The NBA MVP race is heating up with each passing day, with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic locked in a battle with the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Serbian stalwart has been impressive throughout the campaign and has played an important role in the Denver Nuggets being third in the Western Conference.
Kia NBA MVP Race: Why Nikola Jokic is the front-runner to win the coveted prize
Nikola Jokic's performances have always warranted him a place amongst the NBA's elite. However, he finished ninth in the NBA MVP race last season, with the award eventually going to Milwaukee Bucks' power forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The story has been completely different this year, as Jokic has made improvements in several key areas. The most obvious jump has been in his scoring, as Jokic has managed to average a superb 27 points per game as opposed to last campaign's 22.4.
Another major ascent in Nikola Jokic's game has been on the 3-point shooting front. The Serbian had never reached the magical 40% mark from downtown until this season, but has managed to make close to 41% of his shots from behind the arc. Jokic has also upped his already stellar passing game, averaging 8.5 assists in the 2020/21 NBA season as opposed to last season's 7 per contest.
Only four players have been above Nikola Jokic in assist percentage this season, and the solitary common factor between them is that they are all guards. Jokic is an anomaly, making outlet and cross court passes look normal for a player who is 6'11.
Jokic is one of the few passing bigs in the league, with the Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo being the closest player who can claim to be of the same mold as the Serbian. Jokic's unique attributes, along with these stellar numbers, justify the case for him being the favorite in the NBA MVP race, especially with the regular season coming to a conclusion.
The Denver Nuggets' offense runs through Nikola Jokic's hands, as the NBA MVP candidate has assisted 40.4% of his teammate's successful field goals. The Nuggets offense has been stellar this season, registering an offensive rating of 117.2 - the fourth-best mark in the NBA.
Jokic's offensive impact is also outlined in the fact that the star ranks second in the league's individual offensive rating metric, just behind the LA Clippers' Kawhi Leonard. The NBA MVP trophy is generally awarded to players who excel more on the offensive front as compared to defense, which makes Jokic an automatic favorite.
Hence, Nikola Jokic ticks all the boxes the jury wants from an NBA MVP candidate - the team's position in the conference, the player's individual prowess and how he has impacted proceedings.
Additionally, the league might suffer from voter fatigue this year, considering Antetokounmpo has now won the Maurice Podoloff Trophy twice in a row, presenting Nikola Jokic with a brilliant opportunity to win the NBA MVP race.