthrough with the No. 1 seed Minnesota Timberwolves would make him a shoo-in for at least top-3 consideration.

Not in 2023. At least, not for now. There are surprising early-season contenders, such as the 10-5 Orlando Magic or the 11-3 Wolves. There are also expected powerhouses on the struggle bus, such as the 7-9 Golden State Warriors or the 6-7 Los Angeles Clippers.

Here's how the MVP race currently shapes up, with an attempt to consider all the dynamics at play — team success, individual proficiency, efficiency, team context, and so forth.

NBA MVP power rankings: Week 4

Honorable mentions: Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James

5. player. 100. Guard. Tyrese Haliburton. Tyrese Haliburton. . Pacers. 5.

The Indiana Pacers are 8-6 with the NBA's most explosive offense and an In-Season Tournament bid locked up. Rick Carlisle deserves a ton of credit, as do the ancillary pieces of the machine in Indianapolis. Myles Turner, Bruce Brown, and Aaron Nesmith have all been especially impressive in breakthrough roles.

But, the main catalyst for the Pacers' success is Tyrese Haliburton, who has skipped several steps on the escalator to stardom. He's locked in the MVP race, with no sign of slowing up. He's breaking the box score every night, leading the NBA with 12.3 assists per game while averaging only 2.6 turnovers. He is a paragon of efficiency, making a scoring leap with 25.3 points per game while pacing for career highs in the shooting department (.521/.462/.915). He's due for some regression eventually, but it's starting to feel like this is the new standard for Haliburton.

He has 15 or more assists in four of his last five appearances. In that same span, he has 13 turnovers — total. Haliburton has gone from a quick-thinking connective passer and spot-up shooter to a legitimately potent isolation threat, putting defenders on their back heel with subtle hesitation moves before scoring with immense touch and craft in the paint. His shot mechanics aren't always conventional, but he puts his length to tremendous use around the rim and he's a deadly pull-up shooter with deep range.

That, combined with his ability to process the game so quickly and elevate teammates, puts Haliburton very much in the conversation for MVP. His team is a couple games behind in the standings relative to the others on this list, but the Pacers can plainly hang with anybody. Haliburton is must-watch TV and a true superstar.