Nikola Jokic takes early pole position for MVP, familiar rival in 2nd
Nov 10, 2023, 12:01 PM
For the fourth straight season, the NBA’s MVP award is shaping up to be a battle of big men, with the same two stars gunning for the award.
According to NBA.com’s first MVP Ladder of the season, Nikola Jokic has the edge over Joel Embiid as the race for the biggest individual honor gets going. Michael C. Wright penned that Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander round out the top five with big names like Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo having good enough starts to keep an eye on.
The Denver Nuggets league-best 8-1 start to their title defense led by Jokic has placed the center atop the ladder. Many felt the award was stolen from him and given to Embiid a season ago, and the playoff performances of the two seemed to justify that regular-season take. Embiid is looking to win the award in back-to-back seasons, something done by Jokic before him and Antetokounmpo before that. While Jokic is looking to become the ninth player in league history to be named MVP three times.
Thus far, Jokic is averaging 29.1 points, 12.9 rebounds and eight assists per game. That would be a career-best points per game mark, and he’s doing so on 66% eFG, which is the top number of his career. The Serbian’s assists numbers are down slightly early on but his board count is on pace for second-best of his already dominating career. The points per game are sixth-best in the league, rebounds second and assists seventh.
Jokic looks more emotional early on this year and is playing excellent defense. Among players who have logged 200 minutes, Jokic has the 13th-best offensive rating and 16th-best defense rating. He’s also taking way more threes in the early going. Of his shots nine games in, 22.7% have been from deep whereas last year that mark was 14.6%—he’s shooting 33% from three. Inside the arc, Jokic is shooting 70.7%, which is by far and away the best in the league.
Next on the list are Embiid and Luka, who are, in order, the top two scorers in the early days of the season. Embiid’s numbers are up across the board, but Doncic’s been stunning thus far, tallying two triple-doubles, which only trails Jokic’s three.
While none of these players will win NBA based on November, you can take yourself out of the race. Jokic is not only once again in the race but pacing the field as this will again be a talking point all season long.