Jokic wins 3rd NBA MVP; SGA, Doncic finish 2-3

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Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic continued to add to his legacy as one of the best NBA players ever by winning his third Most Valuable Player trophy on Wednesday.

Jokic earned the award for the third time in four seasons, succeeding last season’s MVP, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. Jokic topped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, who finished second and third, respectively, in the voting.

“It’s got to start with the teammates; without them, I cannot do nothing,” Jokic said Wednesday on TNT after being named MVP. “Coaches, players, organization, medical staff, strength coaches, development coaches. It is all one big circle. But I cannot be whatever I am without them.”

Jokic’s third MVP victory wasn’t close. He garnered 79 first-place votes and a total of 926 points. Gilgeous-Alexander received 15 first-place votes and 640 points. Doncic got four first-place votes and 566 points. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo finished fourth, and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson was fifth in voting.

“There’s a lot of players that deserve it,” Jokic said of the MVP race. “It’s probably details and the small things [that determine it].”

Jokic is the first center in six decades to win MVP three times in four seasons; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it from 1973-74 to 1976-77. Jokic is the ninth three-time MVP in NBA history.

“It’s hard to differentiate greatness from greatness from greatness,” Denver head coach Michael Malone said in early April of how Jokic has gotten better from previous MVP seasons. “And then that’s what he’s been over multiple years now. I know the last six years now, we’ve had by far the best record in the Western Conference and only second of the NBA behind, I think Milwaukee in that time.”

In his ninth season, Jokic played 79 games, his most since playing 80 games during the 2018-19 season. He joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to finish top-five in total points (fifth), rebounds (third) and assists (second) in multiple seasons, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. Elgin Baylor is the only other player to do so once.

Jokic is also the second player to record 2,000 points, 900 rebounds and 600 assists in a season, joining Oscar Robertson.

Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists — all top 10 in each statistical category. He had 25 triple-doubles, second only to Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis (26), while averaging 58.3% shooting from the field and 35.9% from behind the arc.

Powered by Jokic, Denver finished the season fifth in offensive efficiency, eighth in defensive efficiency, and fourth in net rating. The Nuggets were one of four teams to rank top-10 in all three, along with the Celtics, Knicks and Thunder.

While Denver boasted the best starting five in the league, Jokic’s value was undeniable to Denver. The Nuggets posted a plus-11.8 net efficiency when Jokic was on the court but a minus-8.6 when he was off. Jokic led the NBA with a plus-682 plus-minus. The Nuggets were minus-251 with their franchise player off the court.

Of course, the humble Jokic often says he doesn’t care about individual honors as much as he covets the championship. Jokic is trying to lead the Nuggets to a repeat as world champs.

Should he do so, the Nuggets big man will have put together a four-year run that only four other all-time greats have ever done. LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell are the only players to win three regular-season MVPs and two titles in a four-year span.

“Nikola has matured, his ability to continue to make everyone around him better,” Malone said. “And when you win a championship, and we’re going to run it back, but in place of Bruce [Brown] and Jeff [Green], we’re going to try to put young players in and the fact that we have a better record than we did last year.

“And we’ve had Jamal Murray miss [23] games. It speaks to Nikola understanding it’s still my responsibility as a great player to help [the younger role players] as well as all the other guys to understand what their roles are, how to play on both ends of the floor, and most importantly, make those guys better.”

ESPN’s Stats and Information contributed to this report.

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