Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic won the 2020-21 NBA Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first player in franchise history and the first second-round draft pick in league history to earn the honor.
Jokic started all 72 games for the Nuggets and averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per contest -- all setting or matching career highs. The Serbian shot 56.6 percent from the floor, including 38.8 percent from 3-point range, and made 86.8 percent of his free throws. An All-Star for the third straight year, Jokic added 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks per contest.
Jokic earned 91 of 101 first-place votes for a total of 971 points. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid finished second in the voting with 586 points and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was third with 453. Curry, though, received five first-place votes against just one given to Embiid.
The Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (one first-place vote), the MVP each of the prior two seasons, and the Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul (two first-place votes) finished fourth and fifth in voting, respectively.
Jokic is averaging 31.4 points and 10.3 rebounds through seven postseason contests. The Nuggets finished third in the Western Conference at 47-25 and eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round in six games. Denver began its conference semifinal series against the Phoenix Suns on Monday with a 122-105 loss.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of Jokic's MVP status was how the Nuggets fared when star guard Jamal Murray went down for the season with an ACL tear on April 12. With Jokic carrying the team, the Nuggets finished 13-5 down the stretch to secure the No. 3 seed.
"I'm so happy and respect so much the hard work and dedication that he's put in to reach this point," coach Michael Malone said in a statement. "I've been lucky enough to coach Nikola his entire career, and to see his growth from a second-round pick trying to learn the NBA to a perennial All-Star and now the MVP is truly extraordinary. He deserves this honor and I don't take for granted getting to coach a player, and more importantly a person like Nikola."
Jokic recorded 60 double-doubles and 16 triple-doubles for the year. He surpassed both Dikembe Mutombo for the most double-doubles in franchise history and Fat Lever for the most career-triple doubles. He is also just the third player in NBA history, after Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, to finish a season ranked top-five in the league in points, rebounds and assists.
--Field Level Media