Nikola Jokic has a chance to do something that even Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan never accomplished. Jokic will have a chance to win his third consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award. Only three players in league history have won three straight MVPs: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird.

The NBA MVP award would carry intrigue even if we discount Jokic’s attempt at a three-peat. No individual league honor carries as much weight.

So how is this season’s MVP race shaping up?

To answer that question, we turned to three members of The Athletic’s NBA staff who voted for the award last year: Zach Harper, Josh Robbins and Anthony Slater.


What are your criteria for selecting the NBA’s MVP? Do you select the best player on the best team? Do you choose the person who posts the best stats? 

Zach Harper: I have a lot of different things I take into account. There is no set criteria across the board for me because every season is different. I try not to compare one season to a previous one for any player or standard for why the MVP was selected that year. While I do think historic precedent matters, each individual season is ideally contained within itself.

I’m looking for quite a bit. Player production matters. Are these historic numbers? Are these numbers few others are doing? What impact do these numbers have? Team success matters. Is a team performing at an elite level? Is a team completely propped up because of this player? Would it be significantly worse if this player got hurt or was removed? Player impact. This plays into team success some, but can this team survive without the player on the floor?

Other factors matter to me too. What’s their perceived value, as subjective as that can be? Is the player clutch and coming through to pull games out when everybody knows he’s getting the ball? What’s the narrative of the league that season, and how does the player’s narrative fit into that?

Josh Robbins: Here’s how I distill my thought process for this award: Which player made the most indispensable contribution to winning for his team? Here’s another way of putting it: If you subtract that player from his team (maybe because of injury), how much would his absence impact the team’s record?