HomeViralShai Gilgeous-Alexander Shines Bright When Joel Embiid is Out of Sight!

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Shines Bright When Joel Embiid is Out of Sight!

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It is not a forgone conclusion that Joel Embiid is this season’s MVP.

There is one underlying factor that will determine what happens in the race for the NBA MVP award this season: Joel Embiid‘s absences. In what was supposed to be another battle between Nikola Jokic and Embiid on Saturday night in Denver, the Philadelphia 76ers star was ruled out 15 minutes before the game began due to “knee soreness.” Although it is a very real possibility that Embiid’s knee flared up in the high altitude, this has become a common theme for the MVP front-runner regarding big games and matchups. It is also worth noting that Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris were ruled out prior to the decision to hold Embiid out.

The 76ers have played a total of 44 games. Embiid has played in 33 of them, meaning that he has missed a total of 11 games. While this wouldn’t have been a big deal pertaining to the NBA MVP rankings in the past, there is now a 65-game requirement for any players in the running for end-of-season awards. Now expected to miss Monday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Embiid will only be allowed to miss a maximum of five more games to remain eligible for this season’s MVP award.

It looks very likely that Embiid is going to play in fewer than 65 games this season, meaning this MVP race may wind up coming down to Jokic and Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Sixers and Denver Nuggets were expected to be real playoff threats this season. The Thunder were not. What Gilgeous-Alexander has done to elevate his play, as well as that of the Thunder’s, is quite remarkable. Recently named an All-Star starter, Gilgeous-Alexander’s rise to becoming the league’s top player has begun.

“It’s an honor, it’s a blessing. Obviously, there are so many talented players in the NBA. So many talented guards, especially in the West,” Gilgeous-Alexander said in regards to being named a starter in this year’s All-Star Game. “To be voted first by my peers, people that do the same job as me every night, it’s a really good feeling.”

Among the league leaders in scoring and now at the top of the Western Conference standings with the Thunder, there is a very valid argument that can be had regarding Gilgeous-Alexander’s spot versus Jokic in the NBA MVP rankings.

For now, Embiid, Jokic, and SGA remain in their same spots. However, this upcoming week is a pivotal turning point in the race for the NBA MVP award.

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Previous 2023-24 NBA MVP Rankings: Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

1. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid with a marker and tally board of games missed vs. games allowed to miss for the MVP award

Previous Rankings: #1

2023-24 season stats: 33 games, 36.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 blocks, 53.9 FG%, 36.8 3P%

It seems like Joel Embiid can’t go two weeks this season without missing a game. His ongoing knee soreness has become a problem for the 76ers, not just regarding the MVP conversation but pertaining to their season as a whole. Currently at 29-15, many would think the Sixers have nothing to worry about. There is definitely cause for concern right now simply because the Sixers need home-court advantage.

Philadelphia is 17-6 at home compared to 12-9 on the road, plus their downfall over the last few seasons in the playoffs has been on the road. Tyrese Maxey and others on this team are talented, but without Embiid, the 76ers have no shot against the best of the best. It is quite remarkable what Embiid has been able to achieve on the court despite missing games left and right in recent weeks.

After scoring 41 points in back-to-back games and going for at least 31 points in two other games, Embiid exploded for a career-best and Sixers team record 70 points and 18 rebounds against the San Antonio Spurs. With an absolutely masterful performance by a center, Embiid has further staked his claim as the MVP of the 2023-24 season.

The only problem, as previously mentioned, is the fact that Emibid has missed 11 games already. If you include Monday night’s game against Portland, which Embiid is scheduled to miss as well, that puts Embiid’s total of missed games up to 12. He is only allowed to miss five more games at the maximum in order to qualify for the MVP award. I’m not an oddsmaker, but the chances of Embiid becoming ineligible based on the new CBA are high.

2. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets 

Nikola Jokic saying "You're not Joel Embiid" to Paul reed

Previous Rankings: #2

2023-24 season stats: 46 games, 26.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 59.1 FG%, 36.6 3P%

As all the attention surrounds Embiid and his massive performances, Jokic continues to produce a steady diet of 25-point and 30-point double-doubles. Jokic currently ranks tied for first with Domantas Sabonis with 40 double-doubles this season, but leads Sabonis by one for the league lead in triple-doubles at 13 games.

While he was anticipating a matchup against Embiid the other night in Denver, Jokic instead got to face off against Paul Reed. This game ended up being much closer than it should’ve been because of Reed and the Sixers’ reserves stepping up to the challenge. Reed finished the game with a career-high 30 points, earning some nice words from the two-time MVP.

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“Paul Reed played really good for them,” Jokic told reporters. “We need to give him credit.”

In this game, Jokic had 26 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists. This marked the ninth straight game Jokic has recorded a 25-point double-double. Although he holds a slight edge over Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in this MVP race, the discussion of who should earn this award will get louder should Embiid not meet the minimum game requirement.

3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Oklahoma City Thunder

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander saying "Are you guys having fun" to Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid

Previous Rankings: #3

2023-24 season stats: 45 games, 31.1 points, 6.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 54.7 FG%, 33.5 3P%

If there is one player who can overtake Embiid and Jokic in the MVP race this season, it is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, for numerous reasons. Aside from the fact that he has played in 45 of the Thunder’s 46 games so far, Gilgeous-Alexander is right among the best of the best in many different statistical categories. The Thunder guard ranks first in steals, first in total points scored, second in win shares, and third in scoring. Best of all, and perhaps the most important statistic right now when comparing him to Jokic, SGA has the Thunder at the top of the conference.

Should Oklahoma City finish with the best record in the Western Conference and Embiid fail to meet his 65-game minimum mark for the MVP award, it makes sense that Gilgeous-Alexander would earn the prestigious honor over Jokic. Winning matters when it comes to the NBA rankings, and as of right now, Gilgeous-Alexander owns a 2-1 head-to-head advantage against Jokic.

The fourth game these two will play against one another is on Wednesday this week, a game that could actually hold a ton of significance in the race for this season’s MVP award. Another victory for Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder will surely draw everyone’s attention. A win  would also mean that Oklahoma City owns the season tiebreaker over Denver.

Nobody expected Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder to be as good as they are, but there is real momentum trending towards the 25-year-old being the one with the MVP trophy at the end of the season.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo in front of the Fiserv Forum.

Previous Rankings: #4

2023-24 season stats: 44 games, 31.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 60.8 FG%, 25.0 3P%

The Milwaukee Bucks recently replaced Adrian Griffin with Doc Rivers. How this impacts Giannis Antetokounmpo and his play will be answered on Monday night when the Bucks take on Jokic and the Nuggets. In terms of how he has been performing, Giannis has been increasing his offensive production in more ways than just scoring.

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Named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game this past week. In this span, he also shot 60.3 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from three-point range.

Giannis has improved drastically as a playmaker with Damian Lillard by his side. The two-time MVP is averaging a career-best 6.2 assists per game and has recorded at least nine assists in six of the last nine games he has played in. The Bucks remain one of the better teams in the league with Antetokounmpo, who is evolving into a triple-double-like threat every time he takes the court. If Milwaukee were to once again win the Eastern Conference, Giannis would surely get more attention in the NBA MVP conversation.

5. Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks' Luka Doncic shooting a basketball in front. 76ers' Joel Embiid, Nuggets' Nikola Jokic in background with eyes popping out.

Previous Rankings: #5

2023-24 season stats: 39 games, 34.4 points, 9.4 assists, 8.6 rebounds, 48.8 FG%, 37.5 3P%

Luka Doncic saw Embiid drop 70 points in a game and decided to do him one better by scoring a career-high 73 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday evening. The Dallas Mavericks star joined Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, and David Thompson as the only players to score at least 73 points in a game. That should automatically move Doncic up in the race for the NBA’s MVP award, right?

Well, as good as Doncic has been, team success matters pertaining to this award. A one-man team at times, Doncic has single-handedly carried the Mavs to their 25-21 record, putting them in the play-in tournament region of the standings. In order for Luka to surpass the likes of Jokic and Gilgeous-Alexander in the MVP race, he would need to at least get the Mavericks an actual spot in the playoffs instead of a bid for one via the play-in tournament.

At this point, it’s just hard to imagine Doncic moving past the No. 4 spot simply because the three players at the top of the MVP rankings are in a category of their own both statistically and based on team success.

Just missing the cut

6. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics (Ranked No. 7 last week)

7. Kevin Durant – Phoenix Suns (Ranked No. 9 last week)

8. Anthony Edwards – Minnesota Timberwolves (Ranked No. 8 last week)

9. Tyrese Haliburton – Indiana Pacers (Ranked No. 6 last week)

10. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns (Unranked last week)

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