Nikola Jokic has a clear path to the MVP Award

Mar 19, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bulls at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s crunch time, folks.

At 25-17, the Denver Nuggets are currently amongst the middle of the pack in the NBA’s Western Conference. With only 30 games left to play, the Nuggets need to sharpen up and get locked in for the last stretch of play. Should the Nuggets hunker down, and put their best foot forward, it could yield a top seed in the playoffs and a possible MVP trophy for Nikola Jokic.

Jokic opened the season as a long shot to win MVP, but after 42 games, he is now the front runner across the board at many books.

The Joker is averaging 27 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per contest and has single-handily kept the Nuggets season alive on numerous occasions. There is no question that Jokic has been one of the top players in the league this season, but the team’s overall success at the end of the year might be the overall deciding factor in who will be named league MVP.

With injuries sidelining both LeBron James and Joel Embiid for the foreseeable future, a clear path has opened for Jokic to seize the first MVP award in franchise history potentially.

Jokic has always been considered a unicorn for his style of play. The NBA’s Orlando bubble played a big role in getting Jokic, and the Nuggets, on the map. He’s followed up his efforts from last summer by putting together a dominant season across the board, which has included numerous highlight-reel plays and epic clutch performances.

With James and Embiid out for the foreseeable future, Jokic has become the leader in the pack from a pure talent perspective.

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers has also put together a compelling case. Additionally, household names like Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden have also entered the MVP conversation, but for the moment, they appear to have an outside chance for a variety of reasons. Harden’s decision to join a super team in Brooklyn makes it hard to put his success above Jokic or Lillard. Giannis has won the last two, and while he’s been great this season, he will need to really transform into a more elite version of himself down the stretch to win the award for a third straight year.

It’s unlikely that Embiid and James return this season with enough time to firmly solidify themselves as MVP, which means if Jokic can stay healthy and the rest of the team turns things up a notch, Jokic could find a path to the hardware.

Denver and Portland are currently pegged as the 5th and 6th seeds in the Western Conference, and the team that finishes with the best record could very well end up with the league MVP for the season.

Denver is currently on a two-game losing streak, although Jokic is not to blame as he posted a double-double and triple-double in both losses. He’s played at an elite level all season despite all the injuries and turmoil within the roster. The Nuggets have the potential to return to their bubble-form, but we have yet to see the team generate any form of sustainable momentum outside of Jokic.

If Jokic were playing for Utah or Los Angeles this season, he’d be the MVP, hands down. That said, since he’s playing in Denver, the team will need to rise to the top of the standings in order to get Jokic serious MVP consideration when the voting takes place. Should the Nuggets figure out a way to become a top-four seed, finish ahead of the Blazers, and Jokic continues to play at this level, there’s a clear path towards the award.