When you ask an NBA fan who their MVP for the season is, not many of them will name Nikola Jokic. It’s understandable: other players are putting up MVP numbers in ways that thrill more crowds. Fans who look at a small sample of Jokic’s game will find his play boring compared to other superstars.
With that in mind, Luka Doncic is the likeliest award winner; he’s the sole reason the Dallas Mavericks aren’t at the bottom of the Western Conference. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum are other favorites to win the award over the Joker.
But to quote the great Rasheed Wallace, the ball doesn’t lie. The stats point to a neck-to-neck battle for the inaugural Michael Jordan Trophy. If OKBET fans take the time and look at the overall picture, Jokic is more than a dark horse in joining an exclusive club of three-peat MVP winners.
A single look at the Western Conference standings will tell you all you need to know about Nikola Jokic’s impact on the Nuggets. They are among the West’s best teams despite missing two of their best players—Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr.—for some games.
The individual statistics of every other player on the roster also show marks of Jokic’s influence on the squad. Every player who gets more than ten minutes a game scores at least ten points on efficient shooting clips. Even players on the fringes of the rotation benefit from Nikola Jokic’s incredible playmaking whenever they’re on the floor.
The Joker’s stat line also showcases how he continues to dominate over the opposition this season. He’s averaging 24.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks after 27 starts.
Jokic’s advanced stats can make even the most data-driven analytics fan smile. He leads all eligible players in win shares at 5.5 and is at the top of the Box Plus/Minus charts with 12.0. Doncic is a close second in both categories, with 5.3 and 10.4, respectively. Luka finally gets one over him in assist percentage (Jokic is only 44.7% to the Mavs star’s 48.2%).
His most recent outings also amaze fans and experts. Wilt Chamberlain was the last NBA player to reach the numbers he did in his incredible outing against the Charlotte Hornets. He scored 40 points, 27 rebounds, and ten rebounds on 50% shooting.
His stellar play against the Washington Wizards (43 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and five steals) and New Orleans Pelicans (32 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists on 68% shooting) in December tell us how good of a finisher he’s become.
When you ask NBA fans for a dominant offensive power, you usually get three-level scorers with shot charts showing how their shots are spread all over the court.
However, Nikola Jokic’s shot chart for the season will make you raise your eyebrow. While he makes three-point attempts to space the floor, his MO is always to get in the paint. It doesn’t matter if he gets the ball at the elbow or close to the three-point line. He will use his strength to bully his way into the restricted area and score.
While teams could double him to stop him from scoring, he would use his height to see over the trees and see which players are coming to double him. He’ll use his enormous wingspan to fire a bullet pass to the weak side shooter in the corner or a lively bounce pass to a cutting winger for an easy two.
Defenders are in a tight spot whenever they have to guard Jokic in the post. He’ll score if you leave him on his own, but he’ll also find an open teammate if you quickly double him.
His shot chart looks eerily similar to another MVP candidate. The other player is considered a Freak, known for barreling down to the restricted area with opposing defenders unable to do anything but watch him score.
Speaking of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic has developed an impressive transition game. What used to be a stroll has become something of a steam engine gaining that forces its way deep into the paint.
He still uses his patented court vision to find an open runner or shooter while gaining momentum. However, he’s not averse to taking it to the rim if he’s more powerful or agile than his mark.
He’s also developed a sneaky burst of speed to get past slower defenders. He lowers his center of gravity and powerfully forces his way to leave his opponents a step too late to stop his shot or pass.
Even if the player guarding him manages to stop his steam-powered run to the rim, he can use his unique skill set to get points. Whether he makes a brilliant pass or suddenly unleashes the Sombor Shuffle, he’ll find a way to turn his transition game into points.
Nikola Jokic’s transition game has all the power of a gas-powered muscle car with the sleek silence of a Tesla.
While it doesn’t directly impact his chances of winning the Michael Jordan Trophy, Jokic’s expanded leadership role on the Nuggets will affect how his team performs on the court.
He’s already the on-court leader due to his floor general role, but he’s also started showing what he expects from his teammates. He started wearing more suits heading into games to get his teammates to treat the game more seriously. While some may scoff at Jokic’s nitpicking, this mentality was received well among old-school players like Charles Barkley.
Another reason why he is considered a significant influence on his teammates is that he doesn’t care about personal accolades. His indifference towards the MVP race last year is due to his focus on helping his team win more games.
This kind of head-down leadership is something fans have seen before. Tim Duncan was the quiet cornerstone that helped the Spurs enjoy 20 years of consistent playoff basketball. He doesn’t talk much, but his way of leading by example led to many happy years for Spurs Nation.
Jokic and Duncan are two different players with different playing styles. But suppose the Joker is molding his leadership style after the Big Fundamental. In that case, he’s assured of sustainable success for himself and the Nuggets organization.
Over the past twenty years, there have been a couple of players who won back-to-back MVP honors. This shows how talented the current crop of players is.
However, only three men throughout the association’s history won the MVP award three years in a row: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird. Moreover, Larry Bird was the only three-peat MVP to win the media vote.
It’s almost improbable for any other player to join this elite company. Voter fatigue and narratives are some of the most considerable driving forces why a player looking for three straight MVP years never wins it.
But if there’s anyone who can buck the trend, it’s Nikola Jokic. He’s the heart and soul of the Nuggets. He’s making his mark on the league in quiet yet bombastic ways.
It may seem like a joke to fans who are tired of Jokic’s dominance. However, his talent is real and should be celebrated.
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