Second-year big man Nikola Jokic is playing like a star and the Denver Nuggets are winning games. Why is no one talking about it?
The 2015 NBA Draft produced two of the most recognizable players in the NBA: Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns. Both have become household names due to their immediate contributions and otherworldly potential that millions of fans consistently fawn over.
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Unfortunately, there’s a player who deserves to be mentioned in that same breath, but is consistently overlooked: Nikola Jokic.
Jokic was selected in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft, but played his rookie season in 2015-16. He became an advanced metrics phenom as a player who made the most of the limited minutes he played in Michael Malone’s rotation.
In 2016-17, the Denver Nuggets are in the midst of a turnaround and Jokic has been leading the charge by playing like a legitimate star.
Star is a word that gets thrown around rather loosely, but it fits Jokic. He’s been responsible for elite production on a Nuggets team that’s 22-28 overall, but 13-12 over the past 25 games that Jokic has been available for.
A 13-12 record may not spell stardom, but it’s a vast improvement from the season win percentage of .440 to the 25-game win percentage of .520.
During that 25-game stretch, Jokic has averaged 19.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.6 offensive rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.0 block in just 27.7 minutes per game. He’s shot 62.5 percent from the field, 36.7 percent from 3-point range, and 83.5 percent from the free throw line.
Those are video game numbers—or, dare I say it, superstar numbers.
Jokic has taken it to another level over the course of his past 10 appearances. During that time, he’s averaged 22.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.9 offensive boards, 5.4 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 3-point field goal made in 29.3 minutes per game.
That translates to 27.2 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.7 offensive rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.2 3-point field goals made per 36 minutes.
Jokic still has an abundance of work to do before he solidifies his place as one of the elite players in the NBA. He’s producing at an exceptional level, however, and has one of the most dynamic skill sets in the Association.
Not only is Jokic an elite rebounder and a well-rounded scoring threat, but he’s one of the best passers at his position.
Jokic finished 2015-16 with averages of 3.9 assists per 36 minutes and is up to 5.6 assists per 36 minutes in 2016-17. More importantly, he can make plays from angles that most players simply can’t see or string passes along.
Though Porzingis and Towns may be more popular, Jokic is every bit as promising.