For the Denver Nuggets it all Comes Down to This

Denver Nuggets(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

It’s worth reminding people that think the Denver Nuggets bungled the 2017 draft by trading their first-round pick to Utah that Nikola Jokic was the 41st pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

It’s not that the Denver Nuggets wouldn’t benefit from Donovan Mitchell.  The kid has had a rookie-of-the-year level season.  It’s that the Nuggets traded their pick, not Mitchell, there’s no guarantee they’d have chosen the Louisville standout.  It’s that the Nuggets have little need for another combo guard and it’s that we received a player that made an impact in Trey Lyles.  Both the Nuggets and the Jazz “won” this trade.

The Nuggets scored an advanced-stats top-8 NBA player in the mid-second round.  That should trump any feelings that they’ve done poorly in the draft.  If not that then consider Murray, Harris, Juancho, Beasley and Monte Morris.

It’s hard to tell if Jokic suffers more in the media from a lack of exposure or a lack of understanding.  He is an advanced-stat beast and has been labled by Five Thirty Eight, the statistics gurus, as one of the best young NBA players of all-time(…/nikola-jokic-is-suddenly-one-of-the-best-young-nba-players-of-all-time).

My gut tells me it’s understanding.  Nikola’s Coaches often don’t know how to handle the big Serb.  Malone famously spent nearly a year trying to play Jokic at the Power Forward spot.  Pairing him with Nurkic and then Plumlee.  There’s validity to that approach, from a conventional standpoint.  Jokic should be a Power Forward.

That’s the rub with Nikola.  He doesn’t fit into any existing NBA box.  His game is too cerebral and from a 23-year-old, shockingly refined.  Perhaps his unorthodox style, one that doesn’t depend on sheer athleticism (though Nikola is deceptively athletic) is at the center of the debate over his place among leading NBA Centers. Regardless, the numbers on Jokic are not misleading.

He is already a top-10 NBA player. He is the best or second-best Center in the NBA.

Most importantly, he is the player that is taking the Nuggets to a place they haven’t been before.