Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets wins second MVP award
By Victor Mather
Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets center with the passing touch and shooting stroke of a guard, won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award for the second consecutive season.
Jokic, 27, received 65 of 100 first-place votes. Last season, he was the top choice of 91 of 101 voters from members of the news media and a fan vote.
The 6-foot-11 Jokic stands out among big men with how he can score from inside and bang the boards, yet also hit from outside and find open teammates. He averaged 27.1 points per game during the regular season, the second most among centers, behind Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who was the league’s overall scoring leader and finished second in the MVP voting with 26 first-place votes. Jokic was best among centers in assists, with 7.9 per game.
His ability to palm the ball and execute passes, rebounds and floaters with one hand has been likened to a player in water polo, a game Jokic enjoyed as a child in Serbia, where the sport is phenomenally popular. His combination of skills has made him the focal point of the Nuggets’ sixth-ranked offense.
Jokic’s statistics during the regular season were consistent with last season’s MVP figures, and he increased his defensive rebounding to 11 per game from eight. He ranked in the top 10 in points, assists and rebounds.
He became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Kevin Garnett and Oscar Robertson have come within 10% of those three figures in statistics for a single season.
Jokic was a 19-year-old playing for Mega Basket of Serbia in the Adriatic League when the Nuggets drafted him in the second round in 2014. Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris, Denver’s first-rounders that year through a trade with Chicago, drew the attention, while Jokic was considered a speculative pick.
He came to the NBA in the 2015-16 season and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaging 10 points a game. By his fourth season, in 2018-19, he was averaging 20.1 points per game and had been named an All-Star. That season, he led the Nuggets to their first playoff berth in six years and their first playoff series win in 10. Denver made it to the conference finals in 2019-20.
The loss of guard Jamal Murray for the 2021-22 season to a knee injury was a blow to the Nuggets, and as a sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, they lost in the first round to a hot Golden State team that was peaking at the right time, four games to one.
The Nuggets’ future is always going to look bright with Jokic on the roster. He said last month that he expected to sign a supermax contract extension with the team. “If offer’s on the table of course I’m going to accept it,” Jokic said.