Nikola Jokic has been putting up stellar numbers in not only traditional categories but advanced stats too. Yet, the reigning MVP has flown under the radar for the same award this season.
The 26-year-old center being so overlooked has riled up Nuggets Coach Michael Malone. During his postgame press conference with media following the Nuggets’ 87-85 to the Clippers, the veteran coach didn’t hold back on the perceived Jokic slander.
“I think he is one of the more disrespected reigning MVPs that I can think of in terms of the attention,” Malone said per ESPN.
“But if you open up the dictionary, look up the word consistency, there’s going to be a picture of Nikola there. That’s going back to the bubble, that’s going back to a 72-game season last year, and this year we knew Jamal [Murray] was going to be out for an extended period. When you add a Michael Porter, when you add a P.J. Dozier to that [injured] list, it even becomes more incredible what he’s doing.”
As of Wednesday, Jokic is putting up 25.7 points, 14.1 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game. As far as analytics goes, Jokic holds a 112.4 offensive rating, 103.6 defensive rating and leads the League in player impact estimate. The Joker is also in the top 5 for usage, assist percentage, defensive rebound percentage, and rebound percentage.
Compared to last season when Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists on 56.6% shooting, Jokic holds even more responsibility with Murray, Porter, and Dozier out with injuries. Like no other time during his Nuggets tenure, how Jokic goes is how the Nugget will go. The Nuggets are currently sixth in the West with a 20-19 record.
A big reason Jokic hasn’t been in the MVP conversation with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Nuggets’ record. The last MVP to win without having a top-three record was 2017 MVP, Russell Westbrook. The former Thunder guard won it after averaging a triple-double, the first since Oscar Robertson did it during the 1961-1962 season but didn’t win the MVP after guiding the Cincinnati Royals to a 43-37 record.
“I mean, Nikola Jokic is not sexy,” Malone said. “He’s just not. There is nothing about Nikola — his wife might disagree. But if you are a true student of the game, a coach, someone that loves the game being played the right way, then you appreciate him at the level that he should be appreciated at.
— But if you appreciate passing, IQ, reading the game, just what he does every night from a scoring, rebounding, playmaking standpoint, and finally, I am starting to hear that he is getting a little more credit as a defender, and it is well deserved.”