It’s easy to take Nikola Jokic’s casual brilliance for granted. With his two best teammates in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. essentially out with injuries all year, the Denver Nuggets’ idea of a successful season is just staying out of the play-in tournament. We’ve never got to see peak Jokic helm a playoff run with a healthy team, and it feels like some NBA fans hold it against him.
That’s ridiculous. Jokic is arguably the best player in the world right now. He won MVP last year, and he’s somehow even better this season. To watch Jokic play ball is to see several things each night no other player alive is capable of doing. Sometimes those amazing moments don’t even show up in the box score.
Case in the point: During the Nuggets’ blowout of the Trail Blazers on Sunday night, Jokic posted up his man and whipped a pass to the corner for an open three in the third quarter. He threw a pinpoint dime without even turning his body, yet it landed right in the shooting pocket for teammate Will Barton.
Only problem: Barton missed the shot. Jokic doesn’t even get an assist for this unreal pass.
Jokic has never cared about the numbers, so he’s probably not too heartbroken. The Nuggets crushed Portland, 124-92, on a night where Jokic had eight points, 18 rebounds, and 11 assists.
The NBA MVP race is still very much up in the air. Joel Embiid feels like the clubhouse leader. Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMar DeRozan also have compelling cases. Jokic has been the the best player in the league, though. He’s putting up 25.5 points, 13.8 rebounds, and eight assists per game while shooting better than 56 percent from the field and better than 36 percent from three. His defense also just keeps getting better and he’s made numerous clutch stops this year, too. The Nuggets are very good with him on the floor despite all the injuries, and basically the worst team in the league when he’s on the bench.
Don’t take Jokic for granted. He’s all-time great on the level of the giants basketball fans of a certain age watched dominate in the ‘90s. He’s at his absolute peak right now, even if he doesn’t have the roster around him to compete at the top of the league.