Sixers: Joel Embiid and the early 2023 MVP ladder

Sixers, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Sixers, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

2023 NBA MVP ladder — 2. Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic has taken the baton from Stephen Curry and LeBron James: he’s the best offensive player of the current generation, a game-breaking talent who has changed the way fans and analysts alike see the game. Some have been more willing to embrace Jokic’s greatness than others, but two (well-earned) MVP trophies in a row cement the Serbian 7-footer’s standing in the annals of league history.

Now, can Jokic three-peat? It seems unlikely when you look at the broader history of the league. No one has won three MVP’s in a row since Larry Bird from 1984-86. There have been plenty of repeat victories, but precious few three-peats. Jokic is talented enough to win three in a row, but we run into a similar conundrum as Giannis: he is going to have to seriously outperform expectations, especially when there’s a faction of voters who — because of Jokic’s prevalence in bad-faith analytics discourse — are potentially determined to vote for someone else.

Jokic has now mounted two of the greatest statistical campaigns in league history, back-to-back. There’s every reason to believe he can do it again, and there are probably some voters who would embrace the idea of a three-peat. He racks up individual stats with the best of them, he elevates teammates (arguably more than any other star), and his efficiency numbers are off the charts. Like, literally in uncharted territory. But the NBA just has a tendency to diversify its MVP field after a certain point. Not everyone is going to think Jokic is good enough to make history alongside Larry Bird.

Because of his absolute statistical dominance and the Nuggets’ position as a sleeper contender in the West who could win a lot of games, Jokic is going to be No. 2 on this list. But he can’t be considered the leader in the clubhouse, even if he deserves to be.