Several weeks ago, the NBA Most Valuable race looked like a wide-open competition, with a number of viable candidates surging, including Sixers center Joel Embiid, Lakers forward LeBron James, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nets guard James Harden, among others. Since then, however, all of those players have missed time with injuries.
As a result, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has emerged as the clear frontrunner for this year’s MVP award, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Jokic, who is the only top candidate not to miss a game so far this season, has been outstanding, averaging new career highs in points (26.0), rebounds (10.9), and assists (8.8) per game to go along with a scorching .564/.418/.853 shooting line.
Bontemps conducted a straw poll of 101 NBA media members, and Jokic received 90 first-place votes and 969 total points, blowing away runner-up Embiid (five first-place votes; 401 points). If the outcome of the final vote is similar, Jokic will become the first center to win the MVP award since Shaquille O’Neal did so in 2000, Bontemps notes.
Here’s more on the Nuggets:
- Head coach Michael Malone said on Wednesday that Jamal Murray was “devastated” to learn that he’d suffered a torn left ACL, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “It was really hard. We stayed over for that game in San Francisco,” Malone said. “Just sitting with him on the way to the airport, your heart breaks because you can see the raw emotion that he was feeling.”
- With Murray out, the pressure is on Michael Porter Jr. to show the Nuggets he can become the team’s go-to scoring option on the perimeter, says Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. Keeler acknowledges that it’s not fair to put that sort of pressure on the 22-year-old, but writes that it’s an ideal opportunity for Porter to deliver on his star potential.
- Nick Kosmider of The Athletic also explores how the Nuggets can cope in the wake of Murray’s injury, focusing on Porter and backup point guard Monte Morris, among others.
- In case you missed it, the Nuggets and Austin Rivers are reportedly on track to finalizing a deal, perhaps a 10-day contract for now.