Despite already being in the final stretch of the 2022-23 NBA regular season, a couple of teams in the league are still yet to find the perfect mix of players required to at least secure a seat in the upcoming playoffs.
On the other hand, a few squads have already officially entered the succeeding round and are now just waiting who their opponents will be, one of which is the West-leading Denver Nuggets.
Now standing with a stellar 51-24 win-loss card with only seven games left, the Nuggets were actually one of the firsts to secure a playoff berth this season. In spite of having issues with consistency in the beginning, Denver chose to bank on their star-studded roster and eventually succeeded with this tactic. After catching fire a quarter through the season, the Nuggets have since dominated the league and ultimately never looked back.
Although it was definitely a total team effort that brought the Nuggets to their success this season by far, one player really stood out for the team since day one — Nikola Jokić.
Now an NBA veteran, the 6-foot-11 center has been doing wonders for the Nuggets all-season long and has served as the team’s backbone from the get-go. Although he was already great the first time, he suited for the team in 2015, it is interesting how the towering Serbian center continued to up his numbers as years passed by.
With how well he has been performing so far, is Jokić having his best season? Will his numbers be enough to steer the Nuggets to their first NBA title? Moreover, how does his presence impact the team’s NBA 2022-23 odds?
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BACK-TO-BACK TO BACK MVP?
Since joining the Nuggets in the summer of 2015, Jokić AKA “the Joker” has been one of his team’s leaders statistically, spearheading Denver in almost every department.
In his rookie year alone, the Joker already tallied 10 points per game, along with 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.0 steals. This was assisted by several career- and season-highs Nikola notched that season, eventually earning a spot in the 2015-16 NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Since then, Jokić’s numbers just got better, benefiting the Nuggets in a couple of ways and most importantly, becoming instrumental in the team’s five consecutive playoffs appearances beginning 2018.
After appearing in 67 games for Denver this season, the Joker averages 24.9 points per game, backed with 11.9 rebounds, 9.9 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 blocks. He also displays an impressive 63/39/82 shooting split and 111.5 defensive rating, respectively. Currently, Jokić leads the Nuggets in points, rebounds, and assists. Meanwhile, he stands as the team’s second-best in field goals, blocks, and steals and third-best in free throws, respectively.
Nikola Jokic of the @nuggets has an effective FG% of 70.8 percent in the third quarter this season.
That is the most efficient mark in any quarter by any player over the last 20 seasons (min. 200 FGA). pic.twitter.com/voxpJDryrG
— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) March 27, 2023
In addition, it is also interesting how the Nuggets perform better whenever Jokić steps foot on the court. Since his rookie year, the Joker has never had a negative +- differential, which showcases the positive impact he provides for the Nuggets. From a 1.2 outing in his first year, seven seasons later, he displays a top-tier 9.9 differential. The Joker was never a zero, but he has definitely gone to take the lead and become Denver’s ultimate hero.
These hero-like numbers have earned Jokić a bunch of notable honors, including four All-NBA Team honors, ten NBA Player of the Week, four NBA Player of the Month, and above all, two consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player awards. He is truly on a league of his own, isn’t he?
Statistically speaking, this season has been Jokić’s best. With how impeccable his performance has been by far, the Joker’s bid for his third consecutive MVP award is expected to end on a positive note.
This will be such a huge deal for the league, as say he bags the award, the Joker will join an elite circle of three-peat MVP awardees, a feat only three players in the league’s history were able to achieve.
Currently, Jokić’s toughest competitions for the award include Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and East-leading Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In last night's win, Nikola Jokic had his 10th game this season with 20 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
He joins Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players with that many games in a single season. pic.twitter.com/5DfCWhLJmS
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 28, 2023
RECORD AFTER RECORD
To make his performance this year even better, the Joker decided to set a couple of records after records throughout the season’s run.
Even at the very beginning of the season, Jokić was already able to add another milestone to his already decorated career after signing the richest deal in NBA history, a $264 million supermax contract extension. In addition, he was also able to log his 105th career triple-double this season, currently the sixth-most in the entire NBA history. In relation to this, the Joker also stands as the center with the most TBs in the league’s history after surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 79.
With him obviously being an expert in hitting triple-doubles, the Joker became only the fourth in the league’s history to achieve a minimum of ten triple-doubles in six different seasons. Meanwhile, after a hard-earned win against the Hornets in December, Jokić became the first player after Chamberlain to tally at least 35 points, 25 rebounds, and 10 assists in a game.
On the other hand, after a close four-point win against the Wolves earlier this year, the Joker became the Nuggets’ assists leader in franchise history while also being the very first center in the history of NBA to lead a team in assists.
The list of records set by the Joker went on and on as the season passed by. With him successfully hitting all these this season, it is safe to say that indeed, this has been his best season.
Which NBA bigs are shooting the best from beyond the arc since the All-Star break? Per NBA Stats (min. 20 3PA):
1. Al Horford – 58.5% 🤯
2. Nikola Jokic – 43.3%
3. Zach Collins – 42.0%
4. Jaylin Williams – 41.3%
5. JaMychal Green – 41.2% pic.twitter.com/LuFVSAt5Cj
— BasketballNews.com (@basketbllnews) March 23, 2023
For an athlete to reach his full potential, he must take every season as an opportunity to grow in skills and in statistics — the mindset probably every MVP like Jokić possesses. He may be at his best this year, but who knows, he might be at his extreme best in the following years, right? After all, he has already proven to everybody how he can get even better season after season.
The Jokić-led Denver Nuggets will seek to solidify their hold of the top seed in the West as they welcome the New Orleans Pelicans to their home at the Ball Arena in Colorado on March 30, Thursday.