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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2. . . 2. 79. Guard. Luka Doncic. player. Mavericks. Luka Doncic

The Dallas Mavericks hit a tough part in the schedule last week, but a hard-fought victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday has the Mavs back on track. At 10-5, it's clear this Dallas squad is far better than last season's cruddy 11th-place team. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been resurgent off the bench, Derrick Jones Jr. and Grant Williams have been invaluable on the wing, and Dereck Lively's presence at the five has completely changed the dynamic of Dallas' frontcourt (hopefully he's okay after a hard fall in the Lakers game).

Luka Doncic has been on the MVP radar for a while, but the absurd production of Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has gotten in the way in recent years. Thankfully, he's only 24, so it's literally a matter of time (and team success). The Mavs are winning games at the moment, and while the big man triumvirate is far from fading, Doncic has put his stamp on the awards race early. He's a dude, through and through.

It's constantly mesmerizing to watch Doncic play. There are those who take issue with his ball-dominant style, but it's difficult to deny the results. He already has a conference finals under his belt and the Mavs currently boast the NBA's third-ranked offense. Doncic's on/off splits are a little wonky at the moment, but he falls in the 100th percentile for usage rate (38.6 percent) and virtually every Dallas possession runs through him when he's on the court.

The numbers leap off the page — 30.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8.1 assists on .491/.408/.754 splits — as he's on track for his best 3-point shooting season to date. Doncic blends speeds incredibly well and possesses the bull-like strength to obliterate most defenders on drives to the cup. He has no trouble creating separation at every level and he can hit shots from anywhere on the court. Factor in the preternatural playmaking vision and the inherent benefit teammates derive from the pressure Doncic demands, and he's a legitimate MVP frontrunner.