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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: He’s going back-to-back

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NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

In the history of the NBA, 66 MVP awards have been given. Of those 66, 45 have been won by the 14 players who have won multiple times. 12 of those 14 won back-to-back MVPs at least once in their career, with Karl Malone and Bob Pettit being the lone exceptions. In the 2020-21 season, Nikola Jokic won his first MVP award, and there is a clear path to him doing it again in the 2021-22 season.

I don’t care what some major media corporation says. Jokic didn’t win just because he was healthy while every other major superstar missed a significant amount of time. Jokic won because he was the best player in the NBA last season. He averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting 56.6 percent from the floor, 38.8 percent from 3-point range and 86.8 percent from the free-throw line. Anyone know how many players in the history of the NBA have hit that bar of production? It’s not a long list.

See that? It’s just Jokic. He’s the only player to ever do what he did last year, and he also managed to play every single game in the process. So, the next time someone tells you that Jokic only won because he was healthy, just remind them that he is the only player that has ever done what he did. The craziest part is we could see Jokic do the exact same thing again in the 2021-22 season to become the 13th player to win back-to-back MVPs.

Matchup Doesn’t Matter

In the playoffs, the Nuggets matched up with the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. Portland’s entire defense was anchored by center Jusuf Nurkic, and, even when he was on the floor, Jokic could score at will from anywhere on the floor. Early in Game 2, Jokic is being guarded by Nurkic on the wing, and it’s just no contest. Jokic leans into him before driving to the rim and eventually getting the shot up for the easy layup. It was this easy all series long for Jokic, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Rudy Gobert is the Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the best defensive player in the league right? Is that why Jokic made him look like just any other center on this play? Jokic goes at Gobert and uses his body to back him down and generate separation. When Gobert starts moving back towards Jokic, he puts on the spin move and gets to the rim with ease. Jokic can score on any center at any time. The matchup doesn’t matter, and it never has to the reigning MVP.

The Big Kid on the Playground

Growing up, there was always that one kid that grew before everyone else did. While everyone else was still waiting to hit the growth spurt, this kid was just grabbing 45 rebounds a game because no one could move him off of his spot. That’s how Jokic plays in the NBA. For his career, Jokic has never averaged fewer than 11.0 rebounds or 2.6 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. On this play against Portland, he puts up a shot with Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony between him and the basket. It doesn’t matter because he uses his size and length to just bump the other guys out of the way for the easy rebound and putback. He’s been doing it for six years, and he’s not going to stop doing it this year.

A story came out on Thursday that 10 NBA executives voted on the NBA’s best player. Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks each received five votes. Fun fact: Jokic doesn’t care who voted for who. He’s got Durant down inside by the basket, and Durant never even has a chance to get the rebound. Jokic just uses his size and strength to push him out of the way to grab the rebound and get the layup to go. Despite reducing his weight this past offseason to be in the best shape of his life, he’s still strong enough to move any and everybody out of his space.

Defensive Instincts are There

For the previous five seasons, the constant knock on Jokic has been his lack of productivity on the defensive end of the floor. While centers such as Gobert, Nurkic and Joel Embiid are praised for being defensive studs, Jokic is seen as some defensive sieve. However, when you factor in the work that he does on the offensive end, it makes sense that he’s not able to be an All-Defensive center. What we saw last season though is those instincts are there, and Jokic, at times, looked like he was ready to take the next step on that end of the floor. On this play, Jokic slides over to cut off Derrick Rose before diving back across the lane and blocking Taj Gibson. A few years ago before improving his conditioning, he likely didn’t even attempt to go for the block. Now, in the shape he’s in, he gets there, and those plays are likely going to keep coming.

So, the reason I’m including this play is because it’s the type of play you don’t usually see from a big guarding another big. Instead, this is what you usually see a guard do. The big will receive the entry pass and think they’re in the clear. Then, the guard comes by for the tap or swipes the ball and starts the break. Jokic does that here when guarding Julius Randle. Randle catches the ball, and Jokic almost immediately goes for the swipe that ends up in the hands of Austin Rivers. Jokic’s defensive instincts are there, and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the league begins to notice.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.