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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Nikola Jokic Joins the Select Back to Back MVP Club

Nikola Jokic has won the 2022 NBA regular season MVP, joining the select group of pro basketball players who won at least two consecutive MVPs: Bill Russell (1961-63 NBA), Wilt Chamberlain (1966-68 NBA), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971-72, 1976-77 NBA), Julius Erving (1974-76 ABA), Moses Malone (1982-83 NBA), Larry Bird (1984-86 NBA), Magic Johnson (1989-90 NBA), Michael Jordan (1992-92 NBA), Tim Duncan (2002-03 NBA), Steve Nash (2004-05 NBA), LeBron James (2009-10, 2012-13 NBA), Stephen Curry (2015-16 NBA), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019-20 NBA). Antetokounmpo finished third this year, while Joel Embiid was second.

Last month, I provided my take on the 2022 regular season MVP race:

Reigning regular season MVP Nikola Jokic also had a fantastic season (career-high 27.1 ppg, career-high 13.8 rpg, 7.9 apg, career-high .583 FG%), becoming the first player in NBA history to have at least 2000 points (2004), at least 1000 rebounds (1019), and at least 500 assists (584) in the same season (to be fair, Wilt Chamberlain missed out on this distinction by just eight points in 1968 and by 44 points in 1967, two seasons during which he had over 1900 rebounds). Jokic joined pro basketball's "Five-Tool Club," the elite group of players (Julius Erving, Dave Cowens, Scottie Pippen, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett) who led their teams in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocked shots in the same season.

Joel Embiid, who openly campaigned for the MVP award throughout the season, won his first scoring title with a career-high 30.6 ppg while also grabbing 11.7 rpg and dishing for 4.2 apg. 

The historical standard is that an NBA MVP must play in at least 85% of the scheduled games, which adds up to at least 70 games in the traditional 82 game season. Bill Walton is the only regular season MVP in NBA history who played less than 85% of his team's games. In fact, 19 MVPs played all 82 games, 11 MVPs played in 81 games, and five MVPs played in 80 games (also, Karl Malone played 49 of 50 games in the lockout-shortened 1999 season). I miss the days before "load management"! If the 70 games played threshold still matters to the MVP voters, then Jokic (74 games played) prevails over Embiid--who played in a career-high 68 games--and Antetokounmpo, who played in 67 games.

Jokic averaged 35.7 ppg, 16.3 rpg, 7.4 apg, and 2.1 spg in his final seven games to help his Denver Nuggets secure a playoff berth despite being without the services of injured star point guard Jamal Murray, who missed the entire season due to an ACL tear. Playoff statistics are not considered regarding regular season MVP voting, but it is worth noting that Jokic led the league in playoff scoring in 2022 (31.0 ppg) while also averaging 13.2 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.6 spg, and 1.0 bpg. He shot .575 from the field, and it was not his fault that his outmatched Nuggets lost 4-1 in the first round to the Golden State Warriors. Jokic's career playoff averages (26.4 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 6.4 apg, .519 FG%) confirm that his game does not fall apart in the postseason, which distinguishes him from some highly touted players.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:16 AM



At Saturday, May 14, 2022 9:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What follows is kind of an aside, but it's worth noting that Michael Jordan almost achieved five-tool player status during his rookie year. I think he was only the second rookie to ever average more than 20 points 5 rebounds and 5 assists. He led the team in steals but was second in blocked shots is why he didn't achieve five-tool status. A reminder that Jordan was capable of all-around greatness, but the emergence of Pippen and better teammates all around allowed him to focus more on scoring..

At Sunday, May 15, 2022 12:47:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Jordan was the second 20-5-5 rookie (Oscar Robertson was the first), an accomplishment later matched by LeBron, Tyreke Evans, and Luka Doncic. Other rookies have vastly exceeded 20-5 while averaging 4 apg, such as Julius Erving (27-16-4).

I don't think that anyone questions Jordan's all-around greatness. Jordan just happened to play alongside one of the very few comparably sized players who rebounded and passed better than he did.


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