The NBA regular season is slowly coming to an end. While there are still many uncertainties about the rest of the season, one thing is for sure. Nikola Jokic deserves the MVP award.
Jokic is the clear favorite, even if you just quickly glimpse at the stats. But only after a deep evaluation of him and his competitors can you really see who is this year’s real MVP. There is no question. It is the Joker. And this is what makes him the most valuable player of the season.
The Individual Stats
Nikola Jokic is currently averaging 26.4 PPG, 8.5 APG, and 10.8 RPG as a center. Let that sink in for a while. Those are prime Russel Westbrook numbers.
Some more stats. The Joker is the only player in the entire league in the top 10 of all three, points, rebounds, and assists per game. On top of that, he has 15 triple-doubles, which is second in the league. And he is doing it on a winning team. So there are no empty stats and pumping numbers. In fact, Nikola is notorious for having 20-10-9 games because he cares more about the team effort than recording a triple-double.
Unlike many superstars of the association, the Joker has played all regular-season games so far while averaging 35 minutes per game. 68/68. And all that because Serbians don’t sit out, as he says.
As soon as Jamal Murray hit the floor with an injury, most NBA fans thought the Nuggets’ season was over. With Murray out, Nikola’s chances of getting the MVP award significantly decreased. Your team needs to win its fair share of games if you want to take home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. And how can you win games without your second-best player?
Well, your MVP steps up. And Jokic did exactly that. With him playing on the MVP level, the Nuggets are still battling for the #3 spot in the West.
Denver currently holds a record of 44 wins and 24 losses. The way other teams have aligned, it seems as the only way Nuggets can go is up! Only four games are left for Denver to play this regular season, and they seem to have secured hometown advantage in the first round.
The visual effect only adds to Nikola’s MVP contention. If you have turned on a Nuggets game this season, then you’ll likely agree. Denver’s center is also their primary playmaker that does the most scoring and holds the ball for the most time. If that doesn’t scream valuable, what does?
The Competition Wasn’t as Consistent
No matter what one player does for the entire season, some fans (and journalists) are still going to have a different candidate for the MVP award. Unfortunately for them, all of Jokic’s competitors have a flaw in their MVP campaign.
For example, Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry have been on a tear lately. Steph has been shooting like in the good old days of 73-9, and Russ is putting up numbers we’ve never seen before. But, the domination started quite recently, and the award is for the entire season. Plus, the Wizards are barely in the play-in tournament, while the Warriors are currently the 8th seed. People hop on the most recent hype train and forget the only constant of the complete season – Jokic’s excellence.
You might have heard some other names in the MVP conversation this season. Depending on who you ask, Chris Paul, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid have all done enough to win the prize.
The main argument for those rooting for Chris Paul to win was that the Phoenix Suns held the best record in the league. Since that is no longer the case, it looks like Paul is out of the picture. Now, the same argument can be made for Gobert and Mitchell. But, just like Paul’s, their individual numbers aren’t good enough. At least not good enough to beat Jokic.
The Greek Freak was one of the most consistently good players on the court this season. However, voters don’t tend to vote for the same person. And Giannis won the award last two years. Still, let’s say the voters are completely objective.
The Bucks play in “the weaker conference” and will have (pretty much) the same record as the Nuggets—Antetokounmpo averages slightly more points than Jokic, but significantly fewer assists. Giannis doesn’t seem to have the “IT” factor this season, and most fans don’t see him winning this year.
Embiid Was Close, but Not as Good
The last and the biggest opponent Jokic has in the MVP race is Joel Embiid. Who would’ve thought that in the 2020/21 season, we would have two big men fighting for the MVP title?
The Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the best teams for the entirety of the season, but they don’t have many more victories than the Nuggets. At the moment, the Sixers have 3 wins more than Denver. So it comes down mostly to the individual stats—Jokic versus Embiid.
At first glance, it seems as if it’s a battle of defense and playmaking. Since they have similar numbers in points and rebounds and, out of these two, Embiid is the better defender, and Jokic averages many more assists. But that’s not the case. After further research, it’s apparent that Jokic has had the better season.
First of all, Denver’s center played more minutes. By a lot. Embiid played only 49 games compared to the Serbian’s 68. In a shorter season, missing about 15-20 games makes quite the difference. Nikola also has a better field goal, free throw, and 3 point percentage. And the more you go into statistics, the bigger the gap between the players becomes.
Another thing that isn’t going in Joel’s favor is that you can’t really see defense in numbers. And it’s less appreciated in these types of awards. But everybody can see 8.5 assists per game, which Joel doesn’t have.
Nikola Jokic played an astonishing season and deserves all the praise coming his way. Becoming the MVP is going to be well deserved. However, the biggest battles are yet to come. Can the Nuggets take it a step further and go into the finals? Only time will tell.