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

Limited team success for the 9-8 Indiana Pacers may eventually catch up to Tyrese Haliburton, but he is leading the charge for the NBA's best offense. He is a full-throttle superstar at this point. He's virtually unstoppable, draining 3s at a historically proficient rate, patiently picking apart defenses out of pick-and-rolls, and scoring efficiently inside the arc.

Haliburton has been the best nominal point guard in the NBA, depending on how you categorize a couple of the upcoming candidates. He is averaging 27.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 11.8 assists on .519/.447/.880 splits. In his last five games, Haliburton has a 44-point and 10-assist night, a 33-point and 16-assist night, and a 37-point and 16-assist night. He is must-watch television, with pull-up shooting numbers reminiscent of prime Stephen Curry.

Haliburton does not always carry his weight defensively, and the Pacers are the NBA's 29th-ranked defense — thus the mediocre record despite the No. 1-ranked offense. It's hardly Haliburton's fault that the Pacers are so exploitable on that end, but he will eventually have to compete with several two-way anchors when voters cast their ballots. Haliburton has quick hands and sharp instincts (1.1 steals per game), but he's vulnerable in isolation and frequently a victim of the standard star point guard conservation effort on that end of the floor.

Still, the brilliance of Haliburton on offense right now is impossible to overlook. He's one of the game's truly great table-setters, reading the floor several steps in advance and consistently passing teammates open. To combine Haliburton's passing acumen with a game-breaking 3-point stroke is borderline unfair.