Comparing Jokic to Active Former Back-to-Back NBA MVP Winners


May 9, 2022

Nikola Jokic will become the thirteenth player in the league’s history to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in back-to-back seasons. He joins Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players to achieve that feat.

Of the four active players to win back-to-back, only Curry and Antetokounmpo are still playing in this season’s playoffs. In addition to joining the back-to-back list, Jokic is only the 15th player to win the NBA MVP Award multiple times.

It’s an absolutely elite list of names, but Jokic is the first player in NBA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a single season.

Jokic’s 2021-22 season improved over the previous year, but how do his consecutive wins measure up to past back-to-back winners?

Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 assists, 13.8 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, and 1.5 steals in 74 games this past season. In 2020-21, he averaged 26.4 points, 8.3 assists, 10.8 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals in 72 games.

Let’s see how those numbers stack up against the other three active players’ consecutive MVP seasons.

Antetokounmpo was the last player before Jokic to win back-to-back NBA MVP Awards. In 2019-2020, he averaged 29.5 points, 5.6 assists, 13.6 rebounds, one block, and one steal. The season before that, Antetokounmpo had 27.7 points, 5.9 assists, 12.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.3 steals.

Before Antetokounmpo, Curry took home the award in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In the most recent of those, he averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 0.2 blocks, and 2.1 steals. The year before, Curry had 23.8 points per game, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 0.2 blocks, and two steals.

The only other active player to win back-to-back MVP awards is LeBron James. In 2012-13, he averaged 26.8 points, 7.3 assists, eight rebounds, 0.9 blocks, and 1.7 steals. In 2011-12, James had 27.1 points per game, 6.2 assists, 7.9 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, and 1.9 steals.

Jokic’s numbers look more impressive when compared to those back-to-back seasons of Antetokounmpo, Curry, and James. His average points were either slightly lower or comparable. Combined blocks and steals were similar across all four players. However, Jokic’s combined assists and rebounds are significantly higher this season and slightly higher last year.

The most jarring aspect of Jokic’s assist numbers is that he achieved them while playing center. As a center, it’s not surprising that he’s second in the NBA in rebounds, but he has no business being eighth overall in assists. To put this into context, Joel Embiid is the next closest center in assists, and he averaged three assists fewer than the Joker.

Jokic was tenth overall in points and eighth in assists. He led in assists and steals among centers and was second in points and rebounds. Jokic did all this without Denver guard Jamal Murray, who missed the entire season due to a torn ACL, and without forward Michael Porter Jr., who only played nine games due to a back injury. Despite the injuries to his teammates, Jokic led the Nuggets to the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Western Conference with a 48-34 record.

The Serbian led Denver in points, rebounds, assists, and steals this past season. Of the 74 games he played, Jokic led the Nuggets in points 59 times, rebounds 69, and assists 55. He was one of the league’s most dominant players, the most critical factor in his team’s success, and he’s doing it all while redefining the center position.

Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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