The first week of the NBA season is my favorite. It means there’s so much of the season left. The season is a semi-blank slate – we see if trades that happened over the summer work, new rookies look to prove themselves playing alongside their idols, and players we may not have paid much attention to before prove themselves to be all-stars.
Future all-star (yeah, I’m saying it), Nikola Jokić, has already shown flashes of super-stardom, and I don’t think he’s going to slow down any time soon.
Not a fluke
People started buzzing about Jokić at the end of last season. Jokić is known for his incredible passes, but he’s proven that his game is much, much more than that. At the end the season last year he was averaging 24 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists. Oh yeah, on 53.8% shooting.
No big deal.
I didn’t know too much about Jokić before last season, so a part of me thought his end-of-season performance was maybe a fluke.
Newsflash: it’s not.
Denver is currently 3-0 with a win against the Warriors, and Jokić has a lot to do with their early success. On October 20th, Jokić had a perfect triple-double for the first time since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967. That means he didn’t miss a single field goal. And it’s not like he had 10 points, okay? He had 35 points. Like…what?
The humble hero
What I love about Jokić is that he is such a unsuspecting franchise hero. In the 2014 draft he was the number 41 pick. 41. For reference, the 41st picks from 2011-2013 were Darius Morris, Tyshawn Taylor and Jamaal Franklin. None of these players are currently playing in the NBA.
The way Mike Malone, head coach of the Nuggets, speaks about Jokić makes me an even bigger fan.
“There were times last year where we’d talk about other big men in the NBA. He would say, ‘I don’t think I’m as good as this guy or that guy,’ and I’d look at him like, ‘Are you crazy?’”
When Jokić achieved a perfect triple double against the Suns, he didn’t even realize that he hadn’t missed a single field goal. He shrugged and said, “I just wanted to win the game.”
Where he can improve
Clearly, Jokić is a beast offensively, but there’s always room for improvement.
Jokić has an opportunity to improve defensively. Though he’s big, he lacks some of the athleticism that other big men have. His body is a little, well, softer, than other big men in the league like Embiid or Davis. He could stand to add a bit more strength to better contest stronger, more assertive big men. He also lacks speed and agility on foot, which affects his defensive prowess.
He can work on getting to the free-throw line more frequently as well. Again, he’s a big guy and can stand to be a bit more of a bully in the paint and draw fouls. He’s shooting 83.1% from the free-throw line (career stat), which is almost unheard of from a big man.
I think Jokić is finally stepping into his power and owning the fact that he is, indeed, Denver’s franchise player. If these first few games are indicative of the season he’s going to have, I have no doubt he’ll be an all-star this year, and even in the MVP conversation.
- / 10 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.