Nikola Jokić’s MVP case is hidden in plain sight (again)

Nikola Jokic tends to make spectacular looks mundane. Boston This play in the 3rd quarter of his recent game against the Celtics was just one of his 40,904 passes Denver has thrown as a member of his Nuggets. Starting near the top of the key, Jokic dribbled vigorously into the paint where he swung his feet off once and fired a short overhead feed into the cut Michael Porter Jr. .

It is also a symbol of Jokic’s unconventional talent. When Passer without having to hold the ball for more than a moment. And his Nuggets finally showed up in clean health and the Westerns were built to contend for his conference throne. Jokic has a strong case that he will only go where Bill Russell, Wilt He Chamberlain, and Larry Bird left. Tired.

Let’s start with the top line numbers. You may not be able to say “MVP” right away. The Joker is averaging 25.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game, along with a 62% field goal shooting percentage, a 35% 3-point shooting percentage, and an 81% 3-point shooting percentage, making him his highest MVP. Assists are the only one that significantly exceeds the standard. free throw line. According to FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Player Ratings, Jokic ranks 2nd in RAPTOR offensively, 3rd in defensively in RAPTOR, and leads the league in total wins between RAPTOR and RAPTOR. . replacement. He’s also third in the league in true shooting percentage, thanks in large part to his 66% mark from a career-best two-point range.

Jokic leads the NBA in stats…again

Most RAPTORs win over substitutes among 2022-23 NBA players

player team minutes offense defense total war
Nikola Jokic den 1143 +9.8 +4.8 +14.6 10.29
Luka Doncic Dar 1296 11.2 -1.0 10.2 8.60
Kevin Durant BRKMore 1296 5.2 1.0 6.2 5.97
Donovan Mitchell Kure 1248 6.3 -0.8 5.5 5.26
Tyrese Halliburton IND 1201 7.4 -1.7 5.7 5.18
Anthony Davis Lal 836 4.0 5.4 9.3 5.16
Stephen Curry GSWMore 894 8.9 -0.9 8.0 4.97
Jason Tatum boss 1291 5.5 -0.9 4.6 4.85
Joel Embiid Phi 993 3.4 3.3 6.7 4.83
Paul George rack 1004 4.0 2.3 6.4 4.71

through the January 2nd game

Source: NBA Advanced Stats,

But perhaps more impressive and groundbreaking than Jokic’s figures are the how He’s going to do them — and that’s the crux of his PostScript MVP case. Joker is having his best “invisible” all-around season to date. He is only one of three players with a utilization rate of less than 30%, averaging 25 points per game and recording eight assists. He’s the third-best in the NBA as he puts in his mark of 68.7 percent true shooting and is arguably the most quietly deadly offensive in modern times coming his season.

Jokic is in his own infrequently used league

NBA players averaging at least 25 points and 8 assists per game with less than 30% utilization from 1968 to 2023

season player team PPG USG% APGMore TS%
2022-23 Nikola Jokic den 25.6 28.5 9.5 68.7
2020-21 Nikola Jokic den 26.4 29.6 8.3 64.7
2016-17 lebron james Kure 26.4 30.0 8.7 61.9
1990-91 Michael Adams den 26.5 28.5 10.5 53.0

Until the game until January 2, 2023.


Jokic’s claim to basketball’s immortality also addresses the NBA’s transition to “heliocentrism.” Jokic’s utilization of 28.5% of him is a whopping 38.4%, making him one of his MVP frontrunners this season in Dallas. Compare that to the usage of . And for some reason, it’s not even a league-leading number, with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo boasting 38.6 percent usage. , second only to numerous MVP candidates and second fiddles such as Boston forward Jaylen Brown.

As it stands, despite his otherworldly influence on the basketball court, Jokic would be the most heliocentric MVP (according to usage) since Tim Duncan in 2002-03.

The Joker Was a Despicable MVP Candidate

NBA MVP Award Winners Since 1999-2000 By Usage, And Nikola Jokic’s 2022-23 Season

season player team USG% TS%
2016-17 Russell Westbrook OKCMore 41.7 55.4
2019-20 Giannis Antetokounmpo mill 37.5 61.3
2017-18 James Harden Hou 36.1 61.9
2000-01 Allen Iverson Phi 35.9 51.8
2008-09 lebron james Kure 33.8 59.1
2009-10 lebron james Kure 33.5 60.4
2013-14 Kevin Durant OKCMore 33.0 63.5
2015-16 Stephen Curry GSWMore 32.6 66.9
2018-19 Giannis Antetokounmpo mill 32.3 64.4
2010-11 Derrick Rose air 32.2 55.0
2011-12 lebron james Mia 32.0 60.5
2021-22 Nikola Jokic den 31.9 66.1
2007-08 kobe ​​bryant Lal 31.4 57.6
1999-00 Shaquille O’Neal Lal 31.2 57.8
2012-13 lebron james Mia 30.2 64.0
2020-21 Nikola Jokic den 29.6 64.7
April 2003 Kevin Garnett minimum 29.6 54.7
2001-02 Tim Duncan SAS 29.0 57.6
2014-15 Stephen Curry GSWMore 28.9 63.8
2006-07 Dirk Nowitzki Dar 28.9 60.5
2022-23 Nikola Jokic den 28.5 68.7
2002-03 Tim Duncan SAS 28.0 56.4
2005-06 Steve Nash Four 23.3 63.2
2004-05 Steve Nash Four 20.5 60.6

Jokic’s stats for the 2022-23 season through January 2nd.


Now, “invisible” might seem like an odd adjective to describe one of the NBA’s most steadfast and influential figures. And when you watch the Nuggets play, Jokic is like the sun that the Nuggets offense unfolds. With the Joker on the court, Denver’s offensive has his 122.7 rating, which not only matches his NBA best offense this season, but is also the best offense ever recorded. But with Jokic off the court, Denver’s offensive rating drops to his fearsome 101.6, his last in the NBA this season and his worst since the 2015-16 season. The impact is also felt on defense, with the Nuggets deteriorating his 3.2 points per 100 possessions and Jokic being compared off-court and on-court. So while the Nuggets may not seem heliocentric, their sun is as important to his team’s ecosystem as a celestial body in the NBA universe. Although it casts a deceptively duller ray than Doncic, Antetokounmpo or vintage James Harden.

But how Can Jokic accurately command the greatest team of all time when his workload doesn’t seem as big as those stars? Jokic is averaging 100 touches per game, the most in the league this season, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Additionally, unlike Trae Young and Doncic, who average 5.70 dribbles per touch and 5.64 assists per touch, Jokic doesn’t spit air out of the ball, averaging just 1.41 dribbles per touch. . That number sits right next to players like Buddy Hield and DeAndre his Hunter, both of whom are below-average passers for the position.

In other words, Jokić is so quick to see and process the game that he doesn’t have to spend a lot of time deciding what to do. This may be why Jokic generated the most points per chance (1.143) among his 117 players who have scored over 1,500 touches this season. And, as Thinking Basketball’s Ben Taylor argued in a recent breakdown, it’s not just his supernatural vision that makes Jokić such a great passer, it’s his ability to capture every last drop of offensive potential from the receiver. It’s the subtleties of his throw that squeeze out. Jokic twists the ball through a window he didn’t know was open, along an alleyway that looks like a graveyard of possessions, to an angle he didn’t know existed. And of course, even with those boulevards closed, his ability to make the craziest shot in NBA history, “Somber his shuffle,” has to be accounted for.

Of course, the two-time MVP’s rebellious skills are nothing new to NBA fans. However, a welcome development for Miles High His City this season is the growth of Jokic’s supporting his cast. After being sidelined for more than a season with a torn ACL, Jamal Murray is returning to his form in a series of playoff appearances as Jokic’s right-hand man. Upgraded wing positions and the development of young players like Bones Hyland also offer room for optimism, but the aforementioned non-Jokic game continues to haunt Denver, all of which is likely due to Jokic’s stamina. ‘s MVP case cap feather: the Nuggets’ current western perch. (At the moment, FiveThirtyEight’s model predicts Denver to achieve his second-best record in the West behind Memphis and his Grizzlies.)

There’s good reason Jokic may not climb the MVP mountain for the third season in a row, even if he continues his blistering pace into April. Voter fatigue is real, and heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, few prognosticators thought Jokic would be even better than his first two award-winning seasons. Still, there’s the Joker back in the middle of the race for the greatest player on the planet, shuffling at the high post and barely dribbling while slowly cooking up another defense. As Malone recently said, if you want new blood in awards, you’re not “lazy.” You may not have seen the NBA’s most invisible superstar.

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