Make no mistake, for Nuggets fans and basketball fans alike this past week was the week of Nikola Jokic. Following an impressive performance against the United States last Friday in the Olympics, Jokic led Serbia to the gold medal game in a much anticipated rematch against the Americans. Though Serbia ultimately came up short, a HUGE congratulations to Jokic is in order for winning the silver medal. What an accomplishment.
One of the key takeaways from the Olympics has been the media's reception to Jokic's play. His success on the international stage has shed much deserved light onto how good of a player he actually is, and though it is something that Nuggets fans have known for quite some time now, it is really cool to see him get so much attention.
In addition to the piece written last week by Denver Stiff's Jeff Morton, there were several articles about Jokic and what he means for the future of the Denver Nuggets:
Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer penned a beautiful piece about Jokic's emergence from seemingly out of nowhere. Tjarks spends much of the article comparing Jokic to another Europeaon big man, Marc Gasol, which is quite the complement.
Jokic wasn’t supposed to be this good. The Denver Nuggets took him with the 41st pick in the 2014 draft, and no one outside of the organization expected much. The middle of the second round is where the careers of project big men go to die, and Jokic was overshadowed on his team by Jusuf Nurkic, another big man from the Balkans who was taken 25 spots higher. The skill level was always there for Jokic, but there were concerns about his athleticism and whether his game would translate to an NBA landscape where centers are expected to play out on the perimeter on both sides of the ball. He was a slow-moving behemoth in a sport changing under his feet.
But Jokic remade his body, dropping more than 30 pounds between draft night and his NBA debut a year later, and everything changed. He’s still not all that fleet of foot, but the weight loss has given him a better chance to get up and down the floor and move in space, allowing the rest of his game to shine. He’s on the same career path as Marc Gasol, another big-boned European center who slipped into the second round before figuring out how to keep his weight in check. The difference: Gasol didn’t come over to the NBA until he was 23; Jokic debuted at 20.
ESPN's Bradford Doolittle ranked the NBA's top 20 international players for the upcoming season, placing Jokic high on the list at number two behind only Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. Here's what Doolittle had to say about Nikola:
Jokic has a strong argument for No. 1, as his per-possession win percentage and overall RPM put him atop all international players. His defensive RPM is outranked only by Gobert, but his metrics show a more full range of skills.
The only thing holding Jokic back is his projected minutes.
I don't necessarily agree with putting Jokic behind Gobert for minutes alone as he will certainly get more playing time than last season, but it is what it is and it's way cool for Jokic to even be mentioned among the top international players in the league today.
Following Jokic's 25 point effort against the United States on August 12, Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post wrote about how this performance was a win for both Jokic and the Nuggets. In particular, Dempsey notes Jokic's improved strength and post play, which will make him even more of a matchup nightmare for opponents in the future.
Do you know how many NBA fans didn't know who Nikola Jokic was before tonight even though he was 3rd in Rookie of Year voting? True.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 13, 2016
David Ramsey of the Colorado Springs Gazette also added his two cents to the local media's praise of Jokic, including a very nice quote by Tom Thibodeau. Definitely check it out!
For you fantasy basketball players out there, Chris Towers of CBS Sports previewed the Nuggets and targeted players to watch out for in fantasy this year. Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay were pegged as "breakout" players after impressive rookie campaigns, but Kenneth Faried was listed as the lone "bust" on the roster, and Towers did not shy away from sharing his true feelings regarding the Manimal:
Kenneth Faried quite literally burst on the scene as a rookie, forcing his way into the starting lineup on the strength of his tenacious rebounding, energy and athleticism. Fast forward five years, however, and Faried looks like pretty much the same player. He plays a little bit more (25.3 minutes per game) and gets a bit more responsibility on offense, but really doesn't do all that much with it... Faried is a prime candidate for a trade, but if he stays on the Nuggets, his best days might be past him. I'll let someone else convince themselves the soon-to-be 27-year-old still has room to grow.
Elsewhere, rookies Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez represented the Nuggets at the annual Kroenke Sports Charities equipment drive. According to Nuggets.com, over 16,000 items and $6,000 in scholarships were collected. Way to go, rookies!
The Nuggets organization and basketball fans around the country have also been donating money to support Josh Adams following a devastating car crash last week. Adams played with the Nuggets this summer in Las Vegas and had recently signed a contract with Avtodor in Russia. We all wish Adams a speedy recovery and hope for the best for the Colorado native. If you wish to contribute to Adam's medical support, please visit his Go Fund Me page.
In case you missed it, Nuggets GM Tim Connelly made a special appearance last week on the CSG Podcast hosted by Jeff Morton and Nate Timmons. I'm going to link it again here because it is such a good listen and it's so incredible that Connelly takes the time to do stuff like this. Definitely check it out if you haven't already!
While you're at it, in the past week or so there have been several Stiffs that made appearances on podcasts around the web. Be sure to listen to Adam Mares here and Ryan Blackburn's podcast debut here!
Finally, the Nuggets Item of the Week goes to a special toaster that will surely guarantee you start your day off right (apologies for the shameless self-tweet promotion):
Is there anything cooler than that?!?