With a record of 33-25, the Denver Nuggets currently sit at sixth in the Western Conference with 24 games to play. Denver has done all of that without two of their three best players as Jamal Murray has not played a single minute all season and Michael Porter Jr. has played in just nine games before having to undergo back surgery that has put the rest of his season in jeopardy.

Even through all of that and all the uncertainty as to which players the Nuggets would have available on a nightly basis, Denver has always been able to count on one thing and that is the tremendous play of their superstar big man, Nikola Jokic.

Jokic has done a marvelous job of keeping the Nuggets above water all season long and is arguably playing the best basketball of his career. It sounds crazy to say — especially following an MVP season — but Jokic has proven this season that he really doesn't need star players around him like Murray and Porter to still be the best player in the league. Jokic has unlocked a ton of players on the Nuggets this season, most notably being Aaron Gordon, who is putting together one of the best year of his career.

Gordon is currently averaging 14.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game all while shooting an efficient 51.6 percent from the field. Just playing with Jokic has unlocked a whole new part of Gordon’s game and no play has been more notable between the two players this season than this game winning shot to cap off an incredible comeback victory over the Los Angeles Clippers:

In 52 games this season, Jokic is averaging 26 points, 13.8 rebounds (career-high), and 7.9 assists per game all while shooting a career-best 57 percent from the field. Jokic is eighth in the league when it comes to points and assists per game and is second in the league in rebounding trailing only Rudy Gobert.

Jokic also has one of the premier performances in the league this season as he scored 49 points on 16-of-25 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 from three, and 14-of-16 from the free-throw line in the Nuggets come from behind victory over the Clippers. It was not just the scoring in that game as Jokic recorded a triple-double as well hauling in 14 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists as it truly was one of the best games of his career.

We’ve discussed and we’ve all seen just how special of a season Jokic is having, but how does it compare to other players around the NBA? Jokic’s toughest completion for MVP at the moment is Joel Embiid, who is having a career season for the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid has played six less games than Jokic (46), but is still tops in the league averaging 29.6 points per game.

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Where Jokic currently has an edge on Embiid is in the rebounding, assist, and field goal percentage departments as the 76ers big man averages 11.2 boards, 4.5 assists, and shoots 49.5 percent from the field per game. Record wise it’s closer than you might think as the 76ers are just two games better than Denver at 35-23, which is good for third place in the Eastern Conference.

Considering how much tougher the Western Conference is as opposed to the Eastern Conference it certainly feels like Jokic has an edge over Embiid in the MVP race at the moment. Jokic and Embiid are slated to compete against one another on March 14th in Philadelphia, which could play a role is deciding who may gain a slight edge when MVP voting is all said and done.

It does feel like a big man is going to win the award this year regardless as Giannis Antetokounmpo is putting together another dominant season. Antetokounmpo — who is a 2x MVP award winner — is averaging 29.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, and six assists per game to go along with a solid 54.7 percent field goal percentage.

Jokic was asked this past weekend his thoughts on the current MVP race as he — like a lot of us — hopes the award is won by another big man:

Some players who are lurking in the shadows of the MVP race are Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan, and Ja Morant as all three players are putting up big numbers for their respective teams. All three feel like they are on the outside looking in at the moment though as the MVP push truly feels like a three horse race between Jokic, Embiid, and Antetokounmpo.

The race may boil down to which team finishes better in the standings as Embiid currently has that edge over Jokic and Antetokounmpo. It does feel like if the Nuggets can secure a top-4 seed and Jokic continues to put up the numbers he’s put up all season long that a second consecutive MVP award could follow.

There is no telling whether or not the Nuggets will get Murray or Porter back before the season concludes as Jokic will have to continue to be a one-man wrecking crew to get the Nuggets where they need to be. Antetokounmpo is going to get his usual help from players like Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, while Embiid has reinforcements on the way in a player like James Harden.

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Denver could have their own reinforcements on the way as well, but that situation certainly feels murkier than the ones surrounding other MVP candidates. If the Nuggets can continue to stack up victories like they did going into the all-star break their record and Jokic’s stats will speak for themselves when it’s all said and done.

Jokic is trying to become the 13th player in NBA history to win consecutive MVP awards as Antetokounmpo was the last player to do so back in 2020. To put more of a concrete stamp on where I currently see the MVP race, I think it can be laid out as such:

1. Jokic

2. Embiid

3. Antetokounmpo

4. Curry

5. Morant

6. DeRozan

You can ask 10 other people and you’ll probably get 10 different answers, but it feels like everyone should have at least the same three names in their top-3. There is still a ton of basketball to be played and this race is no where near finished with just under two months remaining in the regular season.

With 24 games remaining, the time is now for Jokic and the Nuggets to put their stamp on how they want the rest of this season to go. If they continue to find success to close out the year strong, Jokic will have to make room and dust off another spot in his trophy case.