The Denver Nuggets 118-104 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night helped keep the team in the top spot in the Western Conference standings.
But, star center Nikola Jokic has seemed to fallen out of the NBA MVP front-runner position, after some of his defensive shortcomings were highlighted during the team’s recent struggles.
After Wednesday night’s game, Denver’s head coach Michael Malone spoke out against the ongoing debate around the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
“I think this year unfortunately has just taken a really ugly, nasty turn in the MVP conversation, and I think it’s really turned a lot of people off, including him,” Malone said.
Jokic was awarded the MVP trophy following the 2021 season, and he received MVP honors for a second consecutive time last year.
“And what’s happening now is there’s so many guys that could win the MVP this year. Great candidates. Joel Embiid is a great candidate, Luka Doncic is a great candidate, Jayson Tatum — whoever you want to put in that mix, those are all deserving. But what happens in today’s society is that everybody, it’s like when I was a college coach and all the negative recruiting. It’s not promoting my guy, it’s ripping down every other guy. And that’s just ridiculous,” Malone noted.
Malone called for more overall positive conversations as it relates to players across the league.
“This game, as Adam Silver told us at the All-Star break, the game is in a great spot. The league’s in a great spot. We have great players. Celebrate them. Don’t criticize, don’t tear them down. Build them all up, and whoever wins it, good for them. And that’s one thing that’s been really disappointing this year with the whole MVP conversation and all the hot takes. It’s really just gotten ugly and nasty, and I really don’t care for it.”
Since Jokic’s odds to win the award have dropped off, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is now the favorite. The Sixers have surged in recent weeks, while the Nuggets have recently experienced a downturn.
Earlier this month, Malone said the MVP debate had “gotten so out of hand on so many levels” and taken a “really dark” turn.
Former NBA player Kendrick Perkins sparked controversy when he was discussing the MVP race during an appearance on ESPN.
Perkins mentioned that only three players since 1990 have won an MVP despite being outside the top 10 in points per game: Jokic in his first MVP campaign in 2020-21, Dirk Nowitzki (2006-07) and Steve Nash (2004-05, 2005-06).
“What do those guys have in common? I’ll let it sit there and marinate. You think about it,” he Perkins, testing “First Take” co-host Stephen A. Smith.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo also has a strong case to take home his third trophy. He is averaging career-high 31.2 points along with 11.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. The Bucks currently sit in the first place in the Eastern Conference standings.