As of Monday, December 3rd, the Denver Nuggets sit atop the Western Conference with a record of 16 wins and seven losses. And although no one expects them to still be in possession of that seeding by the end of the season, They are possibly the NBA’s most intriguing team and are lead by none other than the Serbian beast, the Big Honey, the Joker, the NBA’s best all-around center, Nikola Jokic.
In years past, Jokic has proven to be a great offensive center who struggled to cover bigs in the post on the defensive end. However, through 22 games of this season, Nikola Jokic is the anchor of a Nuggets team that is tied for the best defense in the league. And yes, I understand that Paul Millsap is also an elite defender, but one player can’t lift a team to the best defense in the NBA. Jokic’s quickness and improved effort on the defensive end have made a clear impact on the Nuggets, and if they are going to toe to toe with the best of the best in late April, they’ll not only need all five players locked in defensively, but they’ll need Jokic’s length and athleticism to create turnovers. Below is an example of Jokic flying around the court for a defensive stop:
Une belle activé de Nikola Jokic en défense. Il y a encore du boulot, mais l’intérieur tend vers une progression. pic.twitter.com/ZcohfaBDvi
— Jordanowski (@Jorda_NBA) November 20, 2018
As for the offensive side of things, I know Nikola Jokic is the best offensive center in the league because at times he’s the best point guard in the league. The man is the definition of a triple threat. His passing and vision are on a whole other level (especially when at the high post), he’s able to knock down the three ball when open, and his post moves are incredible. Take last night as an example. Versus a Raptors team that is top 10 defensively, Jokic had 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 15 assists on 61% shooting. And I already the know the retort to that would be that in Jokic’s previous five games, he averaged 12 points per game on 35% shooting. However, this makes me even more confident in Jokic. Even during that shooting slump, Jokic still averaged 8.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game proving that even when having a poor shooting night, he is much more effective than most NBA centers. So basically, Jokic is now an above average defensive center and far and away the best offensive center. Cumulatively, this makes him the best center in the NBA.
Quick Synopsis on why the Nuggets are a Western Conference contender:
Although most people don’t consider the Nuggets when discussing the NBA’s elite teams, they are currently riding a six-game win streak and are much better than teams such as the Thunder and Bucks. Their core of Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris are all very solid players with Jokic being a potential superstar. And although Millsap is undoubtedly overpaid, he is still a great defender and contributes over 13 points per game on efficient shooting. As for Murray and Harris, Murray is a solid, young playmaker with a good jump shot and Harris is a bit older, but still contributes 16.6 points per game on 44% shooting. They’re also one of those teams that has a sneaky deep bench that could have any one of their members add 15+ points on any given night such as Monte Morris or Juan Hermangomez. It’s also worth noting that Denver still lacks Isaiah Thomas (a former 30 points per game scorer) and Michael Porter Jr., a former top three high school prospect. Overall, I’d say they are an all-around balanced team with decent depth that could advance as far as the Western Conference Finals.
Thunder- 110, Pistons- 83
Warriors- 128, Hawks- 111
Cavaliers- 99, Nets- 97
Wizards- 110, Knicks- 107
Nuggets- 106, Raptors- 103
Rockets- 91, Timberwolves- 103
Clippers- 129, Pelicans- 126
Bulls @ Pacers (Prediction: Pacers win)
Magic @ Heat (Prediction: Heat win)
Trail Blazers @ Mavericks (Prediction: Mavericks win)
Kings @ Suns (Prediction: Kings win)
Spurs @ Jazz (Prediction: Jazz win)