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Nikola Jokic will be the 2021 MVP

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A straw poll conducted by ESPN shows that the Nuggets center has overwhelming support in the 2020-21 MVP race.

Milwaukee Bucks v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Nikola Jokic is going to be the MVP of the 2020-21 season, according to the results of a straw poll conducted by Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

While the Nuggets still have 17 games left to play, if Jokic is able to continue to perform at the level he has this season and avoid injury, he should be considered the favorite to claim the award. He would be the first Denver Nuggets player in league history to win the MVP award, and the first center to win MVP since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

Jokic is averaging 26.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game, while shooting 56.4% from the field, 41.8% on 3-point attempts, and 85.3% on free throw attempts. In a season with a condensed schedule due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that has seen an increased amount of injuries compared to previous seasons, Jokic is averaging 35.4 minutes per game, and has played in every single Nuggets game this season. The 26-year-old has played 1,945 minutes, second-highest in the league behind Julius Randle of the New York Knicks. In a season where one of the greatest abilities a player can have is availability, Jokic has been there every game for the Nuggets, and performed at historic levels throughout.

There can continue to be discussions on whether Jokic or Joel Embiid, who was the second-place finisher in the poll, is the more talented player. Fans can continue to discuss who makes more of an impact when they are on the court, but comparing the two players’ performance this season, it cannot be ignored the number of games that Embiid has missed for the Philadelphia 76ers. Voters can’t compare how the two players performed against one another either — Embiid missed both games against the Nuggets.

It appears there might be a bit of voter fatigue with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has also missed time recently with a knee injury. Antetokounmpo, who won the MVP award each of the previous two seasons, is listed as the third-place finisher in the straw poll. He is followed by Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard in fourth, who has helped keep his team in the playoff race all season due to their prolific offense. Former Houston Rockets guard James Harden is fifth, likely falling in the race due to his lack of professionalism in Houston and the number of games he has missed since forcing an in-season trade to the Brooklyn Nets. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Stephen Curry, and Devin Booker round out the remaining players that received votes in the poll.

While the high of this season has taken a hit for the Nuggets with the knee injury to Jamal Murray, that doesn’t mean that Nuggets fans should be celebrating the season that Nikola Jokic is having. We are witnessing the greatest individual Nuggets season in franchise history. We may never see a player have this kind of season in a Nuggets uniform again in our lifetimes. Every game Jokic plays in has the potential for brilliance, as he continues to overcome every challenge thrown his way. This season has been incredible, and we deserve to celebrate it as much as we can along the way. A Denver Nugget will likely by the league MVP — I certainly didn’t ever think I’d be able to honestly say that.

For years Nuggets fans have watched Jokic dissect defenses with his offensive genius, whipping impossible passes around the court and cementing his legacy as the greatest passing big man of all time. He’s developed his ability to score as his career has progressed, melding his incredible touch from every area of the court with his elite athleticism and technical mastery. He’s improved as a defender, harnessing his knowledge of the game with his quick hands and size to become one of the best players in the league at generating deflections. He continues to thrive as a rebounder, using his physical gifts to carve out position for one-handed putbacks. He’s improved the mental part of the game as well, staying focused and avoiding foul trouble that plagued him when things didn’t go his way during a game.

Jokic has been the Nuggets best player on the team since he arrived in Denver, and now he’s on track to be recognized as the most valuable player in the league this season. It’s something that Nuggets fans have long known, and the rest of the league will finally have to admit.

The voting numbers for the straw poll are listed below.

Tim Bontemps/ESPN