Early NBA MVP race has crowded field of candidates, including Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic


DENVER — Nikola Jokic may just be putting together his best season.

It still may not be enough to get the Denver Nuggets’ big man a third straight NBA MVP.

Chalk that up to MVP fatigue. Or to the glaringly good numbers of a crowded field of early candidates, including Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and Stephen Curry.

Jokic isn’t having to shoulder as much of the load with the return this season of fellow Nuggets stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. He’s also taken his unselfish play to another level, which may not do him any favors in the MVP race, but it sure does help the Nuggets.

That’s just fine with coach Michael Malone. He’ll gladly take this version of the player nicknamed “Joker,” the one averaging a career-best 8.8 assists to go with 23 points and 9.8 rebounds through the first quarter of the season.

“I don’t worry about the MVP buzz,” said Malone, whose team moved to 13-7 after a 129-113 win over Houston on Monday night where Jokic had 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. “If we continue to win, Nikola is going to be in the MVP conversation because of the fact that he impacts the game on so many different levels.”

Last season, Jokic put up 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists because that was the best way for Denver to win. The Nuggets didn’t have Murray (knee) and barely had Porter (back).

These days, Jokic lets the game dictate which stat category he dominates. Sometimes, it’s through his pinpoint passes. Others, with his deft shooting touch.

To illustrate: He took nine shots and had 14 assists in a win at Oklahoma City on Nov. 3. Twenty days later, and back at Oklahoma City, he erupted 39 points in another win.

Jokic is trying to join the company of Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as players who’ve each won the MVP award in three straight seasons. But Jokic is well down the odds list of early favorites.

Antetokounmpo and Doncic are both the favorites at +280, according FanDuel Sportsbook. Behind Tatum, Curry, Joel Embiid, Donovan Mitchell, Ja Morant and tied with Kevin Durant, is Jokic (+2700).


Source link