NBA Double Dribble: ‘Larry Legend’ Jokic deserves to be favourite for third straight MVP

    Very rarely do MVPs win the award three times in a row in NBA history.

    In fact, it’s only happened four times and the players who’ve done it are kind of a big deal. Their apartments were nothing bit rich mahogany and leatherbound books – Bill Russell (1961-3), Wilt Chamberlain (1966-68) and Larry Bird (1984-86).

    Even Michael Jordan didn’t accomplish the hat-trick of MVPs although that was more so due to some strange voting policies in the 1990s when Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, as great as they were, burgled the trophy from MJ because he was just so damn dominant he set the bar too high for himself to continually impress the judges.

    Denver’s understated superstar Nikola Jokic has a chance to become the fourth player to be named the game’s top individual player three years in a row.

    Nikola Jokic. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

    And based on his efforts in the first 27 games for the Nuggets, he should be the frontrunner. 

    It’s not just because he’s lifted Denver to the top of the Western Conference with a 19-11 record. 

    Or because of his individual numbers – 24.7 points, 11 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

    Not even because his support cast is still not firing on all cylinders – Michael Porter jnr has been injured again, Jamal Murray has not yet returned to his best as he comes back from his ACL tear and Aaron Gordon is defending well but is limited offensively. 

    It’s because Jokic’s skill leaves opponents bewildered.

    In the win over Memphis earlier this week, Jokic put on a show for the Mile High City folk, passing without looking over his shoulder or bouncing through defenders to set up teammates for open looks.

    JOKIC put on a passing clinic vs the Grizzlies!
    Look at these assists????

    — (@Ballislife) December 21, 2022

    He’s the closest thing the NBA has seen to Bird’s golden years at Boston. 

    Not an athletic specimen, a ground-bound savant who reads the game better than anyone else on the floor, including the coaches. 

    He’s Denver’s point guard, centre, defensive presence in the paint and be-all and end-all of their chances to compete for the title.

    Bird is the only player of the three-straight MVP trio who has won it via the media vote which started in 1980, the other two won the award when their peers decided who was the kingpin.

    Jokic is the Most Skilled Center to ever touch the damn basketball. You can go argue with ya mama and Carry the hell on…

    — Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) December 21, 2022

    In times like these, Kendrick Perkins’ over-the-top hullabaloo is justified. 

    “Jokic is the Most Skilled Center to ever touch the damn basketball. You can go argue with ya mama and Carry the hell on,” the ESPN analyst and former championship-winning centre tweeted.

    He’d get no argument from Shaquille O’Neal, one of the greatest big men of all time, who was gushing in his praise in a post-game interview on TNT with the Denver dynamo.

    “Joker, it’s Shaq O’Nealovilovic. From one big guy to another I just want to say from one it’s a joy to watch you play. You are the epitome of what a great big man should look like – scoring, passing being very unselfish. I love your game and I’m proud of you brother, keep it up.”

    Oh yeah, and to set the scene for his scene-stealing effort against the Grizzlies, he entered the arena looking like a James Bond villain.

    — Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) December 21, 2022

    Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd had a reputation for getting teammates extra zeroes on their contracts 20 years ago in his prime. Jokic is doing the same for his Nuggets comrades. 

    Gordon has reinvigorated his career as Jokic’s frontcourt partner after being overburdened as Orlando’s main man. Bruce Brown is dunking up a storm off Jokic feeds while Jeff Green, the journeyman’s journeyman, is defying age and gravity in his 14th season in the pros. 

    Counting against Jokic in his hopes of a third straight MVP is the fact that even though his plays are spectacular, he doesn’t command the attention that comes the way of other superstars like Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum.

    (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)

    Curry is out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury so his MVP chances have taken a hit, Doncic is also sliding as his Mavericks have slipped under .500, leaving Giannis, KD and Tatum as the Joker’s main rivals. 

    Durant is sneaking up to the leading peloton by quelling the drama in Brooklyn and getting the Nets up to fourth in the East with a 20-12 record despite the early-season turmoil surrounding Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving and coach Steve Nash’s sacking as coach.  

    Tatum’s Celtics are in a slight slump but they’ll come good while Antetokounmpo doesn’t even seem to be in top gear as he cruises to 31.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a night for the league-leading Bucks. 

    Close but no cigar: Dual MVPs who missed the hat-trick

    Giannis Antetokounmpo2018/19-2019/20Stephen Curry2014-16LeBron James2011-13 and 2008-10Steve Nash2004-06Tim Duncan2001-03Michael Jordan1990-92Magic Johnson1988-90Moses Malone1981-83Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1975-77 and 1970-72

    Random NBA observations

    Knicks are one piece away: After their surge to sixth in the East, the New York franchise is on its way, finally, to credibility. The next time a high-profile free agent is scouring the market, they will be looking at the Knicks (18-14) as a genuine option unlike a few years ago when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving wanted to team up but snubbed the Big Apple’s traditions to join forces in Brooklyn.

    Of course, the Knicks being the Knicks could stuff everything up by making a dud trade midway through this season for an over-the-hill faded star, as has been their want.

    Joe Ingles hits his first field goal as a Milwaukee Buck, unsurprisingly a corner triple! ????#AussieHoops #NBA

    — The Pick and Roll ???????????? (@PickandRollAU) December 22, 2022

    Jingles all the way: It will take a few weeks to get back into game shape but Joe Ingles has returned to the NBA floor after a year out with a torn ACL. The Australian veteran was scoreless in his comeback game for Milwaukee against New Orleans and knocked in three points against Cleveland but importantly, he got 15 and 16 minutes of game time in each match without any knee dramas. He could be a valuable bench option for the Bucks in their championship push. 

    Wolves should cast KAT aside: Speaking of trades, Minnesota (16-16) should dangle Karl-Anthony Towns on the block to see if they can get a decent haul. He doesn’t work well with Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt and more importantly, young star Anthony Edwards has been thriving the past couple of weeks while Towns has been injured. He’s the future, the Timberwolves need to invest in him by exchanging Towns for a younger wing option or two.

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