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Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has been voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for a second consecutive season, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
A formal announcement is expected this week, sources told Wojnarowski.
Jokic’s raw stats were even better this season than last, as he averaged career highs of 27.1 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. He also averaged 7.9 assists, good for eighth in the league.
Jokic, 27, also became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season.
The Denver center did it all without two of his co-stars, as point guard Jamal Murray missed the entire season while recovering from a torn ACL and Michael Porter Jr. was held to just nine games because of a back injury. Despite that, the Nuggets were still able to make the playoffs as the West’s sixth seed before losing in five games to the Golden State Warriors in the opening round.
“It’s just remarkable what he’s done,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone recently said of Jokic. “I know that I’m very biased, I admit it wholeheartedly — the MVP isn’t even a competition. There’s other great players, I’m not saying they’re not great players, but what Nikola Jokic has done this year, with this team, with everything that we’ve had to go through, is incredible. He was good last year and he’s even better this year.”
Jokic is the 15th player in NBA history to win the MVP multiple times and the second straight winner to go back-to-back after Giannis Antetokounmpo won it in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Antetokounmpo was a finalist for this year’s award, along with Joel Embiid, who led the league in scoring average.
The award is likely the start of a huge offseason for Jokic, who is eligible for a supermax extension that could guarantee him nearly $254 million over five seasons starting with 2023-24. He’ll make $32.4 million next season.
“There’s nothing more important” than keeping Jokic, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly recently said.
Known for his pinpoint passing as much as his soft touch, Jokic finished with a league-leading 19 triple-doubles. The 41st pick of the 2014 draft now has 76 in his career, which trails only Wilt Chamberlain (78) among centers.
After being knocked out of the playoffs — he averaged 31 points and 13.2 rebounds in the first-round series — Jokic was asked how he might celebrate should he win MVP.
“Probably with some music, beer, friends around, family,” he said. “Like how you’re supposed to do probably.
“But if I don’t get it, I’m not going to die. I’m just going to keep playing, keep trying to play the right way like I did my whole life.”
There was a time when Jokic was maligned for his game — more specifically, his defense and not being able to jump. His once-pudgy frame — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich good-naturedly ribbed him about it — has more strength to it.
Does it ever bother him that his game doesn’t seem to generate the level of respect as other standout players?
“Can’t care less, brother,” Jokic said.
He sees the court with the clarity of a point guard and has an arsenal of shots that includes smooth baby hooks around the rim and a soft 3-point touch.
Popovich had the apropos answer when asked whether it was more important to take away Jokic’s shot attempts or passes: “I don’t think anybody has figured that out,” he said. “He’s a great one.”
No argument from New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.
“If anyone is jogging, he’s going to make you pay for that. If you are out of position or mistake on a cut, he’ll make you pay for that,” Thibodeau said earlier. “Terrific player.”
Jokic cares immensely about winning — games, not hardware. He’s not one to lobby on his own behalf, just letting his numbers do his talking. Last season when he won, he averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 boards and 8.3 assists. This season, he took his game to another level in making his fourth straight All-Star team.
“If that’s enough, it’s enough,” he said. “If not, you cannot control that.”
Funny story about his MVP trophy from a season ago: He wasn’t exactly sure where it was as his family moved.
“It is here in Denver,” Jokic recently cracked.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report