- Mamadou Tall
All Jokes Aside, Jokic is the MVP
In my years of watching the NBA, I have never witnessed a player get this overlooked and disregarded by the media and fans. Tune into sports talk shows, and you'll seldomly hear Nikola Jokic's name brought MVP debates. Even in casual basketball conversations, it's rare that a person will bring up Jokic when talking about the league's best; forget about the MVP.
Regardless of the lack of attention and praise levied towards the reigning MVP, Jokic continues to move. His path to this point never involved the gaze of the mainstream public anyways. Nikola Jokic entered the NBA as an early second-round draft pick. Crazy when thinking about the status he has reached as a player. No one would have guessed that a 6'11 Serbian drafted in the second round would eventually become the NBA's MVP. It never happened until Jokic became the first player drafted in the second round to win MVP last season.
He hasn't slowed down. As of right now he sits at the top of the NBA's MVP Ladder, and for much of the year, he has been the front runner if you ask me. Jokic averages 26 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.6 assists on 57-37-80 shooting splits. His counting numbers do his play justice, but nothing compares to watching him play. Jokic is arguably the most skilled big man in the history of the NBA. The man is a 6'11 three-level scorer with a basketball IQ that's off the charts. His IQ allows him to impact any game he plays in.
Aside from getting buckets, the most impressive aspect of Jokic's game is his ability to play the role of facilitator for the Denver Nuggets. His season average of 7.8 assists ranks him eighth in the NBA and first among all front-court players. Jokic has always been the best passer on the Nuggets for the past couple of years. Some players have that passing gift. Nikola Jokic has that gift without a doubt.
On the offensive end, Jokic is among the best of the best. His improved defensive approach this season boosts his case for MVP. In seasons past Jokic's defense has been holding him and his team back. His lackadaisical rotations and efforts are a thing of the past. This season Jokic has been impressive on defense. I respect it more because he isn't the most athletic player. He isn't the most agile or nimble. His increased effort has him sitting among the league's best bigs defensively. Not only does he have the best defensive rating on his team (103.1 per 100 possessions), Jokic has noticeably made improvements defensively. His pick-and-roll defense has picked up. The point is, he's making more game-winning plays on the defensive end than he ever has. He's got two game-winning blocks this season.
With the absence of co-stars, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr the Denver Nuggets are sitting at the 6th seed with a 28-23 record. The Joker has carried them up until the All-Star break. As things start to heat up later in the season, I can only see Jokic's play rising to the occasion. He hasn't shown us any reasons to think otherwise.
I think about the MVP award and I take the literal meaning into account. Most Valuable Player. Look at box score stats, Jokic is up there. Watch the game; it's obvious how much Jokic does for the Nuggets. Let the film and the numbers talk. He leads the league in field goals made, win shares, offensive win shares, player efficiency rating, offensive box plus/minus (per Basketball Reference). Those are just some of the numbers. For the film. You can tune into a Denver Nuggets game and watch for yourself. Here's some film that Thinking Basketball made for the NBA. Tell me what you think? Looks like a MVP to me.