The upcoming news that Nikola Jokić will receive his second MVP award in a row has sent the NBA community into a border war formation between respect for analytics and the eye test. Jokic’s consecutive wins is a stunning win for the NBA’s mathlete contingency. This is not a diatribe against the existence of advanced analytics, only against its overuse. Nor am I saying it doesn’t have a place in basketball analysis or that Jokic isn’t an MVP caliber cornerstone.
Jokić’s scoring stats are almost identical to his averages in 2020-2021 MVP season. Last season, Jokić averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. In 2021-22, he recorded 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists on 58.8 shooting percent. And now Jokic will go down as the only one in official NBA history 13. Player to win consecutive MVPs, but the timing couldn’t be worse. His victory over Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid comes as Embiid has postponed the tide of Philly’s streak against the East No.
Jokić won MVP over Embiid for the second year in a row, although his colleague spent most of his season struggling while his star teammate was put on the back burner. In the absence of Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, the Nuggets finished sixth in the Western Conference and their .585 win ratio is the Sixth worst in league history for an MVP. Jokić led the NBA in win percentage, win percentage per 48 minutes, defensive box plus/minus, and just edged out Giannis Antetokounmpo for the NBA lead in Player Efficiency Rating, ranked top-4 in Assist Percentage and VORP.
VORP was one of the more popular advanced stats championed in the 2022 MVP debate. VORP measures “a boxScore estimate of the points per 100 team possessions a player contributed versus a reserve-level player, converted to an average team and prorated over an 82-game season.” Michael Jordan and LeBron James own seven of their highest VORP seasons on-season 1973-74. Jokic’s 9.87 VORP is the 14th-highest in NBA history.
Jokić led the league through a chasm in VORP that would have you believe Antetokounmpo, who finished second, was his subordinate. If voters had pulled their heads out of the sand long enough, they would have noticed that Antetokounmpo rose to the stretch run and staked his claim as the world’s top basketball player, while Jokic was barely enough to propel Denver into the postseason.
Jokić was outplayed by one of his MVP contenders in the twilight of the season. In February, March and April, when MVPs are truly won, Jokic’s play broke and Denver almost fell into the Pinsert TTournament while Antetokounmpo was promoted and Embiid was promoted. But Antetokounmpo, the previous player to win back-to-back MVPs, never became a serious contender. Meanwhile, Jokić overtook Embiid in a straw poll between February 17 and March 29. although Embiid plays head-to-head in certain metrics in this stretch, if not better than Jokić. Jokić defenders announce that he played with an inferior supporting cast, but for the first half of the season, Embiid kept the Sixers afloat with Tyrese Maxey and Seth Curry.
Also, Embiid’s advanced defensive acumen never played a role in this race. Based on FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR defensive statJokić has had a bigger impact on the defensive end than Utah’s this season Rudy Gobert. Alternative, ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus Minus ranks Gobert as the best defender in the NBA, Jokić sixth, Embiid 15th, and Antetokounmpo 98th. When the NBA’s flawed defensive stats led to the narrative that Jokic was a defender on par with Gobert and Embiid, that was MVP race 2022 cancelled. The MVP Trophy has always been a regularSeason Award, but it has meaning for the NBA community. The framing of Jokić’s case for the NBA’s MVP has legitimacy, but the stats-heavy narrative lacked soul. This is a farce for him and the award.