With the talent currently in the NBA, the question on who deserves to be named MVP is a matter of “How” and “Why” rather than “Who” and “What”. Even before the regular season kicks off, there’s usually a list of preseason candidates, and by this time, you know it’s the same cast of characters. Even the new entrants more often than not become perennial contenders for the league’s most coveted individual award.

What separates the winners and the mere contenders, however, is how successful they are in a given season and why this has kept them at the top of the voter’s boards.

Among the candidates for this season, Nikola Jokic tends to be the safe pick.

It can be said that Jokic is a playmaker in the truest sense, with his penchant for passing overshadowing his ability to score for the most part. The Serbian can score in a variety of ways, but his ability to get his teammates involved is a remarkable feat in itself. However, there are instances when his passing has taken a backseat to his scoring and when that happens, opponents can feel the inevitability that comes when Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are at their best.

The Nuggets’ matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves was a critical one, considering both are in the running for the top seed in the Western Conference. With the high stakes involved, it was no surprise that the game became a duel between Jokic and Anthony Edwards.

When the dust settled, Jokic emerged victorious over Edwards both in the duel and the endgame. Not only did he finish with game-highs in points (35) and rebounds (16), but he did so with the objective of imposing his will and his will alone, for the most part. The two-time MVP made the most out of the absences of Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Naz Reid, bullying his way into the paint and using an array of fakes and pivots to score over helpless defenders.


Jokic’s two assists for the game didn’t even come until midway through the fourth quarter, which was when Michael Porter Jr. went on a solo 7-0 run to give Denver a 96-93 lead they would never relinquish. Those two assists, which were a season low, did matter, but were it not for Jokic’s offensive outburst, the Nuggets may have been on the wrong end of this contest.

Limit Jokic’s scoring opportunities and it’ll only increase the opportunities of those around him. Block his passing lanes and he’ll simply impose his will on you. Such is the nature of guarding Jokic.

Numbers wise, there’s not much that stands out from Jokic’s numbers this season (given the stellar numbers he averages on a yearly basis) apart from his ability to take care of the ball. Jokic’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.1 is easily a career-best thanks to his 2.9 turnovers per game, a figure that currently stands as his lowest since 2017-2018. For a player that’s generally been generous with the ball, that’s quite remarkable.

With the crucial stretch of the regular season upon us, much will be expected for Jokic, especially as Denver looks to secure a favorable matchups in its bid for back-to-back NBA titles. Health hasn’t been an issue with the 29-year old, who has only missed two games thus far this season, but the Nuggets will likely balance managing Jokic’s health with letting him play the necessary minutes to secure crucial wins. Besides, he’s already made the cut to win the NBA’s end-of-season awards.

There are perhaps a handful of NBA stars that can make a case for this season’s MVP award, but Nikola Jokic stands out for the simple reason that despite the best efforts of his opponents, he can still find ways to win.

We all know who Jokic is and what he can do, but how he continues to outsmart defenders and why he continues to elevate his game (i.e., win championships ASAP so he can go home to his race horses) is what sets him above the rest.