Is he the real MVP? How SGA’s MVP case compares to Durant, Westbrook

Is he the real MVP? How SGA’s MVP case compares to Durant, Westbrook

In ESPN’s latest MVP straw poll, the Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made a move into serious contention. But how does he stack up at the All-Star break with previous Thunder MVPs.

Brett Dawson

By Brett Dawson

| Feb 15, 2024, 6:30am CST

Brett Dawson

By Brett Dawson

Feb 15, 2024, 6:30am CST

OKLAHOMA CITY — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does most of his best work at close range. The Thunder guard has a game built on buckets at the rim and in the mid-range and on trips to the free-throw line, eschewing the NBA’s 3-point shooting trend. 

As it turns out, though, a short-range shooter doesn’t have to be a long shot for Most Valuable Player in today’s NBA. 

In ESPN’s latest straw poll, released this week, reporters who cover the league voted Gilgeous-Alexander second in the MVP race behind two-time winner Nikola Jokic. 

A hundred voters participated in the straw poll, and Gilgeous-Alexander appeared on 99 ballots. He got 709 total points to Jokic’s 889 and 24 first-place votes to Jokic’s 69. 

Gilgeous-Alexander moved from fourth in the poll two months ago to second this month, buoyed in part by an injury to reigning MVP Joel Embiid that knocked him out of contention. Embiid won’t play the now-required 65 games to qualify for the award. 

This all tells us something about where SGA stacks up next to contemporary candidates like Jokic as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard, who rounded out the top five spots in the straw poll. 

And that got us wondering how Gilgeous-Alexander compares to a pair of past candidates: previous Thunder MVP winners Kevin Durant (2014) and Russell Westbrook (2017). 

A look at where each player stood at the All-Star break in his MVP season, courtesy of Sellout Crowd creative director Michael Lane: 

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Brett Dawson, the Thunder beat writer at Sellout Crowd, has covered basketball for more than 20 seasons at the pro and college levels. He previously worked the Thunder beat at The Oklahoman and The Athletic and also has covered the New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers. He’s covered college programs at Louisville, Illinois and Kentucky, his alma mater. He taught sports journalism for a year at the prestigious Missouri School of Journalism. You can reach him at [email protected] or find him sipping a stout or an IPA at one of Oklahoma City’s better breweries.

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