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Nuggets gem still shines

Sports 06 Dec, 2023 Follow News

Nikola Jokic is aiming for his third consecutive MVP

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is improving rapidly

Nikola Jokic remains the best player in the NBA. The facts speak for themselves: the Denver Nuggets talisman followed up his back-to-back MVP seasons in 2021 and 2022 with a Finals MVP trophy in June.

Jokic continues to dominate the NBA MVP rankings this season, however the race is far from over with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s emerging from rising star to MVP contender.

Gilgeous-Alexander is fulfilling his guard role brilliantly. He is an elite-level scorer, admirably unselfish as a playmaker and his all-round game is absolutely superb. Yet Gilgeous-Alexander at 25, is still developing into a complete player, showing with each game his enormous potential.

“I really like my teammates, like genuinely. It’s a special group of guys. I enjoy being around them. I prioritize winning and you can’t win alone,” Gilgeous-Alexander stated last week after the Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers by 23 points. “I need every one of those guys to get done what I want to get done.”

Past the quarter mark in the 2023-24 NBA season, this MVP race is not yet a foregone conclusion. Jokic’s value to the Nuggets is immense but Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is also in the mix for this award. But the Thunder are winning games and this is directly linked to Gilgeous-Alexander’s inspirational displays on court.

Jokic’s brilliance is undeniable. He played in three of the Denver Nuggets’ four games this past week and recorded two 30-point triple-doubles. The only time he has failed to score impressively was when ejected for arguing calls.

Second placed Gilgeous-Alexander has moved up in the NBA MVP rankings not only for leading the Thunder to a 13-6 record, but he ranks sixth in the league in scoring and fifth in total points scored. Whereas third placed Joel Embiid has missed some games recently due to injury and illness, Gilgeous-Alexander has stayed healthy, missing just one game so far this season.

Aside from his playmaking and scoring abilities, Shai has also been fantastic in Thunder’s defence. Gilgeous-Alexander currently leads the league in steals per game (2.4) and barely trails Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs for the best defensive rating out of all the league’s guards.

Embiid has been sensational. Aside from being a great scorer and leading the Philadelphia 76ers offense, he has refined his game this season with James Harden being traded earlier in the year.

Never really known to be an unselfish passer, Embiid is now becoming more of a facilitator, helping team-mates score rapidly. Currently averaging a career-high 6.6 assists per game, Embiid recorded his first triple-double of the season against the Lakers, which the Sixers won by 44 points.

Fourth in the MVP rankings is Giannis Antetokounmpo, himself a former MVP. He currently has the Milwaukee Bucks in the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament and is really shining again. Following back-to-back 40-point performances two weeks ago, Giannis has scored freely in recent games.

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