One Stat Shows Why Nikola Jokic Should Challenge Steph Curry in NBA MVP Race

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry has been tabbed as the MVP favorite for the majority of the 2021-22 NBA season; currently listed at +110 to win the award at WynnBET Sportsbook

Curry certainly has a case, but he is far from the best value on the board. That honor belongs to the reigning MVP, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. 

While Denver has dealt with a myriad of injuries this year and is only 17-16, it is still the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. Jokic, for lack of a better word, has carried the Nuggets to this spot, leading the NBA in offensive and overall box plus/minus. 

To put Jokic’s insane start in perspective, we need to compare it to his MVP season from the 2020-21 campaign. 

This season, Jokic is averaging 25.8 points, 14.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 55.9 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc. Last season, he averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game with a better supporting cast around him. 

He also has a box plus/minus (an estimation of a basketball player's contribution to the team when that player is on the court per 100 possessions) of 13.3 this season, a full 1.2 better than his 12.1 (which led the league) in the 2020-21 campaign. 

The biggest improvement for Jokic has been his defense, as the Nuggets are a far better team with him on the floor than off on the defensive end this season. 

To compare Jokic, who is +1200 at WynnBET, to Curry in terms of value, Jokic has a higher box plus/minus (13.3 vs. 8.1) and his net/plus minus per 100 possessions is an astounding +23.6. Curry, who plays on the NBA’s top team in Golden State, is +15.9.

The more amazing thing for Jokic is Denver is +9.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, but -13.9 points per 100 possessions when he is off the floor. For Curry, the Warriors are +14.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, but only -1.0 points per 100 possessions when he is off the floor this season. 

This may just seem like a lot of numbers, but really what it boils down to is this: The Nuggets are absolutely nowhere without Nikola Jokic. In fact, they’d probably be one of the NBA’s worst teams, considering the league’s worst net rating per 100 possessions this season is the Detroit Pistons at -9.7. 

Jokic is doing more this season with less around him, and if the Nuggets finish outside of the play-in tournament and potentially with home court in the first round of the playoffs, he’s going to need some serious consideration to win back-to-back MVPs.