Nikola Jokic is this season's reigning MVP, but despite having another outstanding season, he is often overshadowed in the MVP race. But Bill Simmons, the founder of The Ringer and a former ESPN employee, believes the Denver Nuggets star is the MVP right now.
Last season, Jokic played in all 72 games, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game, with an efficient field goal percentage of 60%. This season, he is averaging 26 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists, with an efficient field goal percentage of 62%. On top of that, his defensive rating, which was seen as his weakness, has dropped from 109 to 104 this season.
“The outlier of this of this season, that no one wants to talk about, is Jokic. Jokic is averaging 26-14-8. He is shooting 57%. He is a borderline 57-40-80 guy. … They’re 33-25. They’re one game behind Philly. To me, he’s clearly the MVP right now as we head into the All-Star break. But I think most people have him third.”
With Jokic playing better the year after his MVP run and doing so with a team beset by injuries, it's a surprise he isn’t higher on people's MVP rankings. It is still too early to say who the MVP is, but Jokic will be part of the decision, and Simmons believes he should be first.
The argument for and against Nikola Jokic being the MVP
The cases for and against Nikola Jokic winning another MVP in back-to-back seasons make sense. He is leading a team beyond what it would be without him. The counterargument is that other players are having equally great seasons, but their teams are higher in the standings.
Last season, many other MVP candidates got hurt, helping Jokic’s candidacy. He was the healthiest while also playing amazingly, and there wasn’t anyone in his way. With Embiid and Antetokounmpo in the mix this year, there is more competition, and the NBA media seems to be embracing those players over Jokic.
The Nuggets (33-24) are in sixth place in the Western Conference. But they have only two fewer wins than the Philadelphia 76ers (35-23) and three fewer than the Milwaukee Bucks (36-24) in a harder conference.
On top of that, Jamal Murray hasn't played, and Michael Porter Jr. played nine games before requiring back surgery. That has left Jokic with no elite talent on the court with him. That factor adds to the value of the Nuggets' position in the West.
How a media member defines the MVP award will likely decide how they view Jokic's second MVP run.
If they believe the MVP award should go to a player playing fantastic on a good team, then Embiid and Antetokounmpo make sense.
The other side of this is to look at how a team performs when a player is not on the court compared to how the team performs when that player is on or off the court. If that is something that someone voting for MVP would take into account, then Jokic could be the clear MVP.