The Brooklyn Nets had already surrendered career highs to big men Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, so Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone decided to make his center the focal point in the two teams’ matchup. Nikola Jokic responded, pouring in a career-high 41 points in a win over the Nets.
The Nuggets are one of the popular dark-horse picks to make some noise in a competitive Western Conference. The team received universal praise for its signing of four-time All-Star Paul Millsap, as well as its re-singing of promising wingman Gary Harris.
It’s Jokic, however, who will control Denver’s destiny. Much like Kristaps Porzingis, another international big man finding early NBA success, Jokic can accomplish anything on the floor. He can shoot from the inside, flash his footwork in the post, and pass with the best players in the league–guards or not.
“He’s a guy can do it all,” Malone told reporters. “He is ultra-skilled. Obviously, the way he’s been shooting the ball from 3-point range this year has been magnificent.”
As Malone learns more about the nuances of his roster, he should increasingly find that playing through Jokic will give the Nuggets the best chance for success. The team has started slow, getting out to a 6-5 start.
Jokic, on the other hand, has started strong. The 22-year-old center is averaging a double-double with 17.9 PPG and 11.6 RPG. More astonishingly, he’s shooting 53.5 percent from the field and 43.9 percent from beyond the three-point line.
His ability to step out and make three-pointers will open up the paint for Denver’s athletic guards, namely Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. Millsap will also have the opportunity to work in the paint with Jokic pulling bigger defenders to the outside.
The season is still young, but Jokic has given the Nuggets reasons for optimism. Keep it here on AXS.com for more NBA news and tickets tickets to select games.