Who Can Stop Nikola Jokic From Winning NBA MVP?

We publish independently audited information that meets our strong editorial guidelines. Be aware we may earn a commission if you purchase anything via links on our pages.
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers

With one week to go before the end of the regular season, an ESPN poll of voters puts Nikola Jokic well ahead of the pack for the MVP title. Behind the Serb, four superstars are still dreaming of the trophy.

Nikola Jokic: the Joker on cloud nine
6’11” 29 years old, Denver
26.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9 assists

Nikola Jokic on course for a 3rd title, after 2021 and 2022? According to ESPN, which surveyed 100 journalists voting for the MVP award, the Serbian is number 1 for 85% of those polled. The 4th best passer in the NBA, 4th rebounder and 11th scorer, the MVP of the last Finals still shines in all areas, brilliantly orchestrating the play of a Denver team battling for first place in the West and favourites for his own succession.

Should he win a third trophy, Jokic would join a select club of eight legends with at least three MVP titles: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6), Bill Russell and Michael Jordan (5), LeBron James and Wilt Chamberlain (4), Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (3).

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Nash’s successor?
6’6″, 25 years old, Oklahoma City
30.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.1 steals

The leader of the talented OKC franchise, he is one of the league’s most promising players. A formidable scorer (3rd best average in the league) and king of changes of pace, he relentlessly attacks the circle (23.6 drives/game, n°1 in the NBA) to finish from close range or mid-range. “SGA” also makes a name for himself on defense, as the lanky guard is the NBA’s best interceptor (2.1/game). The Canadian has made the Thunder a contender for first place in the West (battling with Denver and Minnesota) and appears to be Jokic’s main rival. Could he succeed Steve Nash, the first (and last) Canadian MVP in 2005 and 2006? The end of his season, with its less than stellar performances and an injury, could work against him.

Luka Doncic: the magician at the top of his game
6’7″, 25 years old, Dallas
33.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9.8 assists

Top scorer in the league, the Slovenian surpassed the 40-point mark again against the Rockets a few days ago. The point guard has been on another planet since the start of the season, with several offensive cards: 73 points against Atlanta in January, 50 points in Phoenix in December and 49 points against Brooklyn in October. “Luka Magic has already scored a record 13 games over 40 points. On the negative side, the Mavericks’ record, only fifth in the West, is likely to work against the point guard in the minds of voters.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: the two-time MVP doesn’t give up
6’11” 29 years old, Milwaukee.
30.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists.

In a team that is having a tricky season, despite finishing 2nd in the East, Antetokounmpo continues to torment the rackets. The “Greak Freak” scores the most points in the paint (18.1/game), boasts a career-best shooting average of 61.3% and leads the league in fouls caused for the fifth season in a row.

This season, he has also made a habit of shining against his main rivals for the MVP title (Doncic, Jokic and SGA): four wins in five head-to-head meetings and an average of 36 points and 14 rebounds on 69% shooting. But in the face of formidable competition, that may not be enough.

Jayson Tatum: the Massachusetts outsider
6’7″ m, 26 years old, Boston.
This season: 27.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists.

The winger is the best player on the best team in the league. A strong argument, but Tatum suffers from the statistical comparison with the other monster MVP candidates. “I think he’s underrated in this discussion,” reckons his coach Joe Mazzulla.

“I don’t score as many points as those ahead of me in the MVP race, but I hope the voters are smart enough to understand the dynamics of our team,” he pleaded in The Athletic. After finishing 4th in the MVP last season, he can still hope to do better this year. And he’ll take solace in the fact that the Celtics are going in search of the franchise’s 18th title.


This article originally written by Orlando Vinson of L’Equipe