Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is the MVP in the last two NBA seasons. And with the way he is putting incredible numbers through the halfway mark of the 2022-2023 regular season, the Serbian big man could be on his way to winning his third straight MVP award.
Joining an Elite Company
For Nikola Jokic, winning the MVP award this season would put him in a rare company.
Since the MVP was first awarded in 1956, there were 3 players who won three straight: Wilt Chamberlain (1965-68), Bill Russell (1960-63), and Larry Bird (1983-86). These 3 Hall of Famers will prove that winning three consecutive MVPs is not an easy feat.
Only eight players have won at least three MVPs in their careers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Lebron James, Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Joining those lists is not impossible for Jokic. And his statistics and impact will tell us why.
The Excellence of the Joker
In 41 games so far, Nikola Jokic is averaging 25.1 points, 11 rebounds, 9.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 33.3 minutes per game. The reigning and back-to-back MVP could become the third player to average a triple-double in a regular season after Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook.
Jokic’s scoring may have slightly decreased this season, but his assist and field goal shooting(62.6) are both career-highs. The 27-year old center also leads the league in efficiency rating (37.7).
According to NBA.com, Denver is plus 13 when the Serbian is on the court and minus 9.2 when he’s off.
Jokic is a crafty bigman and his baskeball IQ allows him to read and understand the game at the highest level. He is like a pointguard who can run the team’s offense or call out plays. At any game, the Joker can put a passing clinic by finding his teammates slashing to the basket or open shooters in the perimeter.
Nikola Jokic can also score when his team needs him to and he has become one of NBA’s best clutch players. On January 15, the Serbian drained a step-back three-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining to lift Denver to a 119-116 victory against the visiting Orlando Magic. Believe it or not, the game-winning three was his only field goal attempt in the fourth quarter of that game.
Last season, Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.47 steals and 0.85 blocks per game. Denver was without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. played only 9 games. Jokic has to carry his team to a 48-34 record and Denver was the 6th seed in the Western Conference in the playoffs.
Jokic still has impressive numbers this season in spite of the return of Murray and Porter Jr. His numbers will make you forget that he still has 6 other teammates who is also averaging double digits in scoring.
Team Record will Matter
While MVP is an individual award, a team’s record is also a factor when considering if its best player should be included in the MVP conversation. If you ‘re the best player in the best team in the league, it means that your impact and leadership has brought your team to success. Winning could be a difference-maker if the top MVP candidates are all having impressive stats.
If the Joker continues to put impressive numbers while keeping his team at the top of the Western Conference, then he will most likely win the highest individual award this season.
Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum are close behind Jokic. These two young players are enjoying the best season of their career.
The 23-year old Doncic leads the league in scoring with 33.7 points, while adding 8.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.6 steals in 37.5 minutes per game. On December 28, 2022, the Slovenian superstar recorded the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history (60-21-10) to lead Dallas to a double overtime victory against New York Knicks, 126-121. But Dallas is currently 24-22 and is 5th in the western conference.
Jayson Tatum is the best player for the best team in the league- the Boston Celtics. The 3rd overall pick in the 2017 draft is averaging 31.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Big men Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid also deserves to be in the MVP conversations.
The “Greek Freak” (31 points,11.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists) is keeping Milwaukee at the top 3 of the Eastern Conference as they continue to play without their secondary star Khris Middleton.
Embiid is second in scoring (33.6) and the Philadelphia 76ers is third in the East.
The season is still long, and the statistics could still change. If Jokic continues with his eye-popping numbers while leading Denver to the top of the West, the Joker will eventually win his third straight MVP honor.