Denver Nuggets’ All-Star center Nikola Jokic became a head-turning force last year, leaving fans salivating in anticipation for his 2019-20 season.
What Jokic does possess, however, is a tricky post game, silky shooting touch and an absolutely uncanny passing ability. And he’s taken this package, combined it with limited God-given athletic ability, and completely changed the course of Mile High basketball.
In his first career postseason, Jokic shook off national skepticism and averaged 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game. Many believed the locked-in, focused defenses of the playoffs would surely lead to his demise.
The scene was set for a league-wide debunking, an episode of Myth Busters Jokic edition.
Instead, the low-key Serbian giant refused to be deterred, landing himself among the postseason’s top five performers and nearly carrying the Nuggets to the conference finals. Just imagine if he had ample shot-making help.
When examining a player’s net worth, postseason performance is key. It’s pivotal to see how players match up against the competitor’s best, opposed to a meaningless February affair where the beer vendor may out-hustle some big men defensively.
And honestly, guys like Will Barton, Monte Morris and Mason Plumlee left much to be desired. Perhaps their disappointing playoff performance silences critics of head coach Michael Malone’s starting lineup.
Because even throughout the bumps, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap were solid in the postseason. So was Gary Harris, especially when factoring his lockdown defense against Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard.
Only these three proved worthy to join Jokic as postseason starters, validating the Nuggets’ ideology of core pieces.
Now as previously established, Jokic was dominant in the playoffs. Which leads us to his 2019-20 ceiling — he could be a genuine candidate for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
If the MVP trophy was solely for the 2018-19 playoffs, Jokic is a finalist, hands down. And if he can produce against playoff defenses, it’s certainly possible to replicate in the regular season.
Few defensive schemes slowed Jokic last year. He showed the ability to score from both high and low, averaging 20.1 points per game.
His all-around shooting touch was among the NBA’s finest, as he hit 69.1 percent of attempts at the rim and 50.4 percent from 10-to-16 feet, per Basketball Reference.
He averaged 7.3 assists per game, which landed him first among players 6’11 or taller. His 10.8 rebounds per game finished ninth among centers, demonstrating an underrated toughness on the boards.
If anything, Jokic’s unselfishness could hinder his MVP chances. He’s a rare superstar who genuinely prefers to set up teammates, often leaving personal points on the table.
There’s ways he can leverage this, however, as he upped both his scoring (20.1 to 25.1) and assists (7.3 to 8.4) in the playoffs, showing these stats aren’t mutually exclusive.
Many question his athletic abilities, and rightfully so. However, athleticism isn’t required to win this award, just ask Stephen Curry or Dirk Nowitzki. Each has shown skills and intelligence can more than make up for a lack of hops.
Jokic’s mad skillset, combined with proven playoff success, places him as a legitimate MVP candidate in 2019-20. It’s on him to act the part now, as he drives the Nuggets towards their next hurdle.
With the expected fall of the Golden State Warriors, Jokic and company should enter 2019-20 licking their chops. This is an exciting time for Mile High Basketball and their leader is firmly in place.