There were a lot of questions about Nikola Jokic and his start to the season. Doubters worked their way back in as Jokic began the season slow, but is now busting out his “funk” and is beginning to find his rhythm again.
From the start of the season to the end of November, the Nuggets had a 13-4 record that came with Jokic averaging 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and six assists per game. Since that point, the Nuggets record has worsened, but Jokic has been much better.
Since December 1st, Denver is 12-7, but Jokic is finally starting to find his groove and is averaging 21.9 points per game over the past month and a half. Jokic’s rebounding numbers (9.3) have dropped since the beginning of the season, but his assist totals have improved by almost one whole assist (6.7) per game.
For the season, Jokic leads the Nuggets in points (18.9), rebounds (9.8), and assists (6.4) per game. Jokic is truly playing like the Jokic of last season, who finished fourth in the leagues MVP voting.
The biggest development with Jokic’s game is he is starting to score the basketball at will again. This was on full display when he dropped a career-high 47 points against the Hawks on Monday night.
It got to a point in the Hawks game that the Atlanta crowd was cheering when Jokic subbed out of the game because he was dominating it so badly. Jokic scored his 47 points on a highly efficient 16-of-25 shooting from the field, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, and 11-of-16 from the free-throw line to go along with eight rebounds and five assists.
What became even more evident in Atlanta was just how important free-throws are to Jokic’s success. In games where Jokic has attempted ZERO free-throws this season, he is averaging just 12.2 points in those games. In games where Jokic is shooting five free-throws or more, he is averaging a much higher 23.2 points in those games.
Conclusion: shoot more free-throws.
When Jokic is getting to the charity stripe, he and the Nuggets are finding success. The Nuggets could desperately use more Jokic trips to the line as they rank 26th in the NBA attempting just under 21 free-throws a game.
The biggest problem with that is Jokic is averaging 3.7 free-throws a game, which is still the highest mark on the team. Jamal Murray is right behind Jokic with 3.3 per game and Paul Millsap is behind him with an even three a night. That just can not happen moving forward as the Nuggets have to find a way to get to the free-throw line more frequently.
Another development with Jokic is he has found his three-point shot once again. Through the first two months of the season, Jokic was shooting a career-low 23.2 percent from beyond the arc. It was getting so bad that teams were just letting Jokic shoot wide-open, uncontested threes, which is not the case anymore.
Since the beginning of December, Jokic its shooting 38.7 percent from three, which is good for fourth on the team. Jokic is just two years removed from shooting a career-best 39 percent from distance on the season and is shooting 31 percent from three this year. That is still one percentage point higher than what he shot last year, which is due in large part to the past month.
Jokic already has seven triple-doubles this season, which was paved by a big month of December when he recorded four. December was also a big month for Jokic in that he passed Bob Cousy for 10th ALL-TIME on the NBA triple-doubles list.
Things like that really put into perspective just how special a season Jokic is putting together yet again. It might not have started like seasons of old, but Jokic is back to leading the Nuggets on a nightly basis and that is a great sign moving forward.
The Nuggets have yet to play their best basketball this season and they still hold a 25-11 record. Denver is still second in the Western Conference and trail the Lakers by just four games for first place.
With Jokic looking more and more like himself, the Nuggets should hopefully start to find their stride moving forward. You always want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season and with Jokic returning to form, it looks as if the Nuggets are headed in that direction.