Nikola Jokic 'One of the More Disrespected Reigning MVPs,' Nuggets HC Malone Says

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 12, 2022

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 15: Head Coach Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets talks with Nikola Jokic #15 during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 15, 2021 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Nikola Jokic isn't lacking for individual accolades, but Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone doesn't think the Serbian big man is receiving the full credit he deserves. 

"I think he is one of the more disrespected reigning MVPs that I can think of in terms of the attention," Malone told reporters prior to his team's 87-85 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. "But if you open up the dictionary, look up the word consistency, there's going to be a picture of Nikola there."

Jokic might even be exceeding the level he reached last year by averaging 25.7 points, 14.1 rebounds and 7.0 assists through 34 games. He's also shooting 56.3 percent overall and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc.

The Nuggets continue to be without Jamal Murray, who's recovering from a torn ACL. And since the start of the season, they have also lost Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery) and P.J. Dozier (torn ACL) for the season.

Despite that, Denver is 20-19 and sixth in the Western Conference, and Jokic is far and away the biggest reason why. According to NBA.com, the team has an 8.8 net rating with the 6'11" center on the court, and its net rating falls to minus-13.0 when he heads to the bench.

Still, Jokic is +1500 at FanDuel to win a second straight MVP, the fourth-best odds on the list. The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry leads the field at +135.

The MVP race is always subjective, and multiple players often make a strong case in a given year. But Jokic's situation can best be summed up by this NBA Today clip from December in which ESPN's Zach Lowe makes an impassioned argument for the big man to be considered, only to be met with apathy from colleagues Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins:

Denver's position in the standings doesn't help its best player in the MVP conversation, but the Nuggets would be in a lottery position were it not for his contributions.

Jokic shouldn't be the runaway favorite because the 2019-20 season is a reminder of what the 30-10 Warriors might be right now without Curry. As Malone argued, though, the discourse around the 26-year-old doesn't do justice to what he's doing right now.

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