Either way, the 7-footer who considers himself an equal center and point guard definitely got into the first MVP conversation.
DENVER – Nikola Jokic faced a situation where he couldn’t pass, shoot or dribble.
The Denver Nuggets big man was confused by a simple but complicated question: How does he define an NBA MVP?
“I don’t know,” Jokic replied after a long pause. “Probably the best player in the NBA? The top scorer? I do not know.”
Either way, the 7-footer who considers himself an equal center and point guard definitely got into the first MVP conversation. After all, he’s averaging a triple-double this season.
Not only that, but he displays an array of dunks – he’s never been known for his dunks – and a new aggressive shooting mentality that his coach certainly enjoys – and takes credit for it in a playful way.
“I locked him in my office one day, and I beat him with a pillowcase full of soda cans, and I said, ‘You have to score more,’ ‘coach Michael cracked. Malone. “He’s a great player. He plays at MVP level. “
Reserve point guard Monte Morris believes Jokic is fully owned by the same company as Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee, Kevin Durant and James Harden of Brooklyn and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Morris’s claim is backed up by the stats: Jokic is first in field goals this season, total assists, player efficiency ratings and triple doubles. His 46 career triple-doubles are already the most important in the history of the team.
“He produces as much, if not more, than anyone in the NBA,” Morris said. “I am amazed every night.”
And now Jokic is adding an element that rocks the rim – the dunks. The player from Serbia nicknamed ‘Joker’ already has nine slams which is a big step forward considering he had 15 last season, 11 in ’18 -19 and eight (with one failure) in ’17 -18. He even got called out for a technique during a dunk this season, when he was basically doing a rim pull-up.
“I just love the excitement that guys have on the bench when I dunk,” said Jokic, a 2014 second-round pick averaging 25.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10 assists in 20-. 21. “I dive for them.
“In every game he adds an inch or two to his vertical,” said forward Paul Millsap, whose Nuggets (7-7) start a five-game trip Friday in Phoenix. “It’s amazing to watch. It’s great to see a guy like that, a young man, come to the gym every day with his helmet on, train and shoot. Even such a good guy comes in and works every day. “
Jokic, who turns 26 next month, is trying to distract attention. The double All-Star just prefers not to be the focus of it.
“I know they trust me. I know they support me, ”said Jokic, who, along with Jamal Murray, was one of the main reasons the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals in the NBA bubble last season. “It’s nice to hear something like that.”
Or something like that, from Suns coach Monty Williams: “He’s a unique player in the sense that there’s really no weakness in his game.”
Part of that is because Jokic plays with the mentality of a quarterback. He sees the whole floor – as evidenced by his passes all over the field – and that’s why Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault put it in football terms when trying to defend him.
“You want to put pressure on the quarterback,” said Daigneault, whose team lost 119-101 to Denver on Tuesday as Jokic had 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in just three quarters. “If you just let him sit down and go our separate ways, that’s what he will do.”
Ahead of a recent game in Denver, Golden State coach Steve Kerr encouraged rookie center James Wiseman to take on Jokic.
“This Jokic is one of the best crosses in the league,” Kerr said. “(Wiseman) will learn difficult lessons.”
Wiseman did too, with Jokic for 23 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in a Nuggets win.
“He’s got a lot of stuff,” Wiseman said. “I just had to make sure I was careful every second I kept him.
The only small problem with Jokic this season has been his turnover. He is also one of the league leaders in this category.
“The best players in the NBA have the ball in their hands a ton. We ask a lot of them, ”said Malone. “Nikola was phenomenal.”
This is why Morris is campaigning for his big man: “He should definitely be a big talking point in the MVP race,” Morris said.
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