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Nikola Jokic making case for Michael Jordan Trophy

In the NBA’s final game on Christmas Day, the league’s two-time reigning MVP presented further evidence that, once again, he just may be the best player in basketball. And the sports betting market is finally hearing his case.

Nikola Jokic’s superstardom was on full display in Sunday’s nightcap when he led the Nuggets in points (41), rebounds (15), and assists (15) in a 128-125 overtime win over the Suns to punctuate a showcase night for the NBA. It capped off a ridiculous week for Jokic in which he averaged 30.8 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 12.3 assists with three triple-doubles in four Denver wins.

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Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets accepts the 2021 NBA MVP award
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets accepts the 2021 NBA MVP award
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NBA MVP odds and the case for Nikola Jokic

All of that has finally caught the attention of oddsmakers, who now have the two-time MVP winner priced at 5/1 at BetMGM to win it again — tied for third with preseason favorite Luka Doncic and behind only co-favorites Jayson Tatum (+275) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+275).

It’s a marked improvement for Denver’s center, who is trying to become the ninth player in NBA history to win three MVP awards and only the fourth to win three straight — something that hasn’t been done since Larry Bird pulled it off from 1984-86.

Could Jokic really be the next to join that exclusive list?

His box-score stats alone make a strong case. Entering the week, Jokic ranked 16th in points (25.4), sixth in rebounds (11.0) and third in assists (9.4) while also ranking 12th in steals (1.5) and eighth in field-goal percentage (61.6 percent). Let’s put some of those numbers into context: his assists per game would be the most by a center in NBA history, and his shooting percentage ranks among the best of anyone with at least 10 attempts per game.

His advanced stats are awfully compelling, too, as they were in both of his MVP campaigns. Jokic leads the league in win shares (6.1), win shares per 48 minutes (.303) and box plus-minus (12.4) while pacing the league in PER (32.3). He’s also tied for the top spot in the NBA’s player impact estimate (20.9) and ranks third in individual net rating (+11.8) behind two rotation guards.

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after a made basket in overtime against the Phoenix Suns
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after a made basket in overtime against the Phoenix Suns
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Betting on the NBA?

And how about team success? For once, he’s got that, too. The Nuggets’ win on Sunday — when Jokic posted the highest-scoring triple-double on Christmas Day in league history — helped them maintain the top spot in the West with a 21-11 record. For context, Denver owned a .500 record at this time last year and was barely over .500 at this point two years ago.

This early run is a big deal for Jokic, as every previous player to win three straight MVPs enjoyed strong team success behind it. That’s clearly been missing for Jokic in recent years: the Nuggets secured the No. 3 seed in his first award-winning season, but they won just 48 games last year, when he became only the third MVP winner to ever hail from a sub-50 win team.

Now he’s got it all, and the betting market can’t ignore him much longer. Just two weeks ago, Jokic was dealing at 20/1 to win his third straight MVP award, and he was dealing at 10/1 less than a week ago — before his recent triple-double madness carried Denver to its seventh win in eight games.

The dreaded “voter fatigue” still lingers over his three-peat bid and is a key reason why he was priced as a preseason long shot in the first place. Yet it was a similar story last year, when such fatigue suppressed his price for months until his statistical brilliance rendered that a moot point.

This season feels like it’s following a familiar beat, with naysayers saying he can’t win again as Jokic rewrites what should be possible in today’s NBA. At this rate, it’s nearly impossible to bet against his next move, which just may include another trophy on his mantle.

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