Sat, 23 Sep 2023

With Lebron James in his 20th season, Stephen Curry out of the playoff race and this season's Most Valuable Player (MVP) Joel Embiid imploding in game seven against the Boston Celtics, the title of the best player in the NBA is up for grabs.

And there's one player who is taking that title with both hands. That man is Nikola Jokic, who, after winning consecutive MVP awards in 2020/21 and 2021/22, had garnered a reputation of struggling in the playoffs. The narrative of the man affectionately known as the 'Joker' simply being a regular season player was a harsh one however, as he regularly entered playoff series' without a fully fit squad around him.

Whether it be his right-hand man Jamal Murray tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in the 2021/22 season or Michael Porter Jr.'s recurring back injury, Jokic has had a considerable burden to carry every postseason since becoming an MVP-recipient. However, with this playoff run being the first time the Nuggets have had an injury-free starting five in recent years, it's no surprise to see the Serbian excelling.

His statistics this postseason have been mind-boggling, with the center averaging 30.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and 10.2 steals at the time of writing, all of which are better than his regular season numbers.

As a result, there aren't too many involved in the NBA (National Basketball Association) who don't believe the seven-footer has established himself as the best player in the game today. After Jokic and company made light work of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round, their next test came against the star-studded Phoenix Suns.

Despite boasting the better regular season record, there were many who felt Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton would present the Nuggets with too many problems. However, the Joker had other ideas, dominating the series to gentlemen sweep the Monty Williams-coached outfit inside five games.

That set up a mouthwatering clash with the Los Angeles Lakers, who after making a significant mid-season trade, became title contenders in the space of a couple of months. Irrespective what a fifth title for Lebron James would have meant for his legacy and what another banner would signal for the famed Lakers organisation, Denver were on-song all series and booked their first NBA Finals appearance after securing a 4-0 sweep.

As mentioned earlier, that is in large part to Jokic. And if he isn't considered it already, if he can lead this Nuggets side to their maiden title, there's no doubting that he is the best player in the NBA today. Not only will that silence a number of his doubters, it will bust the myth that European players can't compete at the top level of basketball in the United States.

With four of the last five MVP award-recipients hailing from Europe (Giannis Antetokounmpo x2, Jokic x2), not only can European players compete, they are establishing themselves as the leading players in the sport.

While Jokic may not be the most athletic - his vision, touch around the rim and seemingly endless gas tank is a sight to behold, and if he can get the job done this season and win the title with the Nuggets - with two MVP's, a championship and what would likely be a Finals MVP to boot - Jokic would position himself to be considered one of the best centers to ever grace the hardwood.

For those looking to bet on the NBA Playoffs, at the time of writing, Denver are favoured to win it all at 1/2.

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