Of course the Joker is the leader of this team.
Nikola posts statistics that people can’t believe. He does things that nobody not named Chamberlain have done. When you put his statistical playoff performance into context, there is no context. Nobody in a frontcourt position has done what Jokic is doing in the playoffs.
He’s the Nuggets unicorn, of course and everything else flows from him.
Almost everything. Watching these Denver Nuggets it’s obvious that Jamal Murray doesn’t just benefit from Nikola’s game, he’s integral to it. I’ll leave it to analytic guys to explain that with numbers but the oft-mentioned eye test tells us that Jokic thrives with Jamal on the court and vice-versa. The nature of their two-man game causes insurmountable matchup problems for opponents and as Jamal settles in to his NBA self, he’s becoming more and more dangerous in the Nuggets offense.
Let’s take a quick inventory of Murray’s skillset: He’s 6’4″ and can jump, as evidenced by the several poster dunks he’s thrown down this season, none more prolific than his yoke on Portland villain Enes Kanter in game five. His three-point shooting can be spotty but you can also see that he’s very close to breaking through with his long-range shot. His mid-range game is probably the most consistent aspect of his offensive skills. Turnovers? After starting the season with some concern for Jamal’s ball security, he’s become a vault with the ball, culminating in game six of this series. Jamal played 45 minutes and had zero turnovers for the game.
Back to that eye test, Jamal is more than Nikola’s sidekick, he’s more than just another guy that can score, Murray is as important to the fortunes of the Denver Nuggets as Jokic is and the two form a one-two punch from the C-PG position that few teams can match. Murray deserves recognition as an integral piece to the Nuggets success and that should reflect in the contract he likely negotiates over the summer. There hasn’t been a lot of talk with everything else going on but Jamal just might be a max-contract guy for the Nuggets and that does not bode well for Paul Millsap’s current contract.
Regardless, the Nuggets have the inside track to Western Conference supremacy and that’s worth protecting. If Tim Connelly and Michael Malone have earned anything over the last four years it’s trust.
Joel Embiid may have seized ‘Trust the Process’ to describe the Sixers rise in the East but the process is alive and well in Denver, too.