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Malone says not voting Jokic MVP because it would be three straight is ‘lazy’

Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 30: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets signals to the crowd after defeating the Miami Heat at Ball Arena on December 30, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)

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Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain. Larry Bird.

That’s the complete list of players who have won three consecutive NBA MVP awards. Not Michael Jordan or LeBron James or Magic Johnson or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Just Bird, Wilt and Russell.

It’s one of the reasons people are skeptical Nikola Jokic could win his third straight MVP — there is voter fatigue and some of the media panel that casts ballots could be concerned about the historical precedent. Nuggets coach Mike Malone isn’t a fan of that idea.

Jokic has to be in the mix of any mid-season MVP conversation. He is averaging 25.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game, with a ridiculous 68.6 true shooting percentage, plus the Nuggets are 23.7 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court (and no, that number is not a typo). When it comes to advanced stats, Jokic and Luka Doncic are battling for the top spot in almost every one.

What makes this MVP race wild at the mid-point is how deep it is — strong cases can be made for Jokic, Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, with solid cases out there for Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, maybe even Zion Williamson. Many of us in the media will make our mid-season MVP picks in the coming weeks (look for mine on Jan. 9), but the reality is that every person mentioned in this paragraph has a legitimate shot at the award by the end of the season. The race is wide open.

Which could be bad news for Jokic — some voters will set the bar higher for him to win his third in a row, and in a deep field where they are other good options, it could be difficult for him to get enough first-place votes.

But Jokic has to be in the conversation. Has to be.