It seems like no other MVP candidate has been put under a microscope much like Nikola Jokic has been in recent weeks. Some pundits have even wondered whether race plays a huge part in the Denver Nuggets star’s MVP candidacy. Amid all the noise, however, there are some legitimate concerns regarding the merits of making Jokic only the fourth player in NBA history to win three straight MVP awards.
In particular, some analysts are concerned with Jokic’s defense. As much as the Nuggets star is able to maximize his god-given basketball IQ and quick hands on that end of the court, his athletic limitations puts a cap on just how much of an impact he can make on the defensive end.
In fact, Nikola Jokic is trying to compensate for some of his defensive limitations by masquerading as a football player, which, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe pointed out, is such a defensive cop-out.
“Jokic has 45 kicked ball violations this year. [Number two] has 17. It’s his way of saying, ‘I just don’t feel like playing defense.’ It’s smart, but we shouldn’t allow guys to karate kick the ball,” Lowe said in the March 13 episode of his podcast, the Lowe Post.
It’s difficult to rag too much of Nikola Jokic’s decision to game the system. As the old adage goes, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Thus, the Nuggets big man shouldn’t catch too much flak for playing within the rules and, in turn, conserving some energy to impact the game in some other way.
It’s quite unclear as well if this constitutes that big of a problem for the NBA to decide to outlaw these kinds of infractions entirely. Still, one could argue that kicking the ball deliberately to stop an opponent from scoring isn’t in the spirit of the game; perhaps the NBA could institute some sort of rule that mirrors football’s handball violation. Maybe a deliberate kick could warrant a technical foul. However, determining intent is an extremely difficult task.
At the end of the day, this criticism should elicit some eye-rolls from Nuggets fans who, by now, have grown exhausted of all the criticisms that Jokic has been on the receiving end of as of late.