Nikola Jokic is an absolute phenom and taking the western conference by storm. “The Joker,” a former second round draft pick, and his Denver Nuggets are touting the number six overall offense in the N.B.A. and the sixth seed in the very competitive western conference. No one expected Jokic to be as explosive an offense force as he has turned out to be. This is telling by the fact that when he was drafted in the second round in 2014. E.S.P.N. was too busy running a Taco Bell “quesarito” commercial for anyone to be bothered to notice him. He has really surprised everyone, even the Nuggets’ general manager Tim Connelly admitted he had no idea how good Jokic would be.
Right now he is averaging a team high 5.9 assist per game, the most by any center in the league. December 15, 2016, is a night the Nuggets fans will remember forever. It is the night Coach Michael Malone handed Nikola the keys to the offense by inserting him in the starting lineup over soon to be traded, Jusuf Nurkic. “The Joker” transformed the Nuggets from a subpar lottery team, with seemingly no direction, into one of the most intriguing young playoff teams in the N.B.A. After that night in the 2016-17 season the Nuggets, behind the clever hand of “the Joker,” touted an incredibly exciting top three offense. While Jokic’s unbelievable vision and nifty behind-the-back or overhead passes are what most people remember him by, his ability to fill a stat sheet is equally impressive.
Just the other night in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks, facing off against fellow playmaking unicorn Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola did something historic. He compiled a triple double in just 14 minutes and 33 seconds beating Jim Tucker's 63 year-old record of 17 minutes. Jokic finished the night with a jaw dropping 30 points, 17 assists, and 15 rebounds on just 14 shots. That’s another thing about Nikola; he is incredibly unselfish, almost to a fault. Jokic joined Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, and James Harden as the only players to ever have 30-15-15 line in an N.B.A. game. Pretty prestigious company if you ask me. Nuggets Coach Michael Malone said after the game, “We feel that we have the most dynamic, best facilitator, best play-making young player in the N.B.A.,” and I fully agree with him.
E.S.P.N.’s Zach Lowe, has on many occasions criticised Jokic on his failure to shoot the ball more when the Nuggets offense starts to stagnate, like most superstars do. But, what Zach Lowe is failing to understand is that is what makes “the Joker” so special: he doesn’t care about stats, he doesn’t care about the glory. He just wants to win. If he thinks passing the ball will help his team win, then that’s what he will do. There have been occasions where Nikola did seem to disappear in the sense that he fails to take over games late like other superstars. But that all comes down to his age. It's easy to forget he is only twenty-two years old.
The Nuggets are a team to watch out for in the West, and that is due to Nikola Jokic. He is unbelievable, and it’s time he started getting the national recognition that is due him. If he keeps putting up 30-15-15 statlines that might just happen. Keep your eye on Sports Center’s top ten plays. The Big Honey is sure to make plenty of appearances in the near future.