Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is the reigning two-time MVP and he could well win the award for an historic third-consecutive year this season.
The MVP trophy has been renamed as the Michael Jordan Trophy from this season onwards but even the five-time winner, widely regarded as the greatest of all time, didn’t manage to pick up three wins in consecutive years.
Only three players have ever achieved the feat and Larry Bird was the last to do so between 1984 and 1986, matching Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain in winning three awards in a row.
The Nuggets lead the way in the Western Conference with a 35-16 overall record and Jokic is a clear frontrunner in the race for the top individual prize.
|What||2022/23 NBA season|
|Where||United States and Canada|
|When||Regular season: October 28th 2022 - April 9th 2023|
|How to watch||ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV|
There was a hint of controversy over Jokic’s MVP award last season as several commentators felt Philadelphia 76ers’ talisman Joel Embiid should have taken the honor.
The fact the Nuggets were without two stars in Michael Porter Jr and Jamal Murray for the campaign perhaps influenced the decision, as Jokic managed to carry Denver to sixth seed in the West despite the team being incredibly shorthanded.
This year, Porter and Murray are both fit and Denver have emerged as the dominant force in the West.
Jokic averaged career-highs in points and rebounds last season with 27.1 per-game and 13.8 respectively.
This year he is slightly down on those stats with 25.1 points-per-game and 11.1 rebounds, but his assist stats are up as he is averaging 10.0 per-game – meaning he could become just the third player to average a triple-double over the course of a season after Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook.
If Jokic were to average a triple-double and lead Denver to top seed it would be hard to deny him a third MVP award, but it still wouldn't be a foregone conclusion either.
Embiid has been a part of the MVP conversation over the course of the last few seasons, but he is yet to get his hands on the trophy.
The Sixers star is +240 to be named MVP this year and in recent weeks he has firmly established himself as the biggest threat to Jokic’s historic bid.
Embiid is the leading scorer in the NBA with 33.6 points-per-game, just ahead of Luka Doncic on 33.4, and he is 10th in the league in rebounds with 10.0.
The Cameroonian center was behind Dallas’ Doncic and Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum in the MVP betting early in January, but one big game shifted his chances – with Embiid putting in a huge performance as Philly overcame Jokic and Denver on January 28th.
The Nuggets led by 15 points at half-time in Philadelphia but Embiid produced a heroic second-half display to lead the Sixers to 126-119 victory.
He scored 28 points in the second half to finish with 47 in total and added 18 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.
The Sixers sit third in the East with a 32-17 overall record and a few more huge displays like that may well see Embiid take control in the MVP battle.
It is worth remembering that the MVP award is not determined simply on stats or by what a team achieves. Instead, it is decided by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the USA and Canada – and that is why sometimes the favorites, and indeed best players, can miss out, with some of the voters focusing on the narrative and the overall impact a player has for his team rather than just raw numbers.
Jokic and Embiid are the clear leading contenders but +400 chance Doncic and Tatum, at +1000, are very much still in the running.
Doncic is carrying Dallas and has produced some incredible performances this season – most notably a 60-point triple-double in a comeback win over the New York Knicks.
The argument for Jokic over Embiid last year was, in part at least, the fact that he was clearly Denver’s most important player – and there can be no doubt that Doncic is the same for Dallas.
Tatum’s case is perhaps hindered by the fact that he is in such a strong team and it is hard to make as much of a statement when there is so much talent around him.
However, there can be no denying that the Celtics are a far more effective side – at both ends of the court – when he is involved.
Tatum’s challenge for the MVP crown has stalled, but he isn’t out of the mix just yet and, if he can recapture his early-season form and lead Boston to top seed in the East, then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him claim the Michael Jordan Trophy.