Are we sure anyone has a stronger MVP case than Nikola Jokic this season?
After taking home MVP honors for the 2020-21 season, the Nuggets center has been even better this year, providing nightly reminders of just how impactful he is. His latest reminder? A triple-double of 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 116-105 road victory over the Pelicans — the Nuggets’ fourth consecutive win.
In a year in which the Nuggets have been decimated by injury, the team is still a major player in the West’s playoff picture, sitting just two games out of the fourth seed following Friday night’s victory. With starters in and out of the lineup — and Jamal Murray yet to suit up due to ACL rehab — Jokic’s outstanding play has been one of the very few constants for Denver this season.
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To emphasize that point, the Nuggets aren’t just treading water with Jokic leading the charge, they’re surging towards the top half of the Western Conference standings.
By now, we know that Jokic is a threat to record a triple-double on any occasion. With his latest triple-double in the Crescent City on Friday, he’s tied his career-best month with six triple-doubles in January alone, bringing his tally to 12 through 43 games, four shy of his total over 72 games in 2020-21.
MORE: Defining stats for Jokic, 2022 All-Star starters
As you might expect, that places him alongside some elite company.
Nikola Jokic just recorded his 6th triple-double… in January. It’s the second time he’s had 6 triple-doubles in a calendar month.
The only other primary center to achieve that feat? Wilt Chamberlain, who did it 4 times. pic.twitter.com/wsbh7sV9we
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 29, 2022
Oh, and the Nuggets have one game remaining this month when they head to Milwaukee to face another MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
Speaking of elite company, Antetokounmpo is one of just 14 multi-time MVP winners and one of 12 to win the award in back-to-back years. As the season progresses, so does the buzz surrounding Jokic’s ability to join them as a back-to-back MVP.
Let’s look at how his case his shaping up.
Nikola Jokic’s numbers
Through 43 games, Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game while shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range.
The figures stack up pretty well with his MVP numbers in the 2020-21 season, especially when you consider the fact that he’s playing slightly less.
Nikola Jokic’s competition for MVP
In TSN’s most recent MVP ladder, Jokic landed in fourth place behind Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan.
He won’t be fourth in the next.
With Durant out indefinitely due to a sprained MCL and the Bulls coming back down to earth, Antetokounmpo stands as Jokic’s top competition along with 76ers center Joel Embiid, who has entered the MVP discourse with a dominant stretch.
Dominant as Embiid has been, his Sixers are just two wins better than the Nuggets at this point of the season.
Will the Nuggets win enough games for Nikola Jokic to be MVP?
Let’s say the Nuggets remain somewhere between fourth and sixth all season, is that really good enough to take home the MVP award?
History can be our guide:
|2020-21||Nikola Jokic||Nuggets||47-25 (.653)||3rd|
|2019-20||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Bucks||56-17 (.761)||1st|
|2018-19||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Bucks||60-22 (.732)||1st|
|2017-18||James Harden||Rockets||65-17 (.793)||1st|
|2016-17||Russell Westbrook||Thunder||47-35 (.573)||6th|
It’s been five seasons, but Westbrook was named MVP after averaging a triple-double to lead the Thunder to the sixth seed and an NBA Playoff berth in their first season without Durant. Is Jokic’s season that different?
According to FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR forecast, this Nuggets team is projected to finish fourth in the West with a 48-34 (.585) record, while the 76ers are projected to finish third in the East with a 50-32 (.610) record.
If Jokic continues his stellar play, the Nuggets could exceed those projections, making his case to take home more MVP hardware even stronger.
This year’s MVP race might be a bit different than those of years past, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The Joker will remain in the center of all conversations.