After beginning the year as a reserve, playing just four minutes in the season opener against the Houston Rockets, Nikola Jokic ended a wonderful season with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the season finale against the Portland Trailblazers. His work all year long has been noticed by voters, and he finished third place in the Rookie of the Year voting this season.
Jokic finished with 10.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in just 21.7 minutes per game. After beginning the season on the bench, Jokic assumed the starting center role and started 55 out of 80 games. Jokic ranked eighth in the NBA in RPM and first among rookies, as well as 24th overall in PER and only second to Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns finished as the undisputed and unanimous choice for best rookie, but interestingly, Kristaps Porzingis ran away with second place. Many Nuggets fans (including myself) believed that Jokic had a better overall season than the new face of the New York Knicks, but in that statement lies the rub. Porzingis plays for a bigger market and will always be more visible. (Editors note: didn't voters see their head-to-head matchup when the Joker COOKED the Zinger)
Still, it is no small feat that Jokic finished ahead of every other rookie. Devin Booker had a solid season for the Phoenix Suns, and Jahlil Okafor put up great offensive numbers on a poor Philadelphia 76ers team. We should celebrate the fact that NBA voters took notice of Jokic over these players, and hope that the young Serbian is driven to prove himself to the voters who chose Porzingis over him.
Emmanuel Mudiay also finished seventh in the voting, accumulating four third place votes. He should look to prove himself after this season as well, though it should feel good that he finished with three more points than second overall pick D'Angelo Russell.
Let's give our congratulations to our young rookies! Jokic and Mudiay are obviously very young, but the future of the Denver Nuggets is bright with two players bringing national attention to the franchise. Hopefully this is a sign of more awards to come!