As the NBA’s regular season 2020-21 draws to a close, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has emerged as a frontrunner for the NBA’s most prestigious individual award – Most Valuable Player. Jokic is the consensus leader for the honor at this point ahead of other contestants like Joel Embiid, Chris Paul and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he is the favorite of oddsmakers. If Jokic were to win the award, he would be the first center to do so since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 and the first Nuggets player ever to win it.
Despite the hype, however, Jokic does not focus on price. Or at least he does not admit it publicly. After helping drive Denver to a recent 110-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, Jokic denied that the Maurice Podoloff Trophy gave him an extra motivation.
“I never play basketball to win individual awards,” Jokic said. “So MVP is just something that people and media are trying to make a story out of it. So if it hpens, hpens it. I don’t play for it. Like I said, as long as we win, I’m hpy.”
These comments repeat comments made by Jokic during a recently pearance on ESPN’s The Jump.
“I never think about it [the MVP Award] to be honest, “said Jokic.” I did not come here to be MVP in the league. I always think someone is better than me. I want to compete to beat him. Just by this mentality I will always be an underdog. “
Jokic’s nonchalant proach differs from other candidates. When asked if he should be in the MVP conversation, the Knicks continue Julius Randle replied: “I certainly will not shy away from it.” Last month, Embiid, who is never shy about a microphone, proclaimed that there was no doubt that he was an MVP.
“There is no doubt [I’m MVP]”Said Embiid.” The most important thing that I always focus on is winning. When you win, everyone on this team wins. If you do not win, these things will not come. My focus is always on winning the championship, and with winning comes rewards. I’ve been dominant all season, it feels like every time I have the ball, the three guys send on me and I’m still able to do what I do best. When you look at our rankings and my numbers, I feel like I should also be on the All-Defensive Team because I can do it on both sides. “
Jokic may not be as fierce about his candidacy as others, and he may not care at all, but he probably wins the award anyway. No one has been as good, as consistent as Jokic has been this season. Damian Lillard has faded a bit after a strong start. Steph Curry has come extremely strong in recent weeks, but the fact that his Warriors are on their way to the play-in tournament can be held against him. Chris Paul has been instrumental in making the Suns a legitimate competitor, but his numbers are a bit modest for an MVP. When it comes to Antetokounmpo, voters are unlikely to pick him for a third season in a row, especially as the Bucks have faltered in the mail season the past few seasons.
Injury issues knocked both LeBron James and James Harden out of the conversation, and they also stand as the biggest stain against Embid’s case. Embiid has been directly dominant this season, and if he had played the same number of games as Jokic, there is a good chance he would be the odds-on favorite, given that he is the superior defender. But while Embiid has missed 19 games for the Sixers due to injuries and the league’s health and safety records, Jokic has played in every single game for Denver. Fair or not, voters are likely to use this as a differentiating criterion. During a Nuggets broadcast last month, Reggie Miller discussed Jokic’s MVP candidacy, and he had this to say:
“[Jokic] have played in every match this season. All the other forerunners of MVP, Joel Embiid, LeBron James, James Harden, all these guys have missed out on considerable time … You will have to give some credit to those who have played in every single game and also set up these numbers . “
Unfortunately for Embiid, a number of others, including price voters, are likely to share that view. The fact that Jokic has been healthier than other contestants has certainly helped his cause, and it’s fine to admit that. It does not take away from what he has done on the field. But let’s not act as if Jokic winning the award would only be a result of wear and tear. His numbers on the season – 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Performance – is excellent and he has the Nuggets close to the top of the playoff picture in the competitive Western Conference. Denver will most likely finish either third or fourth in the West this season, despite losing Jamal Murray to a season-ending knee injury in the race. In fact, Jokic will be able to keep the Nuggets rolling without Murray (they have gone 9-2 since his injury) will work to strengthen his case.
There often seem to be different criteria for the MVP award, but Jokic’s value for the Nuggets is undeniable, no matter what metrics are used. He’s had a season of times and he’s likely to be awarded the MVP Award for celebrating it – even if he does not care.