Since the calendar flipped, Nikola Jokic has been arguably the best and most consistent player in the NBA. He’s carried a Denver Nuggets roster that was done three starters for two weeks, and they’ve been missing multiple key players off of the bench for that same stretch. Despite all of that, the only thing that national media has talked about is the team’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night by saying that Jokic is out of shape.
Jokic is tied for first in the NBA for double doubles since January 1st with 17 with Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond, and he’s tied for second with four triple doubles since the start of this calendar year. LeBron James is first with five, and he’s in the national media every day because he plays for the Lakers. He’s tied with Ben Simmons and Domantas Sabonis, and you hear about Simmons every day because his team is imploding.
The NBA was in the dog days of January, and Denver had one of the toughest stretches of schedule that they’re going to have all season. They had five back-to-backs from January 11th until February 5th. They played at least one team that will be in the playoffs in four of those five back-to-backs. The Nuggets went 15-7 in 22 games leading up to the All-Star Break, and, for these reasons, I’m asking Big Honey to be my Valentine.
Volume of Work
Across each team’s last 15 games, Jokic is sixth in minutes per game among all players with an average of 36.2 per game. He’s number one amongst centers, and he’s average just under a full minute more per game than Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. The majority of centers are getting played off of the floor at the end of games, and Jokic is staying on more than anyone else.
He’s gotten a double-double in 14 of his last 15 games, and he’s doing it while being the main engine for his team. He’s averaging 24.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting 53.5 percent from the field. He also hasn’t had a backup center for any of these games, as Mason Plumlee has been out since the middle of January with a foot injury.
Jokic has been the engine that drives this team for a few years, and, after deferring a fair bit at the beginning of the year, he has started to take over the game more of late. Teams are struggling to handle that because even the best defensive centers can get dominated when Jokic is having an on night. Lately, he’s been on every single night.
Hey Now, You’re an All-Star
A quick thank you to Smashmouth for the introduction. Jokic has led his team to the number two record in the Western Conference this year, and he wasn’t named as a starter for the All-Star game. He’s the only all star from the team as a whole. Just a small comparison, the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz and Miami Heat all have worse records than Denver, yet they each have at least two representatives at the game.
Jokic is in his second straight All-Star game, and he should absolutely be starting. He’s been far-and-away the best player on his team and the best center in the NBA. He’s been able to accomplish everything this year while being the only starter on the team that has yet to miss a game.
Jokic’s style of play will perform perfectly in this star-studded event, and it will be interesting to see how much run he gets. The Nuggets are in a small market which is why they don’t get as much national media press, and, if Jokic is able to show out, maybe that could change following the break.
What’s Not to Love?
Center’s don’t get the love they used to due the game focusing more on uber-athletic wings and sweet-shooting guards. Jokic isn’t a high-flying or athletic center. He’s not going to put together highlight-reel blocks or dunks that send opponents flying. However, when you turn on a game that he’s in, you can’t help but watch him every time he touches the ball because you never know what he’s going to do.
Whether it’s the awkward head fake on a dribble drive that draws a foul at least once every single game no matter who is guarding him or spinning assists that make no sense how he managed to his the open shooter in the corner, Jokic is one of the most exciting players in the NBA despite being one of the least athletic looking players on the floor.
The Jokic is gassed, unathletic and tired narrative needs to stop. He’s started every game all season for the second-best team in the Western Conference with the NBA’s fifth-best record. He’s their main weapon on offense, while anchoring their defense in clutch minutes. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, he’s been one of the NBA’s best in the clutch over the last two years.
While the rest of the national media continues to sleep on Jokic and the Nuggets, he’s going to continue to absurd things night in and night out. They’ll continue to chug along and win games they shouldn’t, such as being down 23 points in the third quarter against one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. If you don’t have a Valentine today, just turn on Jokic highlights to brighten your day.