MVP

NBA Swing: Ranking Nikola Jokic’s Three MVP Awards

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This past Wednesday, Nikola Jokic was awarded the 2023-24 NBA Kia MVP, his third award in four years. Jokic would finish with 79 of the 99 first-place votes, finishing with 926 total points. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would finish in second place with 15 first-place votes and 640 total points. In third, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic would finish with four first-place votes and 566 total points. During the segment on TNT, legendary big man Shaquille O’Neal argued that Jokic should not have won the award and SGA should have won the award. Shaq would go as far as telling him that SGA should have won the award over him when the two spoke during the segment. Looking back at Joker’s three MVP awards, all three are well deserved, but some are more impressive than others. 

 

3: 2021-22 Season 

Stats: 74 GP, 27.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG

 

Of his three MVP awards, Jokic’s 2021-22 MVP was the award that received the most criticism from the start. The Denver Nuggets would finish with a 48-34 record, sixth in the Western Conference. The last player to win the award in a seed that low would be Russell Westbrook who won the award in 2017. In second place would be Sixers big man Joel Embiid and in third place would be Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Sixers and Bucks would both finish with 51-31 records, fourth and third in the East, respectively. The Nuggets would be carried by Jokic as star guard Jamal Murray missed the entire season due to an ACL injury the previous season. 

 

Voter fatigue would result in Antetokounmpo finishing as the lowest finalist while Embiid’s season was hampered by the Ben Simmons drama that started in the 2021 playoffs. Arguments could be made for other players who got MVP votes, including Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, who led the team to a 64-18 record Of his three MVP awards, the 2022-22 award has the most arguments against Jokic and for other players to win instead.

 

2: 2023-24 Season 

Stats: 79 GP, 26.4 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 9.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.9 BPG

 

Jokic’s third MVP has already become controversial less than a week after being announced, but the argument for him to win the award is just as strong as members of the media have made for him to not win the award. The main argument being made against Jokic’s latest MVP is that OKC guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should have won the award. Both teams would finish with 57-25 records, OKC landing first in the West and Denver landing second. Jokic would play four more games than SGA and separated himself with his advanced stats. Looking at the basic stats, SGA would outscore Joker with 30.1 PPG and have more steals with 2.0 SPG. Jokic would be more efficient, having better-shooting percentages from both the field and beyond the arc. 

 

With Jokic, Denver would go 55-24 with him and 2-1 without him. For OKC, the Thunder would go 55-20 with SGA, but would also go 2-5 without him. The quick hate for Jokic’s third MVP win could also be attributed to winning fatigue, as Joker has finished first or second in the MVP award race over the last four seasons. A major shadow looming over Jokic’s third MVP is Joel Embiid, who many argued would have won the award if the NBA did not set a 65-games played minimum to be in consideration for awards. 

 

Regardless of who should and should not have won the award, Jokic’s third MVP award puts him alongside elite company who have won three or more MVP awards including Moses Malone (3), Magic Johnson (3), Larry Bird (3), Wilt Chamberlain (4), LeBron James (4), Bill Russell (5), Michael Jordan (5), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6).

 

1: 2020-21 Season 

Stats: 72 GP, 26.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 8.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG

 

Jokic’s 2020-21 MVP would not only be his first MVP award, but the best of the three he has won. The 2020-21 season had a quick turnaround following the post-global shutdown 2019-20 season and playoffs. Denver would finish 47-25 in the shortened 72 games season, landing third in the Western Conference. Finishing in second place would be Sixers big man Joel Embiid and in third would be Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry. The Warriors would finish with a 39-33 record, ninth in the West, but would be carried by Curry with other key players missing and numerous young players being the on team. 

 

The Sixers would finish 49-33 with the best record in the East. With the race mainly being between the two, the stats were like one another with a few key differences. Embiid would finish averaging 28.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 51 games played. Embiid would miss 21 games while Jokic would play every game that season. Embiid would also have reliable help in Tobias Harris and All-Star Ben Simmons at the time. For Denver, Michael Porter Jr. would miss a handful of games, the Nuggets would not trade for Aaron Gordon until the trade deadline, and would lose guard Jamal Murray late in the season due to an ACL injury, but Jokic would step up his game to keep Denver towards the top of the West. For Jokic, the 2020-21 was his breakout season as many finally saw what the Nuggets big man was all about. 

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