After securing his first MVP trophy last season, Nikola Jokic has proved again this season why he deserves to win the award, again. In a season surrounded by uncertainty with the Nuggets, one thing has remained the same and that is the incredible play by Jokic.
Not only did Jokic play as good — if not better — this year as he did last year, but he exceeded it to a point where the Nuggets won more games this year than Vegas (47.5) predicated they would before the season began. That projection was with the idea that Michael Porter Jr. would have a healthy season and that Jamal Murray would return sometime during the season, which we all know did not happen.
Last night’s victory for the Nuggets over the Memphis Grizzlies — in which Jokic scored 35 points, hauled in 16 rebounds, and dished out six assists — helped secure Denver’s 48th victory of the season and clinched a top-6 seed in the Western Conference standings going into the postseason. It was another staple win for the Nuggets and Jokic in a season that has consisted of a lot of those.
What he was able to accomplish last night might have been his best and brightest moment of the season as Jokic became the first player in NBA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a season. That stat comes courtesy of our own Ryan Blackburn here at Denver Stiffs and truly shows how remarkable of a player Jokic is and just how special the regular season was that he was able to put together.
Nikola Jokić is 72 points and 14 rebounds away from the very first 2,000 point - 1,000 rebound - 500 assist season in NBA history.— Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn) April 4, 2022
One constant trend we have seen with the Nuggets all season long is they can't survive when Jokic is off the floor. Last night’s game against the Grizzlies was a prime example as Jokic missed some minutes in the first quarter due to a cut on his forehead, which Memphis took full advantage of.
Memphis was absolutely dominating the Nuggets with Jokic off the floor on both ends of the floor and built an early double-digit lead. Well, things quickly changed when Jokic checked back in as the Nuggets dominated the first half so much so their once 10-point deficit turned into a 21-point lead at one point in the first half.
Also, headband Jokic was officially activated for the first time and he was an absolute PROBLEM:
It’s a trend we’ve seen all season long and it just shows how valuable Jokic is to this Nuggets team. If the award truly is the “Most Valuable Player” award there is no way Jokic can’t take home the award this year. No disrespect to Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Philadelphia 76ers (49) and Milwaukee Bucks (50) have barely more wins than Denver this season and those players have a much better supporting cast around them.
Without Jokic in the lineup there is no telling how many games the Nuggets could win in a season, but it certainly would not be anything close to 48. It’s not just what Jokic can do by himself, but it’s how positively he impacts the game for those around him. Jokic has done more with less this season and somehow found a way to improve as a player, which feels hard to wrap your head around after the year he put together last season.
Jokic is averaging career-highs in points (27.1) and rebounds (13.7) this season and his 7.9 assists per game are just off his career-high (8.3) that he set last year. The other positive Jokic has made to his game is that he is no longer a liability on the defensive end of the floor, if anything he’s been a massive positive on that end of the floor all season long.
His 1.5 steals per game are a career-high along with his 0.9 blocks per game as Jokic has found a way to have a positive impact defensively all season long. Jokic’s ability to get his hands into passing lanes to force steals as well as his uncanny ability to secure victories for the Nuggets with walk-off blocks is something out of a fairytale:
JOKIC COMES UP BIG— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 13, 2022
Game-saving block on Anunoby to snap Toronto's 8-game winning streak! pic.twitter.com/xHfK0kyDlU
It’s jaw dropping when you really look back and analyze what Jokic has been able to accomplish with the Nuggets this season. As the team fought through injuries all season long, Jokic was always available and has only gotten better as the season wore on.
The other MVP candidates are phenomenal players and there is certainly a case to be made as to why they deserve to win MVP. It’s just that, when you sit back and really look at it, how do you not give the award to Jokic? His play and the Nuggets record speaks for itself and his current odds on FanDuel (-300) suggest Jokic is in the drivers seat to win yet again.
If he does win MVP, Jokic will be the 13th player in NBA history to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Antetokouunmpo was the last to do so back in 2020 as Jokic would join him alongside Steph Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell.
Some pretty elite company to say the least for Jokic, who continues to set records by the day. If he keeps up the pace in which he is currently playing even more MVP’s could be in store for Jokic and let’s hope a championship for the Denver Nuggets is not far behind.