Where Nikola Jokic is ranked in the best player race

With a record of 33-25, the Denver Nuggets are currently sixth in the Western Conference with 24 games to play. Denver has done it all without two of their top three players, with Jamal Murray not playing a single minute all season and Michael Porter Jr. playing in just nine games before undergoing back surgery that put the rest of his season in jeopardy.

Even through all of that and all the uncertainty about which players Nuggets will be available for at night, Denver has always been able to count on one thing and that is the massive play of superstar, Nikola Jokic.

Jokic has done a great job keeping the Nuggets above water all season and is arguably playing the best basketball of his career. It seems crazy to say – especially after his MVP season – but Jokic has proven this season that he doesn’t really need star players around him like Murray and Porter to remain the best player in the league. Jokic has unleashed a slew of players in his Nuggets this season, most notably Aaron Gordon, who is the best year of his career.

Gordon currently averages 14.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game while efficiently shooting 51.6 percent of the field. Just playing with Jokic opened up a whole new part of Gordon’s game and no game has been more prominent among players this season than this winning game to culminate in a stunning victory over the Los Angeles Clippers:

In 52 games this season, Jokic has averaged 26 points, 13.8 rebounds (his career high) and 7.9 assists per game while shooting a best 57% from the field. Jokic is eighth in the league when it comes to points and assists in every game and is second in the league in rebounding behind only Rudi Gobert.

Jokic is also providing one of the key performances in the league this season as he netted 49 points in 16 of 25 shots from the field, 3 of 5 of three, and 14 of 16 from the Nuggets’ free throw streak coming from behind to beat the Clippers. It wasn’t just a matter of scoring in that match as Djokic scored a hat-trick as well as 14 rebounds and provided 10 assists as it was indeed one of the best matches of his career.

We’ve all discussed and seen how special the season Jokic has been, but how does he compare to other players in the NBA? Jokic’s toughest MVP achievement at the moment is Joel Embiid, who is serving a career season for the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid has played six fewer games than Jokic (46), but still leads the league with an average of 29.6 points per game.

Photo by Mitchell Leaf/Getty Images

Where Jokic currently has an advantage over Embiid in the rebound, assist and field goals percentage departments is where the big man 76ers average 11.2 boards, 4.5 assists and shoots at 49.5 percent of the field per game. Record wise it’s closer than you might think, as the 76ers are better than Denver at 35-23, which is good for a third place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Given how tough the Western Conference is compared to the Eastern Conference, Jokic definitely has an edge over Embiid in the MVP race at the moment. Jokic and Embiid are set to compete against each other on March 14 in Philadelphia, which could play a role in determining who might get a slight edge when the MVP vote is said and done.

It looks like a big man will win the award this year regardless of Giannis Antetokounmpo putting together another dominant season. Antetokounmpo – a two-time MVP winner – averages 29.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and six assists per game to go along with a solid field goal percentage of 54.7 percent.

Djokic was asked last weekend about his thoughts on the current World Player of the Year race because he – like many of us – hopes another big man will win the award:

Some of the players that lurk in the shadows of the MVP race are Steve Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Ja Morant as the three players put together big numbers for their respective teams. All three feel like the outside looking inside at the moment, although the MVP push really feels like a three-horse race between Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo.

The race could boil down to which team would do best in the standings as Embiid currently has that advantage over Jokic and Antetokounmpo. It’s as if the Nuggets could secure a Top 4 Ranked and Jokic kept putting up the numbers he put up all season which could be followed by a second MVP award in a row.

There’s no telling whether or not the Nuggets will get Murray or Porter back before the season ends as Jokic will have to continue to be a one-man wrecking crew to get the Nuggets where they need to be. Antetokounmpo will get his usual help from players like Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, while Embiid has reinforcements on the way in player like James Harden.

Denver Nuggets x Milwaukee Bucks

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Denver could have their own reinforcements on the road as well, but that situation definitely looks a lot hazier than those surrounding the other MVP candidates. If the Nuggets can continue to stack wins like they did to break the All-Star record, and Jokic’s stats will speak for themselves when all is said and done.

Jokic is trying to become the 13th player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards with Antetokounmpo being the last player to do so in 2020. To put a tangible stamp on where I currently see the MVP race, I think it could be put like this:

1. Jokic

2. Embiid

3. Antetokounmpo

4. Carrie

5. Morante

6. Derosan

You can ask 10 other people and you will probably get 10 different answers, but it seems everyone should have at least the same 3 names in the top 3. There is still a lot of basketball to be played and this race is not close to being finished with the remaining Less than two months in the regular season.

With 24 games remaining, now is the time for Jokic and the Nuggets to make their mark on how they want the rest of this season to go. If they continue to have success to finish the year off strong, Jokic will have to make room and dust for another spot in his trophy bag.

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