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Week 3 MVP Ladder: Donovan Mitchell Has Entered the Chat

(Credit: Lauren Bacho/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers)

The first 3 weeks of the NBA season have provided us with plenty of storylines, not all basketball related. While the league (specifically Brooklyn) seems to have more off court turmoil than ever, the play on the court is better than ever. We have seen a handful of players place themselves towards the top of the early MVP race, some familiar faces, and some looking to launch themselves into superstardom. My week 3 NBA MVP Ladder:

Honorable Mentions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Devin Booker, Nikola Jokic

5. Ja Morant

Season Stats: 29.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 0.8 STL, 4.1 TO, 51% FG, 50% 3PT

Ja has been exceptional to start the year, and has led his Grizzlies squad to a 7-3 record. The main catalyst in Morant's hot start has been his efficiency. While we're only 10 games into the season, it looks like Ja has made significant strides in his three point shooting. He has started the year 15/30 (50%) from beyond the arc, compared to a career percentage of 32.7% entering the season. Morant is amongst the elite playmaking guards in the NBA, and knows how to get to his spots on the floor. If he can clean up his defense (like below) and become a true two-way threat, there is no ceiling to his potential. As long as Memphis keeps on winning, Ja will be squarely in the MVP conversation.

4. Jayson Tatum

Season Stats: 30.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 2.8 TO, 50% FG

When you think of two-way stars in today's NBA, Tatum is one of the first to come to mind. His high level play on both ends of the court has guided Boston to a 6-3 start. It's nice to see Tatum start a season off strong, as he has been known to get off to slow starts the past few years. A key to his impressive start has been his ability to get to the free throw line. Through 9 games, Tatum is averaging 8.1 FT attempts per game, opposed to 6.1 last year. I think the last piece for Tatum is being able to get whatever shot he wants, whenever he wants. He has a tendency to settle, which should not be the case for one of the most unguardable players in the league. Tatum is in a great position to make his first MVP run in 2022-2023.

3. Luka Doncic

Season Stats: 36.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 8.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 3.4 TO, 52.7 FG%

Whoever came up with the term "he's going to get his" had to be thinking of Luka Doncic. This guy just knows how to get to his spots (see video) , create for his teammates, and score at a high level. Luka is off to a scorching hot start, and is once again putting this Dallas team on his back. Doncic plays with incredible pace, and the kind of speed that makes you question how he just put up 35 on your favorite team. Luka is currently averaging 11.5 FT attempts per game, a crazy number. The only knock on Luka could be his defensive impact, but I don't think he quite has the defensive ceiling of someone like Morant due to his limited quickness and agility. If Luka continues to put up these numbers on a playoff team, it would be hard to not give him his first MVP.

2. Donovan Mitchell

Season Stats: 31.1 PPG, 7.1 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 3.6 TO, 48.1 FG%

When Cleveland traded for Mitchell this offseason, they were expecting a perennial All-Star who could elevate this team into a contender. I don't think the Cavs, or anyone, was expecting Mitchell to be this good. While it's early, Mitchell looks like a legitimate superstar, and the Cavs look as good as any team in the NBA. He has scored 30+ in six of the Cavs first eight games. The past criticism of Mitchell was his efficiency, and volume shooting. Before this year, Donovan's career best TS%(True Shooting) was 56.9%. Through 8 games in 2022, Mitchell is at 62.4%, a huge leap. Let's not forget the other side of the floor, where it seems like Mitchell is more active and engaged than ever. This may just seem like a hot start, but don't be surprised if the new face of the Cavs keeps this up.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Season Stats: 32.6 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, 3.1 TO, 55.3 FG%

It's time we have a conversation about Giannis potentially finishing his career as a top 10 player of all time. He is the best player in the world, and has been for quite some time. The most unstoppable force in today's NBA has carried the Bucks to a perfect 9-0 start. Keep in mind Giannis is putting up these numbers while averaging less than 34 minutes per game. Even without a reliable three point shot, there is no effective way to stop him. Defensively, he is an annual DPOY candidate, and one of the best in the league. If voter fatigue wasn't such a real thing, Giannis might have 4 MVP's already. While the others are in hot pursuit, I see no reason why the best player in the league, on best team in the league isn't the MVP at this point.

How do you even try to stop that?

Stay tuned for my weekly MVP Ladder every Monday morning!


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