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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3. 3. player. . . Mavericks. Luka Doncic. Luka Doncic. G. 79

34.5 PPG | 8.8 RPG | 9.4 APG | .491 FG% | .380 3P% | .776 FT%

Luka Doncic continues to forcefully remind the NBA world that he, too, should get some MVP love. The Dallas Mavericks are the No. 8 seed in the West, which has been lorded over Doncic in certain debate circles. But, the Mavs are also seven games above .500 — the West is a bloodbath, plain and simple. The Mavs' win percentage with Doncic healthy is virtually identical to the Nuggets' win percentage with Nikola Jokic healthy, so the whole seeding debate carries no water.

In terms of raw statistical output, Doncic is lapping the field. He will win the scoring crown with Embiid out of the picture and he continues to elevate teammates with his playmaking. Doncic is the NBA's great one-man offense — a singular advantage-creator who demands constant attention at all three levels. He can bury deep pull-up 3s, he can wreak havoc as a driver, or he can isolate for a mid-range bucket. And, no matter where he is on the floor, Doncic can read the floor five steps ahead of the defense. He will exploit the slightest breakdown with a perfectly-timed pass.

It is becoming a genuine honor to watch Doncic perform on a nightly basis. He is carrying a deeply flawed Mavs roster — one that now gets better and more well-rounded after the trade deadline. Doncic has a counter for every defensive tactic. His strength and touch on finishes is unmatched. His ball-handling craft is matched by perhaps his teammate Kyrie Irving, but none others. When debating the merits of "most valuable player," the sheer volume of Doncic's workload (36.1 percent usage) and the variety of ways he can compromise the defense needs to be considered.

Odds are, Doncic's case will ultimately be tied to where Dallas finishes in the standings. That is not entirely unfair, even if Doncic is working with far less infrastructure and support than his primary opponents in the MVP race. The man is coached by Jason Kidd and he still has Dallas in a respectable position, so he deserves major props.