Nikola Jokic should win the 2022 NBA MVP Award....Here's why
When you think of the award “Most Valuable Player,” what does that mean to you? Do the voters consider the MVP to be the most talented player? Or do the Canadian and American sportswriters consider the MVP to be the most efficient player?
The terminologies “talented” and “efficient” can be very subjective in nature, but with fairly new analytical formulas such as Player Efficiency, Box Plus Minus, Win Shares, and others, the subjectiveness of basketball has become more objective.
At least…..if the voters are paying attention.
If the voters truly want the most efficient player on the court who can rebound, pass, and knock down 10 points on just 5 shots, there’s a Western Conference center who checks all of those aforementioned boxes.
His name is Nikola Jokic (nih-KOH-luh YOH-kitch), and he’s the reigning MVP.
Besides last season when Jokic’s Nuggets finished in third place in the West, the MVP Award is generally given to the player whose team wins a lot of games. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, like when Russell Westbrook won the MVP due to averaging a triple-double during the regular season. But generally speaking, the MVP goes to the player whose team is the most successful.
The problem is, the arguable two best players this season are on teams whose records aren’t even in the Top 3 in the West and East, respectively.
Joel Embiid (em-BEED), who's been on a tear since early December, is currently the league’s leading scorer. Side note here: Kevin Durant isn’t eligible for the award since he acquired the injury bug last month and hasn’t played since January 16th.
But is basketball more about putting that orange ball into the hoop or doing everything possible to help your team win games? If the answer to that question is more about the latter than the former, then Jokic is the clear MVP favorite in 2022.
Let’s not even bring up analytics for a minute. If you had to guess whose second in the league in rebounds per game, who would you pick? If you answered anybody BUT Jokic, you’d be wrong. On a team without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Junior for most of the season, Jokic still has enough in the tank every night to average just under 14 rebounds per game. Embiid you might ask? He has 11.2 RPG, tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo (YAH-niss on-teh-tuh-KOON-poh).
Oh by the way, his field-goal percentage is at 57 while Embiid enters the All-Star break at under 50%. Embiid has more average field goal attempts than Jokic, but still…should the voters really give the MVP Award to Embiid over Jokic when the 76ers center is 8 percentage points lower than the reigning champion?
On a team without as much talent as the 76ers, Bulls, Bucks, or Warriors, Jokic still averages 26 PPG while also averaging 7.9 assists per game. Did I mention that he’s a center, a position that’s not supposed to distribute the basketball that well?
Jokic’s 7.9 assists are even better than Tyrese Haliburton, a player whom the Pacers believed was good enough to trade for and get rid of Domantas Sabonis (duh-MAHN-tis suh-BONE-is) as part of the deal.
If we bring the analytics to the table, the award is clearly the Joker’s to lose. He’s in first place in several major categories, including Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares Per 48 Minutes, Win Shares, Offensive Win Shares, Box Plus/Minus, and many others.
If you’re a big baseball fan who likes evaluating players according to their Wins Above Replacement metric, then you’ll love to hear that Jokic is in first place according to Value Over Replacement Player.
If the people running Basketball-Reference.com (which is directly affiliated with the NBA by the way) are valuing Jokic this high, then why not have the voters do the exact same thing?
The whole point of basketball is to win games, sure. But should the voters really pick DeMar DeRozan just because his team is tied for first in the Eastern Conference? By the way, his only claim to fame this season is that he broke Michael Jordan’s consecutive 35-point streak. DeRozan is great, but it’s hard to give the man the MVP who doesn’t shoot a lot of three-pointers, doesn’t dominate the glass like Jokic, and isn’t even as a good of passer as the reigning Most Valuable Player.
Stephen (STEHF-in) Curry has had a great season, but should the voters really honor him over the reigning MVP?
The argument against Jokic is how can he be the MVP if he attempts so few shots during the game? The Nuggets center barely cracks the Top 25 at 17.4 field goal attempts per game.
Well, that’s because Jokic is too busy doing everything else. Creating your own shot takes a lot out of you, both physically and mentally. Rather, Jokic needs to preserve his energy so that he can still rebound and pass at a high clip. The Nuggets need him to do everything because the Western Conference is a very tough conference. Don’t be surprised if Jokic’s field goal attempts go way up if Porter and Murray can return in late March.
Jokic’s game is somewhat similar to LeBron James, where each player wants to find the open player. Jokic can knock down contested looks, but because his basketball IQ is as great as James, he can deliver passes that not a lot of big men can do.
Jokic is all about setting up his teams for victories, and each possession matters to the Nuggets because they don’t have Murray or Porter to bail them out when Jokic has an off-night scoring-wise.
This was tweeted out back on December 22nd, but it just shows how valuable Jokic is when they can’t rely on Murray and Porter:
They’re the NBA’s worst team when Jokic is on the bench. And when his mere presence is evident on the floor, the Nuggets are a dominant team.
As recently as three weeks ago, Jokic’s Box-Plus Minus was on track for the best in NBA history. He finished last season as the fourth-best BPM in league history.
So let’s say we were the voters for the MVP Award. Is there anything about Jokic’s game that doesn’t scream “best player in the league, “most valuable player on his team,” “most valuable player in the conference,”?
In a word? No. Jokic checks all of those boxes.
And that’s not to say that Embiid, Giannis, and DeRozan aren’t qualified candidates to win the trophy. They have every right to win the award.
But if we’re going to say the leading scorer should win MVP, then maybe we should get rid of the sabermetrics and analytics. The analytics are supposed to be empirical data to prove why one player is truly more efficient than the other one. If we just look at Rebounds Per Game, Field-Goal Percentage, and Three-Point Percentage, Jokic is STILL better than Embiid.
We currently have the analytics. And that’s why, barring injury, Jokic should win his second consecutive MVP.
But what do YOU think? Should the voters consider Embiid or DeRozan? Make sure to subscribe and comment below.