NUGGETS

Nikola Jokic will win NBA MVP and it could be unanimous

Apr 3, 2024, 12:28 PM

Nikola Jokic will become the ninth player in NBA history to win the league’s MVP award three times when the regular season wraps up later this month.

New data from ESPN’s third and final MVP straw poll released on Wednesday tabs Jokic as the soon-to-be clear-cut winner of this year’s Most Valuable Player trophy. So much so that there’s a chance that the Denver Nuggets big man will become just the second player to win the award unanimously.

The straw poll is the most accurate tool we have during the regular season to assess where the MVP race is. It takes 100 media members, two from every market, as well as international and national voices and tracks their votes like the real votes would be counted. Jokic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander landed on all 100 ballots, with ESPN saying the voting took place early this week. Jokic had the biggest lead in a straw poll at 85 first-place votes and 953 total points since he had 969 total points in ESPN’s final straw poll of the 2020-21 campaign. Gilgeous-Alexander, who was briefly thought to be a real competitor to Jokic in the MVP race finished second with 10 of the other 15 first-place votes.

With a win of this year’s MVP Jokic will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as the only players in league history who have won three MVPs. Each of these players has also captured a Finals MVP and a title as well, except for Russell, whose career predates the Bill Russell Finals MVP award.

No doubt, Jokic will end this season as one of the 15-best players in NBA history and that’s not even to mention that the Nuggets now lead the West and Jokic could capture back-to-back titles. Helping Jokic’s legacy case would be a unanimous win of this year’s MVP, a feat that’s only been accomplished by Steph Curry in 2015-16. Both James and Shaquille O’Neal fell one vote short of the feat in 2013 and 2000 respectively.

Last season, Jokic was robbed of winning the MVP, when media members from a league partner used racial bias to influence the race thus making the Nuggets and their star want no part of it. If Joel Embiid hadn’t have won, it would have been three straight for Jokic and thus making this year’s four-in-a-row. Bird is the last player to win three consecutively while four-in-a-row has never been done. There are only five players who have even won the MVP four times. But the one year in Jokic’s prime that he didn’t capture the MVP, he led the Nuggets to a title and won the Finals MVP.

With six games left to go this year for the Nuggets, Jokic has been his steady self and has improved after the All-Star Break where Denver has sped to a 17-5 record. Jokic is now averaging 26.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9 assists a game on 58% shooting, good for league bests in Player Efficiency Rating (31,) Win Shares (15.6,) Box Plus-Minus (13.4) and Value Over Replacement Player (9.8.)

The Nuggets have passed the Thunder, for now, in the standings—which was a big selling point of SGA’s case for the award. Now he may even lose second place for MVP to Luka Doncic, who is leading a late-season surging Mavericks group. Former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the best player on the best team, Jayson Tatum also received first-place votes in the straw poll. If Jokic is going to have to steal first-place votes from all these folks.

At the very least, the award is basically locked up, the straw poll shot Jokic’s odds on sportsbooks from -1,000 to -2,000—which, according to implied odds means Nikola has a 96% chance of winning this year’s MVP.

How Jokic will receive and react to the news of his coming MVP will be interesting. Despite having most people confused about his care for the game, he clearly loves basketball and wants to be great but does not want the attention that comes with it. Jokic’s first MVP was handed out during the second round of the playoffs in front of the fans at Ball Arena. His second MVP came after the Nuggets had already been eliminated from the playoffs and was given to him in his native Serbia by a contingent of Denver staffers who made the journey across the world. With it being the expectation that Denver is going to make a deep playoff run, we may see the MVP trophy handed out in early May when the Nuggets are hosting their second-round foe.

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