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MVP Showcase: Nikola Jokic



PC: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA season comes to an end, this author will analyze the top five contenders for the NBA’s MVP award, focusing on one candidate per week for the next five weeks.

The first MVP contender we will take a look at is none other than the reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. Jokic has been the subject of controversy the past couple of weeks as First Take contributor Kendrick Perkins suggested that there is racial bias in the selection process for the MVP. Despite the controversy, Jokic has stayed focused on playing basketball and has produced a historic MVP season. If Jokic were to win MVP for the third consecutive year in a row, he would become only the fourth player in league history to achieve such a feat. Who are the other three players?

Bill Russell
Wilt Chamberlain
Larry Bird

Does Jokic belong on that list? Does his season merit a third MVP award that would immortalize him with three iconic legends of the game? Let’s take a look at his numbers:

Right now the Denver Nuggets hold the best record in the Western Conference with a record of 46-23, despite a recent four game skid. During this time, Jokic has posted 24.7 ppg/11.9rpg/10.0ast/40% 3P%/ 63%fg /66 eFg% and an absurd 70.1 true shooting percentage, something that has never been done. Jokic is doing this despite the fact that he has never had a teammate selected to an All-star game, All-NBA, or All-Defense:

Aside from being the only MVP to not have enough help, Jokic has developed the Nuggets into one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA by maximizing their talents and elevating his supporting cast to play championship level basketball. According to Five Thirty Eight’s model for player ratings, Jokic leads all players in their RAPTOR (Robust Algorithm Player Tracking Ratings) model both offensively and defensively.

Source: FiveThirtyEight

Jokic scores insanely high when compared to a replacement player, accounting for 18.3 more wins. To put that number into context, Luka Doncic is second, accounting for 11.6 wins above a replacement player. Offensively he boosts his team by +10.1 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor, while his team’s defensive performance improves by +4.2 points per 100 possessions trailing only to Alex Caruso, Brook Lopez, and Rudy Gobert. When we look at the numbers, we see that Jokic’s value is not empty stat padding, but that his offensive and defensive impact are tangible, measurable and are leading to wins. Jokic recently became the sixth player in NBA history to record 100 triple doubles. Why is this significant? The Nuggets are 24-0 this season when Jokic posts a triple-double and right now have the longest triple-double win streak in NBA history, with 28 consecutive wins, when the Joker posts a triple double. In all of the players who have at least 100 career triple doubles, Jokic has the best win percentage in NBA history with 82%.

Ever since the start of 2023, Jokic has been on a historic tear, both offensively and defensively, without much help. Despite this, he has elevated his teammates with his fantastic play on both ends of the court, producing never before seen numbers for a center, redefining the position, and efficiently dismantling opposing teams with his skills. In both traditional and advanced stats, Jokic is producing like an MVP; therefore, if he were to win MVP for the third straight year, it wouldn’t be because of implied racism, but because he is perhaps the most skilled player in the NBA.