Winning one MVP trophy is hard. Winning two is even harder. But winning three, convincing the NBA cognoscenti that you’re worth a third, well, that just never happens. But what would it take for Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to convince voters otherwise?
The last NBA player to win the Most Valuable Player award three times in a row was Larry Bird from 1984 and 1986. Since then, we’ve seen several players win it three times or more and several win back-to-back honors, but never a three-peat.
Nikola Jokic won his first MVP during the 2020-21 season, beating out Joel Embiid and Stephen Curry. He was nearly 400 points ahead of the second-placed Embiid and the Big Honey collected 91 of the 100 possible first-place votes.
He was on an MVP-level track during the season but a late-season push following Jamal Murray’s ACL injury cemented him as one of the better players in the world, let alone the league.
In 2021-22, Jokic entered the season with Murray likely missing the entire season but a healthy Michael Porter Jr. hopefully rising as a second option behind the MVP. A measly nine games later, the Denver Nuggets realized that MPJ’s back wasn’t fully healthy and the former Missouri forward underwent surgery, missing the rest of the season.
Similarly to his first MVP, Jokic was the lone star on a weak team but he still managed to drag them out of the Play-In race, securing a playoff spot without two of his best teammates. Nikola Jokic received his second MVP this past offseason in Serbia, securing 65 first-place votes, greater than Embiid’s 26.
The Denver Nuggets will be whole for the 2022-23 season with both MPJ and Jamal at full strength and starting on opening night. Alongside this, Calvin Booth added to the roster’s depth, surrounding the three stars with role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown.
If the Nuggets go over their preseason expectations by a lot next season, Jokic’s excellence might surpass voter fatigue and he could win his third-straight trophy.
But where is that invisible bar that he would have to surpass? If Denver wins 70-plus games and Nikola Jokic averages similar figures to his past two seasons, would his MVP be impossible to ignore?
What if the Nuggets only (“only”, lol) win 65 games, is that just great, but not ‘win another MVP trophy’ great?
What if he changes his games slightly, focuses more on offense and pushed his counting stats to 30 points per game while winning 60-plus games, how does that sway the voters?
These are all superficial marks but Nikola Jokic has won his past two MVP trophies by proving his excellence without much help around him. Imagine what he could achieve at an MVP level with All-Star-level talent flanking him on the wings… This next season can’t come soon enough.