Nikola Jokić Continues to Deliver, Favored to Win Third Straight MVP Award

  • Nikola Jokić is the odds-on favorite to win the NBA MVP once again
  • No player has won three straight MVPs since Larry Bird in the 1980s
  • Jokić leads the league in many advanced analytics and his team has the best record
  • Basketball Reference says Jokić has a 69.9% chance to win the MVP again
Nikola Jokic
If Nikola Jokić continues to play at his current otherworldly levels, voters will be hard-pressed not to name him MVP for the third straight season. [Image: Flickr.com / Erik Drost]

Chasing history

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić is potentially a few months away from becoming the first back-to-back-to-back NBA MVP winner since the 1980s.

an accomplishment that even greats like Michael Jordan and LeBron James never achieved

Jokić, the 41st draft pick in the 2014 draft, is already the lowest draft pick ever to win the award. If he succeeds in capturing the MVP for a third straight season, he will tick off an accomplishment that even greats like Michael Jordan and LeBron James never achieved.

Jokić’s MVP odds have shortened over the past couple of weeks, and he is now the odds-on favorite to win the award. Even with the inevitable effects of voter fatigue, his unadulterated excellence this season is undeniable. 

Nikola Jokić: Three-time MVP?

Starting with the basics: Jokić this season is averaging 25.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 9.9 assists per game, ranking him 16th, 6th, and 2nd, respectively. He is also shooting a ridiculous 62.6% from the field on over 15 attempts per game.

To put that in perspective, the player with the highest scoring average that is also shooting better from the field than Jokić is Jarrett Allen, who is 84th in scoring (13.9 points per game). 

The seven-foot Serbian also has a monopoly on advanced analytics. He ranks first in player efficiency rating (and second all-time behind the 2021-22 version of himself), value added, and estimated wins added. 

his team is 32-13 and has the best record in the Western Conference

Above all, Jokić has the greatest influence on winning basketball games. His +/-, which measures how many points a team wins or loses by when a player is on the court, is the best in the league and nearly 1.6x better than fellow MVP candidate, Luka Dončić. It’s also no surprise that his team is 32-13 and has the best record in the Western Conference.

Awards races often come down to standout moments in a season. In college football, the “Heisman moment” is a much-needed part of every candidate’s case – well, Jokić has those in spades.

Earlier this year, Denver’s star dropped 40 points, 27 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win over the Charlotte Hornets. Just a few days before that, he hung 43 points on 85% shooting, 14 rebounds, and eight assists on the Washington Wizards, and he also dropped 36/12/10 on 93% shooting against the Boston Celtics earlier this week.

Long story short, his numbers are unimpeachable. 

Overcoming history

The historical precedent that would be set if Jokić won his third straight MVP would be enormous. There have only been three players to win the award three straight times: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird (the most recent). 

Giving Jokić a third MVP would also defy traditional voting logic. LeBron James was the undisputed best player in the league for at least ten years, yet he only won four MVPs and never received three in a row. All-time greats like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kevin Durant (still active) also only won one MVP in their careers, already half of Jokić’s total.

Jokić has a 69.9% chance of winning the award

Both NBA.com and Basketball Reference have Denver’s point center leading their MVP ladder. According to the latter, Jokić has a 69.9% chance of winning the award, while Dončić and Joel Embiid both have a 7.5% chance.

But while one part of history is beckoning, another has already been set. Wednesday night, Jokić became the Nuggets’ all-time assist leader after dishing 13 in a 122-118 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“To be honest, maybe that’s the first thing I’m kind of proud of, just because hopefully my teammates love to play with me because I share the ball,” Jokić said after the game. “So maybe, that’s the first time I was kind of proud, probably.”

There are still 37 games left in the season, but Jokić has produced one of the most impressive first halves of a season in league history, and one that has him firmly in place to make history.

Player profile: Nikola Jokić

Where is Nikola Jokić from? Nikola Jokić was born in Sombor, Serbia, where he lived with his parents, grandmother, and two brothers.

How tall is Nikola Jokić? Nikola Jokić is six feet and 11 inches tall. He plays center for the Denver Nuggets but is not the typical big man, and instead plays like a guard.

How old is Nikola Jokić? Nikola Jokić was born on February 19, 1995, making him 27 years old and in the heart of his athletic prime.

How many MVPs does Nikola Jokić have? At the time of writing, Nikola Jokić has won the MVP twice. He won the award in 2020-21 and again in 2021-22, outperforming Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, and other top candidates.

What team does Nikola Jokić play for? Nikola Jokić plays for the Denver Nuggets, the current top seed in the Western Conference.