Will Jokic Three-Peat?

Joshua Breeden, Sports Editor

As the final quarter of the NBA regular season plays out, the race for the MVP award has become a close race. Similar to the last few years, it seems like it is Nikola Jokic’s award to lose. Jokic, the reigning MVP for the past two years, currently leads the list of top contenders, averaging 24.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 10 assists per game. The remainder of the pack are No. 2 Giannis Antetokounmpo, No. 3 Jayson Tatum, No. 4 Joel Embiid, and No. 5 Luka Doncic. What’s eye-opening is that all four of those players are averaging more points than Jokic and the argument that’s being made among pundits is that Jokic is averaging a triple double. Only two players have ever averaged a triple double over the course of the season–Oscar Robertson (1963-1964) and Russell Westbrook (2016-2017)–who both won MVP for those seasons.

To me, the debate lies less with the triple doubles and more with the team’s success. Currently, the Denver Nuggets are the No. 1 team in the Western Conference and they haven’t lost a game this season where Jokic recorded a triple double (24-0). During Russell Wesbrook’s MVP season, he led the Thunder to the sixth seed in the 2017 playoffs before losing in the first round to the Houston Rockets. Both averaged triple doubles, but as of now, Jokic seems to have a bigger impact on his team’s success when he performs well. Analysts have argued for years about the “Most valuable player.” Is it the player who puts up the best stats? Is it the player who helps their team win more games? In this rare situation, we see Jokic’s stats as vital to the Nuggets’ success. To me, it makes sense that in both arguments for the award, Jokic should take the MVP.

However, something people don’t usually look at is out in the East, where Giannis Antetokounmpo has had a very familiar effect on the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo is currently averaging 31.3 points, 12 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He dishes only half as many assists as Jokic, but the Bucks are the No. 1 team in the NBA with the Nuggets behind by one loss. Where Antetokounmpo falls short is the help he has. Milwaukee center Brook Lopez is No. 3 in blocks in the NBA. None of the Nuggets are in the top 10 in any statistical category besides Jokic (third in rebounds and fourth in assists). Although Giannis scores more than Jokic does, the impact he has on the Bucks is not as deep as that of Jokic on the Nuggets. Jokic is also playing in the far tougher Western Conference with less help from Denver teammates. 

I do think it will be a tight race as the season winds down, but I expect Jokic to three-peat as MVP. If Jokic achieves that, he will be the fourth man in NBA history to three-peat as MVP, joining the likes of Hall of Famers Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird. He would also be the ninth player ever to win three MVP awards. 

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