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.
Considering we are still a little over two months away from the start of the NBA season, we are officially in the part of the NBA calendar where the only content there is to cover is trade rumors for some teams, or you’re recapping your team’s players exploits in various Drew Leagues around the country. We’re not covering either one of those today because the Nuggets aren’t legitimately involved in trade rumors, and they aren’t doing a ton in the Drew League world either.
Instead, I’m going to make the case that Nikola Jokic could be the first back-to-back-to-back MVP since Larry Bird won three straight between 1983 and 1986. Is it likely? No. Is it impossible? Also no. When you carry the workload that Jokic does, you’re going to put up incredible stat lines every single night, and the team should have even more success this year than it did last year when Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. spent nearly the entire year on the sideline.
Since Bird won three straight, there have been nine instances of back-to-back winners. They are Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron James twice, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jokic. Some of these guys won more MVPs later on, and some have not. Jokic, in the prime of his career, has as good of a chance as any to win that third straight Maurice Podoloff trophy.
Jokic the Initiator
I think my favorite thing about this play is the demonstration of Jokic’s gravitational pull on the opposing defense. Every defender on the floor is staring at him when he catches the ball because they don’t want to be the guy that gets put on the highlight reel because they weren’t paying attention. Unfortunately for Chuma Okeke, that is exactly what happens. When Jokic catches the ball, it takes just one second for Aaron Gordon to burst past him to the rim for the easy dunk. Jokic had 15 assists in that game. He had no problem passing to everyone else, and yet, because of his scoring ability, the defense was still so concerned he would score on them that they weren’t focusing on their actual assignments.
Jokic has put up 49 points to this point in the game. The LA Clippers are refusing to lose to Jokic. If Denver is going to win, someone else is going to have to do it. They send extra help his way, and, when that help comes, the rest of the defense slides up to cover the shooter that just opened up. That leaves Aaron Gordon, who shot just 33.5 percent from 3-point range this season, wide open in the corner. Jokic somehow hits him perfectly from across the court, and Denver walks out with the win. Less than five seconds on the clock while double-teamed, and Jokic still finds an open shooter 40 feet away to win the game.
This play was the icing on the cake of the masterful game that Jokic had just put together. Despite a meltdown by the bench, Jokic was dragging the Nuggets to a victory whether they wanted the win or not. He finished the game +22 while shooting over 72 percent from the floor. Between the fourth quarter and overtime, he went 10-of-11 from the field while putting up 30 of his 46 points over that timespan. Willing your team to a win is the mark of the MVP, and Jokic has done that time and time again over the past few seasons.
The “Jokic is only an offensive player” is an old and outdated narrative. Is he a better offensive player than he is a defensive player? Yes. However, he’s much improved from the player he was a few years ago on that end of the floor. In the final 2:43 against the Toronto Raptors earlier this season, Jokic scored and assisted on five of the team’s final seven points. To seal the game, although he was unable to secure the rebound, he got over and blocked OG Anunoby off of the backboard to guarantee the win.
Looking at this play, I think my favorite thing might be Ivica Zubac complaining to the referee after Jokic got by him and scored. Zubac started the play by running into, wrapping up then flopping against Jokic. After catching the ball, Jokic weaves his way through the remainder of the Clippers defense where he converts the layup through the contact before getting the and-one free throw to go. The entire defense is focused on Jokic, but, through sheer determination, he just refuses to be stopped. As a defense, what the hell are you supposed to do against that?
Three defenders around the rim sound like a problem for you when it comes to securing a rebound? Well, if you’re Big Honey, that’s just another day at the office. Jokic works into position for the offensive rebound despite being the last of the four guys going for the ball to get into the paint. After getting the board, Jokic just goes to work and quickly scores against Damian Jones. Jokic would end the night with 38 after adding two more free throws. It was just another night of doing everything they needed from him to get that win. Will he have more help this year assuming the health of his running mates is back to normal? Yes. Does that mean he won’t still be the focal point of everything they do? Absolutely not. The Nuggets have the potential to be one of the best teams in the NBA this season, and, when you’re one of those teams, your best player always has a shot at the MVP award. If anyone could break a 36-year drought, Jokic is that guy.
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.