It’s been a rough start for the Denver Nuggets, who dropped four of their first five games, and found themselves in a position they certainly did not plan for: last place, all by themselves, in the NBA’s Western Conference.
And while their inauspicious beginning hasn’t shaken the sportsbooks — the team started the season with +2000 odds to win the NBA title at DraftKings, and that number hasn’t budged an inch — one player is making the books stand up and take notice.
Of course, that player is Nikola Jokic, who in his first three games dropped 72 points to go along with 42 assists. Gaudy numbers for sure. So gaudy, in fact, he became the first player in 54 years to start the season with more than 70 points and 40 assists in the first three games, according to Elias Sport Bureau. The last player to do it was Guy Rodgers in the 1966-67 season.
Via Elias, Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic is the second player in NBA history with at least 70 points and 40 assists through his team's first 3 games of a season, joining Guy Rodgers in 1966-67.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) December 29, 2020
For the record, his fourth game was no slouch either, with another 26 points to go along with an additional 12 assists.
MVP odds getting better
As a result of this incredible and ongoing start to the season, Jokic’s MVP odds have been cut to +1100 on FOX Bet, half of what they were ahead of the season.
The odds might continue to drop, especially with preseason MVP favorites Luka Donic struggling and Giannis Ankantetokounmpo not yet putting up numbers that were expected of him heading into the season.
Of course, Jokic’s incredible start doesn’t come as a monster surprise, as he’s proven to be one of the best centers in the NBA. But if he continues this torrid pace, he could very well end the year in some rarefied air. For instance: Jokic is currently leading the NBA in assists. The last center to win that honor? Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967-68 season. The last one before that? No one.
Jokic is also currently averaging a triple-double per game; if he can manage that over the course of the season, he’ll become only the third NBA player — after Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson — to accomplish the feat.
Of course, Jokic’s MVP chances also hinge on whether the Nuggets can right the ship and end up where the prognosticators saw them — namely, a peg below the Lakers and Clippers in the West.
As built, the team could probably get there. But Denver is also a potential landing spot for James Harden. Additionally, Brian Windhorst of ESPN notes the Nuggets are also game to be part of a Harden trade, acting as a facilitator of sorts and improving themselves that way.
In the meantime, Jokic continued his more-than-MVP caliber season, dropping another triple-double against the Timberwolves Sunday night in a game the Nuggets won with a dominant fourth quarter.
Triple-double number 45 ✅
Nikola needs one more to move to eighth on the all-time list! pic.twitter.com/GyPL1yFxj5
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 4, 2021
Later this week, the Nuggets face off against the T-Wolves for a second time, and then the Mavericks on Thursday night in the TNT 8 p.m. MST spot. Another Jokic triple-double in front of a national audience — and Donic — might cut those MVP odds once again.