NBA Awards Rankings: New No. 1 in MVP race

Tyrese Haliburton is that dude.

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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player. . . 2. Center. 73. 2. Nuggets. Nikola Jokic. Nikola Jokic

The Denver Nuggets have lost three straight. There's no reason for long-term panic, as Jamal Murray's recent return figures to stabilize the offense — especially in the non-Nikola Jokic minutes. That said, Jokic continues to dominate a slew of advanced categories for the 14-9 Nuggets, who sit comfortably in fourth place.

Jokic is scoring more than ever. The dip in efficiency has been notable, but far from catastrophic. He's averaging 28.4 points on .535/.304/.774 splits, often tasked with elevating weaker Denver lineups. Murray's return should help Jokic ease back into his standard role while initiating a few easier looks at the basket.

In addition to stacking points, Jokic leads the NBA with 13.0 rebounds per game while averaging 9.6 assists to only 3.0 turnovers, his lowest mark since 2018 — before his first All-Star berth. It's a testament to Jokic's unique stature as the NBA's best player that we can consider his performance this season mildly underwhelming. One has to expect Jokic will sand the rough edges of his performance as the season progresses. He's still a 100th percentile basketball genius, passing teammates open with his uniquely simple flair.

With NBA-best marks in win shares (4.4), box plus-minus (14.1), and VORP (3.1), the Jokic case for MVP remains typically strong. He's going to be on the shortlist when the season ends, barring injury or unforeseen regression. If the Nuggets can get back on track and emerge as contenders for the No. 1 seed, it will once again be difficult for voters to ignore the Serbian's presence on the ballot.