Nuggets’ Jokic Has A Chance To Join Some Exclusive Clubs

Feb 21, 2023, 2:49 PM
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets accepts the 2021 NBA MVP award before Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The clubs that Nikola Jokic might be on the cusp of entering are highly exclusive.

There’s the three-consecutive-MVP club, with only Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird as its current members. Then there’s the averaged-a-triple-double club, which includes only Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook.

Jokic doesn’t care about being added to either of those lists. It might happen anyway.

The best team in the Western Conference so far has been the Denver Nuggets, and the biggest reason why they’re atop the standings coming out of the All-Star break is the 28-year-old Serbian big man who was the league’s best player two years ago, was the league’s best player last year and very well might be the best again this year.

“I can’t lie,” Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell said. “I don’t know if you all have been watching what Jokic has been doing. It’s … outrageous, to be honest. I don’t know how many people have won it three times in a row. I definitely feel like I’m in that conversation as well, but he’s otherworldly right now.”

Jokic’s numbers: 24.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game, on 63% shooting from the field, 39% from 3-point range. Such a collection of stats is unprecedented; others have scored more, assisted more, rebounded more and shot better, but nobody has ever had all those averages and percentages in one season — especially not a big man.

Westbrook is a guard. Robertson was a guard. In their average-a-triple-double years — four for Westbrook, one for Robertson — they didn’t shoot better than 48%. Jokic is making almost two of every three shots he takes, and that’s with him as the top priority for every defense Denver faces.

“I just think that he just plays at his own pace,” Toronto’s Pascal Siakam said. “You can’t really disrupt what he does. He just plays at his own pace. He does what he wants. His passing ability, the scoring, how smart he is on the basketball court. Yeah, it’s dope to watch.”

The Nuggets are five games ahead of Memphis — Denver has 23 games left, the Grizzlies have 25 — for the top spot in the Western Conference. They’re well on their way to securing the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout at least the first three rounds of the playoffs.

And that would be huge, given that Denver’s 27-4 home record is the best in the NBA. Evidently, teams don’t like playing at 5,280 feet above sea level. And they can’t match the way Jokic thinks, with his brain in home games at 5,287 feet above sea level. He’s played in 51 games; the Nuggets are 38-13 in those contests, 3-5 when he doesn’t play.

Denver coach Michael Malone was asked how he would create a pie chart to show the components that make Jokic great.

“Athleticism, 1%. I’ll start there,” Malone said. “Then I would say the big pieces of that Serbian pie would be IQ and unselfishness, the ability to make every one of his teammates better. What I marvel at, having coached Nikola for eight years now, the thing that I’m just blown away by is the consistency to being great. I mean, there are a lot of great players in this league. But for Nikola to win the MVP, to win it again, and now he’s putting together an even better season … it just speaks to the fact that he is so damn consistent.”

Conventional wisdom would have been that Jokic’s numbers, good enough to win him the last two MVP awards, would take a dip this season simply because the Nuggets were getting two of their best players — Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. — back from injury.

It hasn’t happened, or at least, not much. His scoring is down slightly. Rebounds, down slightly. Assists, up slightly. Murray and Porter are getting their numbers — largely because Jokic looks for them every chance he gets — and he’s still finding the way to fill all the columns next to his name on the stat sheet as well.

“That, and the ability to make everyone around him better, is what allows Nikola to be a historically great player in this league,” Malone said.

And it should be noted that the player who is least impressed by Jokic is, well, Jokic.

If he had his way, he’d show up, play games, hop on YouTube to watch horse racing — he owns harness horses, and was even driving one when the Nuggets’ brain trust showed up in Serbia to surprise him with last year’s MVP award — and live very quietly.

The West should be an absurd race down the stretch. Phoenix just got Kevin Durant. The Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron James trying to make a playoff push. The defending champion Golden State Warriors could have Stephen Curry back from his injury before too long. Dallas got Kyrie Irving to play with Luka Doncic. The Los Angeles Clippers will be adding Westbrook. Sacramento is poised to end its long playoff drought.

If nobody is talking about the Nuggets, Jokic won’t complain.

“We don’t need it,” Jokic said. “We know what we’re doing. We know what we’re trying to do. We believe in the basketball system that we have built over the years, so it works. It’s still working. Nothing can affect us from outside. We are thinking about ourselves and just how to get better.”

Take us with you, wherever you go.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.


Chandler Holt

Kris Dunn Makes Tough Layup Through Contact Against Boston Defense

Kris Dunn drove into the heart of the Celtics' defense and got a tough layup to drop early in the fourth quarter.
2 days ago
Kyle Ireland

Jazz Guard Ochai Agbaji Buries Consecutive Three-Pointers Against Celtics

Jazz guard Ochai Agbaji hit a pair of three-pointers during a big run in the third quarter of Utah's game against the Boston Celtics.
2 days ago
Chandler Holt

Talen Horton-Tucker Fuels Huge Jazz Run Late In Second Quarter

On Saturday in Vivint Arena, Talen Horton-Tucker and Lauri Markkanen caught fire in the second quarter to cut into the large Celtics lead.
2 days ago
Kyle Ireland

Jazz Forward Simone Fontecchio Hits Back-To-Back Threes Against Celtics

Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio connected on consecutive three-pointers during the first half of Utah's game against the Boston Celtics.
2 days ago
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen...
Chandler Holt

Lauri Markkanen Hits First Quarter Buzzer-Beater Against Boston

Lauri Markkanen hit a three at the first-quarter buzzer to give the Jazz some momentum against a hot Boston Celtics team.
2 days ago
Kyle Ireland

Lauri Markkanen Opens Celtics-Jazz Game With Two-Handed Slam Dunk

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen threw down an early slam dunk to get his team on the scoreboard during Utah's game against the Boston Celtics.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Nuggets’ Jokic Has A Chance To Join Some Exclusive Clubs