It’s been nearly eight years since the Denver Nuggets placed a player on the All Star roster. That drought ended with the selection of the Joker.
That player was Carmelo Anthony in the 2010-11 season. If you’re like me, the way ‘Melo left the Denver Nuggets has soured your perceptions of him. His last couple of years in the league have tarnished his legacy on the other end. In the middle, though, there was a time when Anthony was a top-tier player and he generally lit it up at the All-Star game. Whatever we think of Carmelo, we were well represented with him.
Flash forward to 2018 and there was some legitimate concern that Denver would continue their league-leading drought at the mid-season classic. With the frontcourt/backcourt format and the glut of talent in the Western Conference, some players were going to be left off that were deserving of a berth.
If history was any indicator, the players left off would surely be Nuggets.
This time, though the Denver Nuggets have a guy that’s undeniable. There’s a (small) case to be made that Jamal Murray is All-Star ready but cracking the Russell Westbrook–Steph Curry hold at the point is going to take either more time or a little more production from Jamal.
Nope, the guy that’s joining the ranks of Denver all stars is Nikola Jokic. That was a lot of buildup for something everyone already knew but indulge me, it’s kind of a big deal.
His 20.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists are incredible numbers for his position. The assist number is good for 6th in the NBA. From a 7-foot, 250lb. player that often (falsely) gets described as ‘unathletic’. His points could push 30 if he weren’t so adept at involving his Nuggets teammates. Just by current stats, he’s the best center in the NBA.
That only tells part of Nikola’s story, though. Consider that he’s now 14th in NBA history in triple-doubles.
Every night the Nuggets play it seems like Jokic does something that gets him mentioned with Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and the like. In just his fourth season, Nikola is having a historic career. His recognition as an NBA all-star was hard to deny.
Not that Nikola needs to be validated but two of the West’s best in the frontcourt that were snubbed for all-star bids, Rudy Gobert of Utah and Steven Adams of the Thunder garnered a lot of internet commentary. Passionate and prideful fans from the Jazz and OKC gave incredibly detailed and legitimate reasons their players should have been considered. For comparison they used LaMarcus Aldridge and Karl-Anthony Towns as players they believe their guys should have eclipsed.
It is significant that two division rivals, salty over their players getting snubbed, did not single out Jokic as the guy who didn’t belong. For the record, I fully agree that Gobert and Adams are all-star players. I like Adams, I respect Gobert, it doesn’t matter, they deserve to be there. It’s a bummer but it’s understandable.
Nikola has arrived much sooner than anyone anticipated. His game and his personality made it undeniable. As video surfaced of his interaction with children in the tunnel to the locker room and as his post All-Star announcement interview with the TNT crew showed, Jokic is genuine and a genuinely nice guy. It will be fun to see how he expresses himself in the game, surrounded by all-stars.