In one of the closest races ever, Denver’s Nikola Jokic edged out Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo to win the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player award.
Let’s dig into the numbers behind Jokic’s MVP season as he joined elite company in some cases and created a class of his own in others.
Consecutive NBA MVP Winners
Jokic becomes the 13th player to win consecutive MVPs in league history, joining an exclusive club of the game’s greatest players. Jokic is the only player to accomplish this feat that was not part of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team.
- Bill Russell (3 straight MVPs): 1960-61, 1961-62, 1962-63
- Wilt Chamberlain (3): 1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2): 1970-71, 1971-72
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2): 1975-76, 1976-77
- Moses Malone (2): 1981-82, 1982-83
- Larry Bird (3): 1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86
- Magic Johnson (2): 1988-89, 1989-90
- Michael Jordan (2): 1990-91, 1991-92
- Tim Duncan (2): 2001-02, 2002-03
- Steve Nash (2): 2004-05, 2005-06
- LeBron James (2): 2008-09, 2009-10
- LeBron James (2): 2011-12, 2012-13
- Stephen Curry (2): 2014-15, 2015-16
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (2): 2018-19, 2019-20
- Nikola Jokic (2): 2020-21, 2021-22
In 2020-21, Jokic posted career-best numbers to earn his first league MVP. He followed that up by increasing his 2021-22 production nearly across the board in leading a shorthanded Nuggets squad – missing starters Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. — to a 48-34 record and a sixth-place finish in the Western Conference.
Below is a tale of the tape between Jokic’s first and second MVP seasons, illustrating how the reigning title holder raised his game even higher.
|Field Goal %||56.6||58.3|
|Free Throw %||86.8||81.0|
|Effective FG %||60.2||62.0|
|True Shooting %||64.7||66.1|
Top 10 in points, rebounds and assists in same season
Jokic finished the regular season ranked sixth in scoring (27.1 points per game), second in rebounding (13.8 rebounds per game) and eighth in assists (7.9 per game). He is a true pick-your-poison player as he is just as dangerous a scorer as he is a playmaker. Jokic had 22 games with 30-plus points (Denver went 16-6), 20 games with 10-plus assists (Denver went 13-7) and four games where he did both (Denver went 4-0).
Jokic joined Russell Westbrook (2016-17 and 2017-18) as the only players since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 to finish a regular season ranked in the top 10 in points, rebounds and assists. Only seven players have ever accomplished the feat, dating back to when rebounds became an official stat in 1950-51. Jokic (26.361 ppg) came just six points shy of pulling this off last season as he finished 12th in scoring, edged out of the top 10 by hundredths of a point by Jayson Tatum (26.438) and Donovan Mitchell (26.434). Three more buckets (or two more 3s) and Jokic would have hit the top 10 and this year would be a repeat.
|Year||Player||Team||Points (rank)||Rebounds (rank)||Assists (rank)|
|2021-22||Nikola Jokic||Denver||27.1 (6th)||13.8 (2nd)||7.9 (8th)|
|2017-18||Russell Westbrook||Oklahoma City||25.4 (7th)||10.1 (10th)||10.3 (1st)|
|2016-17||Russell Westbrook||Oklahoma City||31.6 (1st)||10.7 (10th)||10.4 (3rd)|
Official league leaders determined by totals through 1968-69 season
|1967-68||Wilt Chamberlain||Philadelphia||1992 (3rd)||1952 (1st)||702 (1st)|
|1966-67||Wilt Chamberlain||Philadelphia||1956 (3rd)||1957 (1st)||630 (3rd)|
|1965-66||Wilt Chamberlain||Philadelphia||2649 (1st)||1943 (1st)||414 (7th)|
|1964-65||Elgin Baylor||Los Angeles||2009 (5th)||950 (10th)||280 (9th)|
|1963-64||Wilt Chamberlain||San Francisco||2948 (1st)||1787 (2nd)||403 (T-4th)|
|1962-63||Elgin Baylor||Los Angeles||2719 (2nd)||1146 (5th)||386 (5th)|
|1961-62||Oscar Robertson||Cincinnati||2432 (3rd)||985 (8th)||899 (1st)|
|1960-61||Elgin Baylor||Los Angeles||2538 (2nd)||1447 (4th)||371 (9th)|
|1959-60||Cliff Hagan||St. Louis||1859 (5th)||803 (10th)||299 (10th)|
|1958-59||Elgin Baylor||Minneapolis||1742 (4th)||1050 (3rd)||287 (8th)|
|1956-57||Dolph Schayes||Syracuse||1617 (3rd)||1008 (3rd)||229 (10th)|
|1950-51||Dolph Schayes||Syracuse||1121 (T-6th)||1080 (1st)||251 (10th)|
Jokic led the NBA in triple-doubles (19) as he moved to seventh on the all-time list with 76 triple-doubles in 527 career games (recording a triple-double in 14.4% of all games played). Jokic is two behind Wilt Chamberlain (78), the record holder for centers, before a significant leap to enter the top five: LeBron James (105), Jason Kidd (107), Magic Johnson (138), Oscar Robertson (181) and Westbrook (194).
First to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season
It’s not often that a player gets to be the first to achieve something in a league celebrating its 75th season. But Jokic did so this season, becoming the first player in NBA history to record at least 2,000 points, 1000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single season.
When we look back at history, the closest any player came to achieving this feat prior to Jokic was Wilt back in 1965-66 when he finished with 414 assists while easily reaching the points and rebounds thresholds. Prior to Jokic, there had only been three seasons (two by Wilt and one by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) when a player reached 400 assists. There had only been 12 seasons (by five players with Elgin Baylor, Billy Cunningham and Tim Duncan joining Wilt and Kareem) when a player hit 300 assists.
Even if we take assists out of the equation, there had been just 47 instances in which a player ever reached the 2K-1K threshold, with the only active player to do it being Karl-Anthony Towns (2,061 points and 1,007 rebounds) in 2016-17.
Led the NBA in on/off court net rating
One criterion that is often used when discussing MVP candidates is how his team would perform without them. We have two ways to assess that. The first is to compare a team’s record in games the player suits up against the games he misses. Jokic appeared in 74 of Denver’s 82 games this season; the Nuggets went 46-28 (.622 win %) in those games and 2-6 (.250) in the eight games he missed.
In the play-by-play era (since 1996-97) we have on-/off-court numbers that we can assess a player’s impact. The Nuggets posted an 8.4 net rating (outscoring their opponents by 8.4 points per 100 possessions) in 2,476 minutes with Jokic on the court this season. In his 1,485 minutes off the court, the Nuggets posted a minus-7.9 net rating (outscored by 7.9 points per 100 possessions).
That 16.3 differential in net rating is the highest among 272 players with at least 1,000 minutes played this season. Below is a list of the eight players this season with a double-digit on-/off-court net rating while playing at least 2,000 minutes (90 players qualified).
||On-Court Net Rtg (min)||Off-Court Net Rtg (min)|
|Nikola Jokic||DEN||16.3||8.4 (2476)||-7.9 (1485)|
|Jayson Tatum||BOS||14.0||12.1 (2731)||-1.9 (1250)|
|Jrue Holiday||MIL||12.5||8.5 (2207)||-4.0 (1744)|
|Darius Garland||CLE||12.4||6.6 (2430)||-5.8 (1516)|
|Stephen Curry||GSW||12.1||10.7 (2211)||-1.4 (1735)|
|Kevin Durant||BKN||12.0||6.5 (2047)||-5.5 (1904)|
|Joel Embiid||PHI||11.5||7.9 (2296)||-3.6 (1665)|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||MIL||11.2||8.0 (2204||-3.2 (1747)|
Highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in league history
As dominant as Jokic has been when looking at traditional stats, he really separates from the rest of the field in advanced metrics. There are a number of advanced stats that attempt to gauge a player’s overall contribution to the game – Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Win Shares, Box Plus/Minus, Player Impact Estimate (PIE) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP).
Jokic ranks first in the league in all of them. There are legitimate arguments against some of these catch-all stats that certain formulas overvalue some aspects of the game compared to others. But with Jokic leading every single one, it’s hard to build a case against him.
Let’s begin with a closer look at PER, which includes a record-breaking mark for Jokic and also illustrates how great the three finalists for this year’s MVP award were. Jokic not only led the NBA, he posted the highest PER ever at 32.85 this season, besting Chamberlain’s previous record of 32.08 when he averaged 50.4 points, 25.7 rebounds and 48.5 minutes per game in 1961-62.
Below is a list of the top 15 PER seasons in NBA history. After Jokic and Wilt at the top, we see Antetokounmpo’s effort this season as the third-highest PER of all time (32.05), while Embiid’s 31.16 PER for this season ranks 14th all-time.
Below is a look at the top five players in the other four advanced metrics that rank all-around performance. All four leaderboards have Jokic first and either Giannis or Embiid second and third, which again showcases how these three finalists separated themselves from the rest of the league, but that Jokic was the one who emerged on top.
|Rank||Player||Team||Player Impact Estimate (PIE)|
|Rank||Player||Team||Value Over Replacement Player (VORP)|