Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won the NBA regular-season MVP, marking the first time in 21 years that a definitive center won the award.
“I’m not objective certainly, but he’s having a historic year,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim said in April. “I’ve never seen a more difficult player to guard. He’s the best passer in the NBA. He has an ability to step out and consistently make 3s. He’s got 15 moves in the post. You never know what he’s going to pull out.”
The Nuggets touted Jokic’s credentials all season long for numerous reasons. First, they have considered Jokic to be the NBA’s best passing big man. Second, they appreciated his on-court leadership during a compressed season following Jamal Murray’s season-ending injury last month. And Jokic has remained remarkably durable, playing in every single game despite a shortened offseason after leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals.
In his sixth NBA season, Jokić set career-highs in points (26.4), field-goal percentage (56.6%) and assists (8.3) and matched his career-high in rebounds (10.8).
“He stayed in great shape, and he came back ready to go,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said earlier this season. “He didn’t ease himself into the season. Instead, he came back playing at a high level, and he’s done that for every game we’ve played this year. That’s why I think he’s a leading MVP candidate.”
After selecting Jokic out of the Serbian League at No. 41 in the 2014 NBA draft, he has since become a three-time NBA All-Star before earning his latest accolade.
“At no point did we think this guy was going to turn into a top-five player in the world,” Connelly said. If we thought that, we wouldn’t have waited for the 41st pick to pick him.”