NBA Awards Rankings: MVP race heats up with Joel Embiid DQ'd

Joel Embiid won't repeat as league MVP, which leaves the door wide open for new arrivals and familiar faces.

Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages
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The NBA trade deadline is behind us, which means we have arrived at the home stretch. On the awards front, we have fresh controversy tied to the new CBA. The deeper we get into the season, the closer some players get to missing the 65-game cutoff now required for award eligibility. Reigning MVP Joel Embiid has already been disqualified because of a torn meniscus. Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who ranked No. 1 on the MVP leaderboard not long ago, can only miss five more games.

This will be a constant storyline over the final months of the season. Award pundits will need to pay close attention to the number of games a player misses. Generally speaking, MVP has always been awarded to a mostly healthy player. The All-NBA teams will be where this new rule is felt the most.

With Embiid, the clear frontrunner, now out of commission, the MVP race is born anew. It's a wide-open competition, full of faces new and old. Several former MVP winners are vying for the crown, but a couple of potential first-time victors are seriously in the hunt. We have been treated to historic statistical performances all over the NBA this season, so these rankings are especially difficult to parse.

2024 NBA MVP rankings after NBA trade deadline

Honorable mentions: Stephen Curry, Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, LeBron James

C. Domantas Sabonis. 10. . 10. player. . Kings. Domantas Sabonis. 84

19.9 PPG | 13.2 RPG | 8.3 APG | .623 FG% | .441 3P% | .692 FT%

He shares the spotlight with De'Aaron Fox in a relatively small media market, so Domantas Sabonis doesn't tend to get the love he deserves. The Kings' big man has been an absolute machine all season, scoring proficiently in the paint and operating as the Kings' primary offensive hub. He leads Sacramento in assists and he leads the NBA in rebounds. He will need to prove it in the playoffs eventually, but Sabonis' regular season output is absolutely worthy of MVP votes.

G. Cavaliers. player. 156. . Donovan Mitchell. . Donovan Mitchell. 9. 9

28.2 PPG | 5.4 RPG | 6.3 APG | .475 FG% | .361 3P% | .864 FT%

The Cavs are winners of nine straight. Donovan Mitchell is far from a one-man show — Jarrett Allen is a late addition to the All-Star snubs club — but he is the engine driving the offense. His singular burst attacking the lane, combined with deep pull-up range and improved playmaking chops, makes it difficult to fully contain Mitchell. He absorbs contact better than any 6-foot-3 guard in the league. He can score with finesse, or by sheer force of will.

8. . F. Jayson Tatum. player. 18. 8. . Celtics. Jayson Tatum

27.0 PPG | 8.5 RPG | 4.7 APG | .474 FG% | .362 3P% | .820 FT%

Boston is the NBA's most terrifying juggernaut at the moment. Jayson Tatum probably has the most "help" of any player on these rankings and it's hard to mount a serious case that he is the most valuable NBA player as a result. Still, Tatum is the lifeblood of the Celtics' offense, with shot-making chops that constantly leave defenses in a state of panic. Tatum can generate points from scratch or operate within the team flow, attacking seams off the catch and cashing in spot-up 3s. He is also, rather quietly, one of the best wing defenders in the league.

G. Pacers. player. . 100. 7. . Tyrese Haliburton. 7. Tyrese Haliburton

22.1 PPG | 3.9 RPG | 11.7 APG | .496 FG% | .396 3P% | .854 FT%

Missed games is a huge strike against Tyrese Haliburton, but the Pacers' Point God will stay in these rankings until he is no longer eligible. More than the NBA's best facilitator, Haliburton has developed into a legitimately deadly isolation scorer. His skill set is completely malleable — he can run the show and attack on drives, or he can bomb spot-up 3s, operate as a connector, and impact winning on minimum dribbles. We have seen far more of the ball-dominant Haliburton this season, and the results speak for themselves. The Pacers are a workable defense away from contention.

. F. Suns. Kevin Durant. 6. player. 6. . Kevin Durant. 66

28.3 PPG | 6.5 RPG | 5.7 APG | .535 FG% | .445 3P% | .872 FT%

The Suns are starting to make progress in the cutthroat West. It's easy to forget just how special Kevin Durant is. He has been remarkably productive and efficient in his age-35 season, showing no signs of decline. There still isn't a more potent mid-range scorer in basketball. A 6-foot-11 wing who can bomb deep 3s and shoot over the top of anyone, in addition to showing sustained growth as a facilitator and playing excellent defense — well, that just isn't common.