Despite nearly averaging a triple-double while leading the upstart Denver Nuggets to the second-seed in the Western Conference, Nikola Jokic finds himself slipping in the NBA MVP race. On the back of two underwhelming performances against the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, Jokic will need to finish strong over the Nuggets’ last 16 games in order to overtake heavy favorites Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and James Harden.
Nikola Jokic NBA MVP Race Update
According to NBA.com’s MVP Ladder, Jokic’s sub-par performances in his last two games have dropped him back from fourth in the NBA MVP race to fifth. Especially considering one of those games was a loss at the hands of Steph Curry (who leapfrogged him) and the Golden State Warriors. Jokic rightfully saw his MVP stock drop slightly.
The Nuggets own the ninth toughest remaining schedule (per Tankathon) and face the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers twice along with the Thunder and Warriors. The good news on this front is that if Jokic can guide the Nuggets to a strong finish and post big games against Stephen Curry and Paul George, he could very well make a strong case to salvage his NBA MVP race.
While Harden’s scoring run captivated the nation early in the season and Paul George’s late-season push has pushed him up in the MVP race, Jokic has mostly flown under the radar compared to his fellow MVP candidates. Voters are notoriously tough to players who are making their first appearance on the MVP ballot (just ask James Harden) and while it is unlikely Jokic will be able to sway the minds of voters this late in the year, his 2018-2019 season undoubtedly cements him as a frontrunner in MVP races for years to come.
Nikola Jokic Nuggets Stats
On the season, Jokic averages 20.4 points per game to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists while shooting the ball at a 50.7% clip. Jokic also boasts the fifth best player efficiency rating in the NBA with a 26.9 mark (per basketball-reference). Arguably most impressive is the fact that Jokic owns the 35th ranked usage rate in the NBA, meaning he puts up his impressive numbers while still allowing his teammates to be heavily involved. Every other serious contender in the NBA MVP race ranks in the top 25 in the league in usage, making Jokic’s near triple-double even more impressive.
A cerebral big man, Jokic flashes some of the best passing out of the center position in NBA history and the Nuggets deploy him often in a “point-center” role. The Nuggets love to dump the ball down to Jokic at the elbow in half-court sets and simply let him either break down his man or pick apart the defense with his deadly passing accuracy. His offensive versatility gives the Nuggets an offensive look that causes mismatches with just about every team in the NBA.