Tale as old as time.
It’s a narrative that’s getting old, I know... but what does Nikola Jokic have to do to get some respect around here? Not only has Jokic been the best player in the NBA this season, but he has been a dominant force in the league ever since the 2016 season.
Three time all-star, one time All-NBA First Team, and one time All-NBA Second team, that is what Nikola Jokic has accomplished over the course of the last three seasons. Not to mention, Jokic has also led the Nuggets to three playoff series wins and the Western Conference Finals last season.
Now, this article isn't going to bash on the other deserving MVP candidates cause that would be unfair to them. Joel Embiid, Steph Curry, and even Chris Paul have all put together phenomenal seasons, but this article will better illustrate how Jokic has been, well, just better than the rest.
It all began at the beginning of the season when Denver got off to a rough start. Through the Nuggets first 20 games they held a record of 12-8 and seemed to be taking a step back just a year removed from making the Western Conference Finals. Denver’s record could have been even worse if it wasn't for Jokic, who averaged 26.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game over the first month of the season.
As his teammates struggled to begin the year, one thing remained the same, Jokic. Night in and night out Jokic was dominating the competition as MVP talk slowly began to surface surrounding the Nuggets superstar big man. Well, Nuggets nation got on this trend quickly placing wagers on Jokic to win MVP at incredibly good odds and now those people should become fairly rich because of it.
Fast forward three months and the Nuggets record suddenly sits at:
44-22, good for third place in the Western Conference
After opening the season 12-8, the Nuggets have gone 32-14 since and have vaulted themselves to the top of the Western Conference standings. Denver has already clinched a playoff berth for the third consecutive season and Jokic’s play these past three years is a massive reason as to why.
With as strong a start to the season as Jokic had, it was easy to believe his numbers would drop off as the season wore on. Nope. They have stayed constant throughout as Jokic is now averaging 26.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game. Jokic is no longer just impacting the game offensively either; he’s also averaging 1.4 steals per game and has given the Nuggets much better production defensively all season long.
The one stat we haven't even mentioned is his 66 games played. Only 14 other players in the NBA have played in every single game this season and this is the list:
Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Edwards, Bojan Bogdanovic, Deandre Ayton, Duncan Robinson Dwayne Bacon, Enes Kanter, Georges Niang, Ivica Zubac, Joe Harris, Mikal Bridges, RJ Barrett, Solomon Hill, and Nikola Jokic.
No disservice to any of those players cause there are some good ones, but Nikola Jokic is easily the best one on that list. Availability can sometimes be your best ability and it just so happens with Jokic he not only possesses that trait, but he’s also a pretty damn good basketball player, person, and leader. Jokic’s ability to stay on the floor as a superstar is really important. He hasn’t needed off-days, maintenance time, or a recovery period. He’s built differently.
With how many injuries the Nuggets have suffered this season — especially as of late — they have always been able to count on #15 being in the starting lineup. Not only has Jokic been a one man wrecking crew all season, but he’s also had several “MVP” moments that have really cemented him as arguably the best player in the NBA.
Last night’s game against the Knicks was another example of that. If no one else on the Nuggets except Jokic scored in the first quarter the scoreboard would have read this:
Nikola Jokic — 24 New York Knicks — 12
He doubled the other teams score. By himself. In one quarter of play.
This wasn't even his best MVP moment this season if you ask me as I truly believe Jokic became the undisputed MVP in the Nuggets double overtime victory against Memphis last month. Jokic made big shot after big shot to lead the Nuggets to an improbable 139-137 victory over the Grizzlies in a game they really never should have won.
Jokic finished the night with 47 points on 20-of-31 shooting from the field, 2-of-6 from beyond the arc to go along with 15 rebounds and eight assists. With the Nuggets down two in the closing seconds of regulation, Jokic was able to get to the free-throw line and tie the game. Jokic then answered every single punch the Grizzles threw at him in the overtimes before a dagger three-pointer in double OT to secure the victory for Denver.
His performance against the Los Angeles Clippers last weekend also stood out, with 30 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and several completely unstoppable sequences, Jokic made up for a lack of playmakers around him by being the alpha and omega at the same time. He did everything in his power to get Denver another win over a championship contender, and he succeeded.
It’s games like that one that we will remember from Nikola Jokic’s MVP season. It shouldn't be the narrative surrounding whether he should be MVP or not, because newsflash to those people, it’s going to happen.
That’s why none of the “national” people who've discredited Jokic were featured in this article, because it doesn't matter. They won't say this directly, but people really don't want Jokic to win MVP because he doesn't look the part. He’s not a flashy guy who promotes himself and goes out of his way to make himself noticed. Quite the contrary actually.
Jokic is unlike any superstar we’ve seen in the NBA. He could care less about how he's perceived or even what his stat line is on a nightly basis. Jokc is only concerned about one thing: winning. It just so happens that it goes hand in hand with his unreal abilities on the basketball court.
So, let’s all just block out the outside noise, because their minds are already made up. We know who the league MVP is: a kid who grew up in Sombor, Serbia who found his way — somehow, someway — to Denver, Colorado.
Soak it all in Nuggets fans because you truly are watching one of the best basketball players off all-time and quite clearly the future 2021 NBA league MVP.