Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic's MVP season cements big man renaissance

Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic is officially the 2020-21 NBA Most Valuable Player after a dominant regular season.

Jokic's win marks the first time in 21 years that a center won the award, with Shaquille O'Neal the last outright center crowned MVP in the 199-2000 season.

With small-ball dominating the NBA in recent seasons and perimeter players having a grip on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, the Serbian's monster regular season isn't so much as a throwback to the big man dominating the NBA as it is a re-invention of the position.

Jokic's numbers jump off the page, with 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists on 566/.388/.868 shooting splits, leading the league with 60 double-doubles and second behind only Russell Westbrook (38) with 16 triple-doubles.

While he doesn't dominate opponents with his physicality like Shaquille O'Neal, or possess the post moves of a Hakeem Olajuwon, Jokic has found his own way to dominate the NBA, with his combination of scoring, rebounding and supreme playmaking - operating as the team's de facto point guard from the elbow.

His 8.3 assists per game are just shy of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time season average (8.6) for dimes from a center.

I mean, how many big men can pull off a pass like this in crunch time of a playoff game?

Jokic's unconventional style has adapted with the modern game, killing teams from mid-range, finding open 3-point shooters out of double-teams, and being able to bring the ball down the court and make plays, possessing all the skills of a modern NBA big man.

Perhaps one of the hallmarks of his season - he played all 72 regular-season games, especially impressive given the pandemic challenges of this season as he became the first MVP to play every game of the regular season for their team since Kobe Bryant in 2007-08.

The 26-year-old's durability was essential for the Nuggets this season, especially after they lost Jamal Murray to a season-ending injury. He finished the regular season third in total minutes played (2,488), meanwhile MVP runner-up Joel Embiid, played just 1,585 during an injury-plagued campaign.

Embiid and Jokic were both dominant in their own way during the regular season and finishing as the top two players in MVP voting is a testament to how the game has changed and how the big men have changed with it.

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