Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic drew some level of controversy this season due to inconsistent play. But what can we make of his stellar February?
After leading the Denver Nuggets to within one game of the Western Conference Finals last season, Nikola Jokic entered the year with national recognition and high expectations. However, fans looking for a huge leap forward in 2019-20 were left disappointed.
Jokic is averaging 20.2 points per game this year, nearly identical to last season’s 20.1. His individual point totals have ranged from a career-high 47 points one evening to just six on another. His 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per contest are slightly down from last season.
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Some fans panicked early in the year when Jokic managed just 15.0 points per game in October and 15.8 in November.
But after a stronger December and January, Jokic exploded for a monster 25.5 points per game on 64.2 percent shooting in February. He posted 10.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per contest on the month.
Jokic averaged 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists per contest while shooting 39.3 percent from deep last postseason. Not surprisingly, this was when he finally began to garner the national recognition of a legitimate superstar.
So what can be made of Jokic’s identity from here? Is he the Jokic of February and last postseason? Or does his lackluster start better define his true value?
Well, for starters, it’s highly unlikely Jokic overachieved in the playoffs. After all, the postseason involves high-intensity defenses, top opposing strategists, and thick scouting booklets designed specifically to dampen competing players’ best techniques.
In fact, of this inexperienced Nuggets squad, only Jokic and teammate Jamal Murray thrived in the playoffs. Many teammates, especially in Denver’s second unit, looked uncomfortable on the big stage. The postseason format has a far better chance of exposing weaknesses and limiting effectiveness than allowing the undeserving to stumble upon greatness.
Jokic’s inconsistencies are more likely explained by concepts of fatigue. In the long 82-game regular season, plays are taken off at different points throughout the stretch. Most fans don’t love hearing this, but it’s a reality that must be acknowledged, as the regular season spans over six months.
Jokic, like many others, was forced to pick his spots this season, especially factoring his summer with the Serbian National Team and his participation in All-Star weekend. Unfortunately, it stands out when Jokic slows a step, as more athletic players glide around the court with less effort.
This is actually good news for Nuggets fans, as it confirms Jokic is, in fact, very talented and can turn on the jets when needed. February’s play, in tandem with the 2019 postseason, should cause opponents to sit up and pay attention to this under-recognized Denver team.
After all, 2019-20 was Nikola Jokic’s second straight All-Star appearance, and he earned All-NBA first team honors over talented cohorts Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns last season. Anyone beating out those names is a genuine superstar.
The Denver Nuggets’ future is bright with Jokic at the helm, and his ability to elevate the play of teammates is among the most valuable skills in the NBA.
Here’s to Jokic’s squad, in hopes they’re back on the court soon and ready for a second consecutive postseason push. There’s unfinished business to complete.