Nikola Jokic should be an exception to NBA MVP voter fatigue

Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) /

Could Nikola Jokic be the exception when it comes to NBA MVP voter fatigue? 

It’s an unfortunate reality, but NBA MVP fatigue is a real thing.

Everyone loves the shiny new toy but as soon as it accumulates a bit of rust or gets a squeaky wheel, it quickly becomes yesterday’s news even with hundreds of miles left on it. As Glenn Frey once sang, “they will never forget you ’till somebody new comes along.”

If it wasn’t for MVP fatigue, LeBron James could probably have won it every year in his prime, Michael Jordan could have won seven, and Kobe Bryant would certainly have at least one more.

It’s simply the nature of greatness. We get used to it and grow numb to its absurdity.

Nikola Jokic has won back-to-back MVPs. Winning the award in two straight seasons has become a surprisingly common occurrence as Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron, Stephen Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo have all done it this century. However, nobody has three-peated since Larry Bird did it from 1984-86.

There was already a bit of fatigue with Jokic last year but it seems to be even stronger this year. The crazy thing is, this is the best Jokic we’ve ever seen. We live in an era of the NBA where superstars are putting up absurd stats every night. Donovan Mitchell scored 71 points in one of the most ridiculous offensive displays in recent memory. Luka Doncic was the first player in NBA history to put up a 60-20-10 stat line. Jayson Tatum is doing something magical on the offensive end seemingly every night.

All of these men (and more) are having MVP-caliber seasons and would be more than deserving if they can keep it up the rest of the way. However, there’s a massive Serbian still lingering in the wings, helping his team win every night in a variety of ways, who when off the floor, his team is lost.

Jokic is having his best season of all time and like other previous MVP candidates, it seems the world is growing numb to his greatness. The shiny new toys are starting to show off, but ole reliable is still chugging away just as relentlessly as before.

The case for another Nikola Jokic MVP

Before we dig into it, it should be noted that a lot can change between game 38 and game 82. Injuries can happen, players can fall off, and losing streaks can pile up. You just never know. This is simply an assessment of the here and now.

Jokic is currently averaging 25.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 9.5 assists. Those numbers aren’t as flashy as some of the other candidates listed above, but with Jokic, numbers don’t tell the whole story. If Jokic really wanted to, he could be putting up similar offensive performances to the high-scoring guards.

But that’s not as important to him.

This is a man who cherishes passing the ball. A man who seems to reinvent the art of passing every night and conjures up memories of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in their primes. Guys love playing with him because if you’re open he will find you. Without him on the floor, the team has a -30 point differential. Is that not the simplest definition of how valuable someone is to their team?

He has a 45.7 percent assist percentage. That rate is nearly twice as high as any other center in the league. We have never seen a passing 5 man like him.

Jokic’s player efficiency rating is 32.15, right up there with Luka. His Box Plus/Minus of 12.1 leads the league and is higher than his MVP season.

Jokic’s true shooting percentage this season (percentage adjusted for three-pointers and free throws) is 68.7 percent. It is third in the league, but as noted by John Hollinger of The Athletic, it leads for medium-to-high usage players (anyone over 20 percent) and is the best mark of his career.

These are all advanced statistics that you don’t always notice until after the games are over, but it doesn’t take much studying in real time to notice how special he is.

The biggest difference between this year and the past two years is the Nuggets are actually contenders. Very rarely do you see the award go to somebody who is on a team with an outside chance at winning a title. That goes to show how amazing Jokic has been over the past two years. But now it’s a whole different animal.

Denver leads the west with a 24-13 record. The Denver Nuggets are title contenders now.

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There’s a lot of competition, but if Jokic can keep this pace the rest of the way, there’s no reason to say he’s not deserving of the MVP award once again.