NBA MVP Watch: Nikola Jokic poised to make history with Denver Nuggets
With the NBA regular season hitting the home stretch, the MVP race is becoming more and more of a runaway.
For the first time in his career, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is in a prime position to take home the award. Not only would Jokic be the first center to win the award since Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-2000, but he would also be the first Nuggets player to be named MVP.
With one week left, the odds are strongly in Jokic's favor to make the history books.
According to FOX Bet's insights, here are the four MVP favorites, with a breakdown of each candidate's stats as of Monday morning, recent play and what's on the horizon.
1. Nikola Jokic -2000
Per-game stats: Points: 26.4 (T-11th) | Assists: 8.5 (seventh) | Rebounds: 10.8 (10th)
How it's going: Despite the Nuggets' recent struggles, Jokic is still putting up astronomical numbers. Denver went 1-3 in this past week's stretch of games. However, that lull snapped a five-game winning streak, so folks aren't writing off Denver quite yet. Plus, that 1-3 stretch came against a gauntlet of foes in the Los Angeles Lakers (loss), New York Knicks (win), Utah Jazz (loss) and Brooklyn Nets (loss). Jokic racked up two more double-doubles over that stretch, extending his total for the season to 57 in 68 games played.
What's up next: With hopes of snatching the No. 3 seed in the West, the Nuggets close out their season on a four-game road trip. Entering play Monday, Denver sat one game back of the LA Clippers for the 3-seed. The Nuggets open play against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday before visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons on Thursday and Friday, respectively. They'll then wrap up the regular season with a Sunday clash vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.
What people are saying: "[Jokic] is the MVP, for sure." — Nuggets guard Austin Rivers
2. Joel Embiid +900
Per-game stats: Points: 29.2 (third) | Rebounds: 10.7 (11th)
How it's going: The surging Philadelphia 76ers are on an eight-game winning streak, leapfrogging the Nets to seize control of the East's No. 1 seed. That stretch matches up with Joel Embiid getting back up to speed with the team after sitting out the second of consecutive meetings with the Milwaukee Bucks on April 22 and 24. During the eight-game romp, Embiid posted four double-doubles and averaged 25.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
What's up next: Philly's season wraps up with a pair of road games against the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Then, the Orlando Magic visit Philadelphia for a two-game set before the playoffs tip-off.
3. Stephen Curry +1800
Per-game stats: Points: 31.9 (first) | Assists: 5.7 (T-33rd)
How it's going: Stephen Curry is doing his damndest to drag the Golden State Warriors into the playoffs, with the team going 3-1 in four matchups this past week. The 33-year-old guard averaged a whopping 40.3 points per game in those four contests, shooting 50% from the field and 45.8% from distance. With an average margin of victory at 25 points, the victories were all blowouts. The lone loss, coming on the second night of a back-to-back, was by five points. For all that effort, the Dubs sit at the 8-seed heading into the final week of regular-season play.
What's up next: The Warriors get back-to-back doozies to kick off the week, hosting the West's top two seeds Monday and Tuesday. The Utah Jazz visit the Bay first, riding a five-game winning streak, followed by the second-seeded Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Steph & Co. then finish up the season with a game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday and Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.
What people are saying: "I think Steph is the greatest shooter of all time." — Blazers guard Damian Lillard, via the "Dan Patrick Show"
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo +2000
Per-game stats: Points: 28.2 (fifth) | Assists: 5.9 (T-26th) | Rebounds: 11.1 (tied-eighth)
How it's going: Winners of five straight, the Bucks are one of the hottest teams in the East at the moment. The reigning back-to-back MVP is a big reason why. In his previous four games, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging a double-double with 31.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. He also has thrown in 5.8 assists, for good measure. A pair of wins this past week came against the Nets, giving the Bucks a real shot at sneaking in and taking the No. 2 seed in the East.
What's up next: The Bucks have five more games to help determine their final seed before the playoffs begin. A lot of traveling is on the agenda, too. An away trip to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday is up first, followed by a home game against the Magic on Tuesday. They'll then visit the Pacers on Thursday before returning home to host the Heat on Saturday. Finally, they'll close the regular season with a trip to face the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
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