NBA Awards Rankings: Nikola Jokic still leads pack in hotly contested MVP race

The MVP race is heating up, but it's difficult to knock Nikola Jokic off his pedestal.

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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Another week of NBA basketball has passed us by. The season is shaping up to be quite the thrill ride. Say what you will about those questionably colorful courts, but the In-Season Tournament has yielded quality basketball and a genuine sense of stakes.

The standings are a proper mess, with new contenders emerging and old powerhouses fading. The Golden State Warriors appear less than solid. Father Time has arrived in the Bay Area. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder, on balance, appear to be the best teams in the West. Especially with the Denver Nuggets still banged up. Wild times.

In the East, the Boston Celtics remain comfortable frontrunners, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers in relatively close pursuit. Less shocking, but wait — the Orlando Magic are 13-5, in second place and only a game behind Boston (with a head-to-head victory). That was not expected.

The intrigue around this season is palpable. Here's how the MVP race is shaping up.

NBA MVP power rankings: Week 5

Honorable mentions: De'Aaron Fox, Anthony Edwards, Bam Adebayo, Alperen Sengun, Jalen Brunson

. LeBron James. LeBron James. 10. Lakers. . Wing. 10. player. 20

What a season for LeBron James, his 21st in the NBA. He's dominating in an entirely new way, sacrificing volume to dominate with efficiency and connectivity. The Lakers are on shaky ground as far as contenders go, but James is averaging 24.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists on .559/.396/.704 splits.

Guard. . player. 41. 9. Warriors. 9. . Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry

The Warriors are fading fast. There have been injuries galore, while Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Chris Paul have all performed below expectations. Stephen Curry is innocent, however, averaging 29.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists on .481/.431/.930 splits. He's an all-time great playing at the peak of his powers. Hopefully the team around him shapes up eventually.

Wing. Jayson Tatum. 8. Celtics. player. 18. 8. . . Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum is the best player on the best team, which is frankly the strongest argument in his favor. He hasn't been especially dominant by his (extremely high) standards, but he's an elite two-way force and the engine driving Boston's offensive success. He remains a preternaturally gifted shot-maker, averaging 27.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on .494/.361/.807 splits while supplying high-level defense on the wing.

Bucks. 7. 7. . . 89. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis Antetokounmpo. player. Forward

The Bucks are 13-6 despite a noticeable coaching deficiency most nights. Adrian Griffin is plainly misutilizing the many tools at his disposal, but talent often wins out in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging the highest field goal percentage of his career (.601) and averaging 29.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists as Milwaukee's two-way anchor. As the chemistry with Damian Lillard improves, so will the Bucks. Especially if Griffin gets more comfortable with his personnel.

6. . 6. player. Forward. Suns. Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant. . 66

Kevin Durant kept the Suns' heads above water during Devin Booker's extended absence. Now, Booker is back in the mix and the Suns look like proper juggernaunts on the offensive end. There's a chance Durant and Booker will end up splitting hypothetical votes as the season progresses, but Durant holds the games played advantage and he's on track for a career-defining campaign at 35 years old. He is averaging 31.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists on .518/.493/.896 splits.