Monday was another ho-hum night for Nikola Jokic.
The Denver Nuggets’ All-Star center recorded his 19th triple-double of the season. He had 26 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists in 35 minutes as the Nuggets held off the host Charlotte Hornets 113-109.
Those 19 triple-doubles are six more than any other player in the league this season.
It also was the 76th triple-double of Jokic’s career — seventh all-time and only two behind Wilt Chamberlain for the most among centers.
Jokic has played in 522 career regular season games over seven seasons while Chamberlain played 1,045 games over 15 seasons.
Monday’s stellar showing was the perfect lead-in to Tuesday’s big news for Jokic on the NBA Most Valuable Player front.
Jokic surges into ESPN MVP straw poll lead
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, ESPN on Tuesday released its third and final NBA MVP straw poll update. It’s an informal poll of 100 national/worldwide media members that mirrors the league’s actual postseason awards voting.
To cut to the chase, Jokic is now in the lead.
The reigning MVP came in fourth in the inaugural 2021-22 ESPN straw poll in early December. In February’s 2.0 version, Jokic was second — 35 points and two first-place votes behind Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.
Now, with he start of the postseason looming in mid-April, Jokic has soared past Embiid.
The 6-foot-11 Serbian garnered 860 total points to Embiid’s 719 in the new vote tally. More importantly, Jokic captured 62 of the 100 first-place votes with Embiid listed first on 29 ballots and Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo receiving the remaining nine.
The three big men were the only players named on all 100 ballots, which each listed a top five. In all, Jokic, Embiid and Antetokounmpo accounted for an overwhelming 291 of the 300 first-, second- and third-place votes.
Ten points were awarded for a first-place vote, seven for second place, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth.
The straw poll is significant as the leader of ESPN’s final version has gone on to win the MVP in each of the four seasons it has been conducted. That, of course, includes Jokic last year and Antetokounmpo’s back-to-back MVPs in 2019 and ’20.
Sportsbooks follow suit, list Jokic as MVP favorite
Only a week ago, Embiid was BetMGM Colorado Sportsbook’s clear MVP favorite.
The Sixers’ big man was atop the board at -155, garnering 19.7 percent of BetMGM’s MVP tickets and 33.3 percent of the handle.
Jokic was second at +155. He had attracted 15.5 percent of the tickets and 14.6 percent of the handle.
Antetokounmpo was a distant third at -1000.
Eight days and one straw poll update later, Embiid has fallen to +100 and Antetokounmpo remains at -1000.
And your new BetMGM MVP favorite as of Wednesday morning was Jokic with odds.
At Caesars Colorado Sportsbook, Jokic was an even larger MVP front-runner at -140 with Embiid slipping to +110.
It was the same story Wednesday at PlayColorado’s remaining three top-five-rated online sportsbooks.
At BetRivers Colorado Sportsbook, Jokic topped the MVP futures board at -134 with Embiid second at +110.
Meanwhile, at DraftKingsColorado Sportsbook, Jokic was now -125 and Emiid was sitting at -105.
And at Betfred Colorado Sportsbook as of Wednesday morning, it was Jokic at -125 and Embiid at +110.
Key stats in Jokic’s court
So why is Jokic a repeat MVP favorite in the eyes of many?
The numbers add up in his favor. The advanced metrics in particular.
In terms of standard statistics, Jokic stood 10th in scoring (26.3 points per game), second in rebounding (13.6) and eighth in assists (8.0) entering Tuesday night’s action.
Meanwhile, Embiid ranked second in scoring (29.9), seventh in rebounding (11.4) and 50th in assists (4.2).
Jokic also ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage (seventh at 57.6) while Embiid was ninth in blocked shots (1.5).
As for triple- and double-doubles, Jokic had 19 and 61, respectively. Embiid, meanwhile, had tallied just two triple-doubles and 39 double-doubles this season.
The advanced metric rankings, though, are where Jokic truly stands out.
According to BasketballReference.com, Jokic leads the league with a 32.68 player efficiency rating. Antetokounmpo is second at 32.24 with Embiid third at 31.14.
Jokic’s 32.68 PER is not only better than his league-leading 31.28 rating last season, but it would rank as the best single-season PER of all-time in the 71 seasons the site has tracked the metric.
In career PER, Jokic ranks third at 27.00, trailing only Michael Jordan (27.91) and LeBron James (27.35).
As for Basketball Reference’s box score plus/minus ratings, Jokic leads the league for the second straight season at 13.83. That also would go down as the best single-season mark of all-time.
Antetokounmpo ranks second this season with an 11.24 BPM while Embiid is third at 9.46.
In career BPM, Jokic ranks second at 8.86. Jordan is tops at 9.21.
Back-to-back NBA MVPs are select group
There NBA has given out a regular season MVP award annually since the 1955-56 season.
That adds up to 66 MVP honors.
A player has won back-to-back MVP awards only 14 times. Twelve different players have done so, including Hall-of-Fame center Kareem Abdul Jabbar (1971-72 and 1976-77) and James (2009-10 and 2012-13) twice.
It’s happened three times in the past decade with James, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (2015-16) and Antetokounmpo (2019-20) repeating the feat.
Jokic is on the verge of crashing that select club.
If so, he will be the fifth true center to snare back-to-back MVPs and the first since Moses Malone did so in 1982-83 with the Houston Rockets and 76ers.