NBA MVP Power Rankings Week 2: A new No. 1 emerges

As the NBA season kicks into high gear, we have a new early No. 1 in the MVP race.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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. Guard | Mavericks. player. Previous Rank — 1. Luka Doncic. . Luka Doncic. 3. 3. 79

The Dallas Mavericks lost to Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets last week in what could be the first matchup of the season between eventual MVP finalists. Otherwise, the Mavs have been perfect, currently a half-game behind Denver in the standings at 6-1. The difference compared to last season's Mavs squad has been night and day.

Dallas' front office deserves credit for its savvy offseason moves, all of which were made with Doncic in mind. The Mavs should have a lengthy competitive window with Doncic at the controls, but it's never wise to dilly-dally with a star of Doncic's caliber. He has championship engine upside, and the Mavs are wise to invest in winning full-stop.

Late last season, the Mavs' offense often devolved into a hero-ball split between Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Naturally, there are still elements of that. Doncic and Irving are arguably the two greatest iso scorers in the NBA. But, the Mavs are pushing the tempo more, and it's difficult not to point to rookie Dereck Lively as a significant catalyst for good. Giving Doncic an elite lob threat has completely changed the geometry of the game for opposing defenses. It's difficult to stop such a dominant in-between scorer when committing the extra defender can lead to an easy pitch-and-catch at the rim.

Doncic keeps getting better, too. He gets a few stray James Harden comparisons, but those should be taken as compliments, not warnings. There isn't a better heliocentric, one-man offense on the perimeter right now. Doncic possesses an intuitive understanding of how to manipulate a defense, whether it be for his own benefit, or to generate open looks for teammates. His stop-start, horizontal handles, expertly calculated bursts of speed, and unmatched finishing strength make him virtually impossible to contain. Throw too many defenders at him, and he will comfortably locate the fissure and exploit it. He's a beast.

He's averaging 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.9 assists on .493/.413/.786 splits. Again, a beast.