By Daniel Paiz
If you’re a Denver Nuggets fan then you know that until recently a dynamic, exciting player hasn’t played in the Mile High City. No disrespect to anyone formerly or currently on the team, but the days of Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Allen Iverson and others seems like a long time ago.
Drafting guys like Jamal Murray and Gary Harris was a good start. But, there is one guy who should be getting way more notoriety than he is: Nikola Jokic.
Few players in the league are playing like this guy, and yet he’s not starting in the NBA All-Star game. Here’s why that’s a mistake.
Nikola Jokic has been impressive with his consistency so far this season. 20.1 points a game, 10.3 rebounds a game and 7.6 assists a game is not a stat line every big man is putting up. Jokic is also shooting 85 percent from the free throw line, 50.5 percent from the field, and making his presence felt on the offensive side of the ball.
Another number that recently reflects The Joker’s impact: 25. The Nuggets were down 25 points midway through the third quarter Monday night (1/28) at Memphis, but Jokic and company didn’t give up. Jokic was the Nuggets’ top scorer with 24 points, including a big layup with about 28 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
That kind of resiliency and team chemistry leads me to my next point: what doesn’t show up in the stats sheet.
Eye test and intangibles
Jokic can dribble the ball up the court and can pass as well as anyone in the league. His ability to run the pick and roll with any position one through five also can create mismatches for opposing defenses. Watch how he quarterbacks the ball to his teammates:
The laser passing, the occasional misdirection by feigning a direction to throw a defender off, the consistent post game; it tests opposing defenses. In 2019 there are not a lot of big men who consistently score and play what some call the “point center”. The Joker can do a bit of everything and more.
There are critics who demand Jokic work on his defense, and that’s a valid point. While he can mostly guard the paint when guards drive to the hoop, he isn’t always shutting down his opponent outside the paint.
Guarding from the three-point arc to the hoop is a lot of ground to cover, but Jokic has the ability to do so with practice. It won’t come overnight, but it is something that can launch him into that top-tier kind of player. The kind of player that will be starting in the All-Star game for years to come should he take that next step.