Updated: Mar 11
There’s a lot of buzz going on in the “Mile High” City of Denver as the Denver Nuggets continue to steamroll the competition in the NBA with the best record in the Western Conference currently at 43-19. The Nuggets are led by a man who toys with the competition- nicknamed “The Joker” - in two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
Each season it seems the superstar Serbian big man continues to elevate his game to new heights. He has done that yet again by averaging a triple-double of 24.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 10 assists per game on an absurd 63% from the field, which is higher than Shaquille O’Neal’s MVP season, and just a shade under 40% from three-point land. Jokic finally has more help this season with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr back from the injuries that cost them to miss most of the season: Porter’s case with a bad back and all of last season for Murray recovering from a torn ACL.
The fact that Jokic has been able to put the Nuggets on his back with Murray still not fully 100% of what he was in the bubble and Porter having hot and cold games is mesmerizing. The way he dissects and just toys with defenses on a nightly basis is fun to watch, such as his masterful 40-point triple-double MVP performance against the Los Angeles Clippers in a 134-124 overtime victory against the Clippers' star forwards in Kawhi Leonard (33) and Paul George (23) who combined for 56 points.
Jokic is currently fourth in the league in assists, which just shows his brilliance as a playmaking savant on the court for a guy who can’t even jump over a sidewalk curb with the way he just has an “Einstein” of a brain to completely control a game. Jokic has a 66% effective field goal percentage (fifth) and has the best true shooting percentage in the league (70), according to Basketball Reference.
If Jokic were to win his third consecutive MVP, he’d be in a select group of pantheon greats such as Bill Russell (1960-63), Wilt Chamberlain (1966-68), and Larry Bird (1984-86), who are all universally regarded as top ten players of all time. The interesting question will be: Where does Jokic rank all time if he were to accomplish such a feat? Top 20? Top 15? It makes for a very riveting conversation amongst basketball gurus.
The pressure will be on Jokic to win a title, whether he wins MVP or not, as the Nuggets are amongst the favorites to come out of the West. The pressure will only double if he does a three-peat because it hasn’t been done in almost 40 years. Not even guys such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James have accomplished such a feat because Russell, Chamberlain, and Bird all won a title/titles during their three-peat reigns.
The Joker is having yet another magnificent season, and he’s currently the runaway favorite to take the award at -300 odds, according to DraftKings. Jokic will have stiff competition as Milwaukee Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia Sixers center Joel Embiid have both been producing monster stat lines and helping their respective teams win at high rates as well with the Bucks currently having the best record in the league and the Sixers third in the East.
But with Jokic averaging a triple-double as a center, something not even Chamberlain has done- who’s the only center to ever lead the league in total assists in a season- Can the “Joker” three-peat? We will have to sit back and watch the beautiful magic unfold right before our very eyes.