As the collective hearts of Nuggets Nation stop racing after another fight to the finish, and before your next adrenaline rush, here is a momentary diversion, something to occupy your mind while you ponder finally seriously looking into that meditation class. Your mantra? We’re winning. At least we’re winning.
This idea borrowed from fluffy women’s magazines that I never see anywhere ever, and the attendant memes to follow, here is a piece of emotional Denver Nuggets cotton candy. Treat it as such.
Here’s how I picture the conversation amongst the Nuggets uniform crew after a young rookie requested the number 15* when he came to Denver:
Employee 1: “Do you think they’ll ever retire Carmelo Anthony’s number?”
Employee 2: “He’s a second-rounder. Relax. We can worry about that if the next guy ever asks.”
Oops. Turns out that second-rounder wasn’t half-bad himself. Nikola Jokic has certainly outpaced even the most optimistic outlook about him upon arrival.
So, assuming the number 15 ever goes up into the Pepsi Center rafters, here are some of the arguments for both gents to have their moniker across the back.
‘Melo was here first, so we’ll make his case to start.
When Carmelo Anthony appeared on the scene for the Nuggets, the franchise had just gone through one of their lengthiest playoff droughts. He brought legitimacy back to the franchise immediately, and even made a semi-favorable case for Rookie of the Year against his fellow draftee LeBron James. Denver narrowly made the playoffs in his rookie season, and took the team to the playoffs in every other season he appeared with the team, including the year he only spent his first 50 games with Denver.
Melo averaged nearly 25 points per game over his Nuggets career, and never averaged less than 20. He was the unquestioned Alpha of several talented teams, including names like Finals MVP Chauncey Billups and MVP Allen Iverson. Peak ‘Melo was an assassin at games end, with an unconscious touch in the most crucial moments. He only got the Nuggets out of the first round once, but that team was a whisper from a ring.
The Joker’s story is a fan favorite, as he came from so far out of nowhere. A part of his rarity is simply amazing from the perspective that he was so far off everyone’s radar in a league now more gifted at watching every opportunity across the globe. Jokic has yet to lead the Nuggets to the postseason, and is just now crossing the 20 point-per-game average early in his fourth campaign. But scoring isn’t the full extent of his game, as his Nuggets career advantages in assists (4.5 to Anthony’s 3.1) and rebounds (9.2 to Anthony’s 6.3) show how much more rounded a game he brings.
Jokic’s advanced stats also really shine through in comparison to Carmelo’s, where his Value over Replacement Player number in 3-plus seasons (14.6) has already outpaced Melo’s 7-plus-plus-season total (14.3). Even gaudier, Jokic’s average WS/48 numbers smash Anthony’s, .214 to .125. Anthony’s best WS/48 season (.184 with the Knicks) would almost catch Jokic’s worst number, a .185 in his rookie year.
Those are simply the numbers I thought might start the conversation, Nuggets Nation. Who do you like in 15? Are you a fan of the Alpha Assassin who could pour on the points in bunches? Carmelo Anthony is inarguably one of the top five to ten Nuggets players in history. Or do you prefer the subtle Serbian Star who alters his team more profoundly as a whole, but has not yet led the team over the first big hurdle? Nikola Jokic is a player so rare that even the best basketball pundits struggle to find an appropriate comp for him. How do they compare over the course of their time in that blue jersey, and who will eventually see his name in the rafters?
*I assume Jokic requested the number, but only because it was his Mega Leks number.
For their Nuggets career thus far, who wore #15 better?
This poll is closed
Which #15 jersey will hang in the Pepsi Center rafters?
This poll is closed