Today we will take a look into an uprising NBA star who plays for the Denver Nuggets. He was drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft and was picked 41st overall. He’s a 6’11 Serbian big man, who’s won Serbian Player of the Year and also is a two-time NBA All-Star. He’s won an Olympic silver metal in the 2016 Rio Games and is one of the best big men currently in the NBA. Today’s topic is “The Rise of Nikola Jokic – Future MVP?”
The European superstar had a different path than most American players. He signed with Mega Vizura and in his first season he mostly played on their junior team for the 2012-2013 season. He didn’t see much minutes, but in the 2013-2014 season he played more and this time on the senior team. Jokic played in 13 games in the Serbian League and averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. At a young age Serbian players learned how to read and react, dribble and shoot the ball. If you’re under 16, there are no basketball positions, no matter how tall you are. He benefited from playing in this type of structure because now he has guard-like qualities, but in the big man position.
In the 2014-2015 season, following his selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, he was put in a leadership position on Mega Basket. He became a double-double machine recording multiple times in the season. His team didn’t perform well, but that didn’t stop Jokic from being named the regular season MVP. He finished the season also named the ABA League’s Top Prospect for the season.
He decided to make his way to the NBA and on June 26th, 2014, he was selected 41st overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2014 NBA Draft. He actually chose to withdraw from the draft, but then he got a call from the Denver Nuggets front office. He was asleep at the time he was drafted so he had no idea until his brother called him to inform him he’d been chosen. It was risk drafting this big man because he was big, slow, and also seemed very unathletic. The director of player development, Ognjen Stojakovic, who’s a fellow Serbian, had seen a lot of Jokic and he described him as a mix of Mark Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. With his judgement the Nuggets decided to give him a chance. He joined the Nuggets in the Summer of 2015 and they ended up signing him after his solid performance in the summer league. The Nuggets had to help Jokic make some changes in his body and his nutrition. His physique was his biggest downfall, so strength and development coaches helped him by working on his body externally and internally. He used to drink 3 liters of coke a day, and eat a gallon of ice cream to himself, which was by his body was in such terrible shape. But after the changes were made, it started to show even more on the court. In the 2015-2016 season, he had a career high 15 rebounds, topping his 14 rebounds in his double-double on February 1st. He was a top candidate in the Rookie of the Year voting and earned NBA All-Rookie First Team honors.
In the 2016-2017 season, he earned his first triple-double in a win over the Bucks with scoring 20 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. And shortly after, he got into the groove of things again and posted a second and third triple-double. He ended the season with six triple-doubles and he came in second in voting for the Most Improved Player Award. He battled for minutes with the Nuggets other 7 footer center Jusuf Nurkic because they both were great assets for the Nuggets in the paint, but during this season the Nuggets made probably one of the best decisions and decided to trade Jusuf and keep Jokic as their primary big man. Now, he had the starting spot and the Nuggets received Mason Plumlee as their back up center.
In the 2017-2018 season, Nikola continued to pile on the triple-doubles and became the first to record the quickest triple-double in 14 minutes and 33 seconds. He ended the season with 10 triple-doubles and now had a total of 16 in his career. But unfortunately, with the crazy numbers he continuously put up, the Nuggets didn’t earn a playoff spot.
So in the 2018-2019 season, Jokic was rewarded with a five-year $148 million maximum contract extension with the Nuggets. It didn’t take Jokic too long before he recorded his first triple double of the season in the second game. He became the second player in NBA History to post a triple-double with 30 or more points, without missing a field goal. Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player to do this not once, but twice. Although Jokic was playing in the NBA, he was recognized by his country, and earned the Serbian Player of the Year award by the Basketball Federation of Serbia. There was no stopping Jokic this season and he easily became the third youngest player to reach 20 triple-doubles at the age of 23 years old. After earning his 22nd career triple-double, he moved up to the second spot on the NBA all-time triple doubles list by a 7 footer, passing up Kareem. The Nuggets made it to the playoffs this season, thanks for Jokic’s domination in the paint. They made it to the second round, but were eliminated by the Blazers in Game 7 of the second round. They put up a hard fight, and Jokic averaged 25.1 points, 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists in the playoffs. He earned his first All-NBA First Team selection after this incredible season.
During the 2019-2020 season, which everyone knows was a unique season due to the Covid-19 virus, he still came ready to battle. He hit some game winning jumpers, and put up a career-high 47 points against the Atlanta Hawks. He earned his second consecutive all-star selection and was the first Nugget since Carmelo to do this. He was tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, but after quarantining he was able to get back to playing. The Nuggets were back in the playoffs again, and Jokic broke another record becoming the third player in NBA history to post a 20-rebound triple-double in the postseason. The Nuggets came back from a 3-1 deficit, and defeated the star-stacked LA Clippers to move on to the Western Conference Finals. Thanks to Jokic they made it this far, but we’re eliminated by the Lakers, who went on to win the 2020 NBA Title.
In this current 2020-2021 season, Jokic is an early candidate for MVP. He’s performing at the highest level and has been averaging 25.2 points and shooting 32.8% from the field. He’s also shooting above average from the 3-point line with 32.8%, which is good for a big man, and grabbing 11.8 rebounds and 8.9 assists. And have you ever seen a big man average this many assists? Amazing right! If he keeps these numbers up, then he’ll definitely continue to be in MVP talk. Although it’s still early in the season, he’s been putting on for all the big men in the NBA, along with Joel Embiid, who’s also in MVP talk.
Jokic earned himself a nickname, The Joker. He’s such a goofy person to be around and a fan favorite. Check out some of The Joker’s funniest moments.
Do you think Jokic has the potential to be a future MVP winner? If yes, then is now his time? He’s averaging his best numbers early in this season so let’s see if he can keep it up. He has tremendous court vision, shooting abilities, and he’s incredibly unselfish, which are definitely not qualities you see in too many big men. Denver lucked up and got an amazing 41st pick wouldn’t you say? Let us know what you think in the comments below.