Nikola Jokic has found a way to become one of the most dominant players in the league. Traditionally, the center is used as a big man that can convert at a high rate inside the paint and be a rim protector. Jokic has taken those elements and amplified them to become a modern-day combo guard and center. He can shoot, rebound, pass, and run the floor if needed. It’s this type of basketball that has revolutionized the game as positionless basketball.
Jokic is going to one day have his jersey retired by the Denver Nuggets and he is just 26 years old. The Nuggets are flirting with being a championship contender, but that is only because their reigning MVP is the center of all that. Looking forward, we should expect him to be in the running for MVP, as well as other numerous awards. Let’s take a look at how he got to this point.
Accolades and Awards: 1.8 PPG in the Serbian League
Jokic played youth basketball in Vojvodina Srbijagas, where he grew into a player that received interest from bigger teams. In the summer of 2012, he received a contract offer from Mega Vizura, but he predominantly played for their junior team the following year. Jokic was only 17 years old.
In five games for the Serbian League, he averaged 1.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in 10.2 minutes of action. After this initial season, it was when we saw one of the greatest developments in a player over time.
Accolades and Awards: 11.4 PPG in the Adriatic League, Drafted 41st overall by the Denver Nuggets
In the 2013-2014 season, Jokic saw more minutes on the floor. His game improved enough to where he was moved up to the senior team. Over 25 games in the Adriatic League, he averaged 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He then played 13 games with the team in the Serbian League, where he averaged 10.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.
During the summer, Jokic put his name in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Denver Nuggets used their 41st overall pick in the second round to select Jokic. Jokic is among many second-round sleepers from this draft that include Jerami Grant, Glen Robinson III, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Joe Harris. With that said, Jokic is by far the diamond in the rough.
Accolades and Awards: ABA League MVP, ABA League Top Prospect
Jokic became one of the team leaders for the team in the Adriatic League. This was when he made his jump to potential NBA stardom. In the first game, he helped his team defeat MZT Skopje with a line of 27 points and 15 rebounds. In the league, MVP awards are offered by round and there are 26 rounds. Jokic was named MVP four times.
Jokic won the ABA League MVP after he averaged 15.4 points, a league-leading 9.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He was also named the ABA League Top Prospect, which led to him eventually transitioning to joining the Nuggets the next season.
Accolades and Awards: NBA All-Rookie First Team
After making the semifinals of the Serbian League, Jokic parted ways with the team to pursue an NBA career. In 14 games of the Serbian League, Jokic averaged 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, while shooting 56.6% from the field. Jokic transitioned to the Summer League team where he had a new environment, averaging 8.0 points and 6.2 rebounds in five summer games.
We saw glimpses of Jokic’s potential during his first season in the NBA. Jokic had his breakout game in November with 23 points and 12 rebounds. In a game in January, Jokic recorded a then-career-high nine assists. By the end of the season, Jokic finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting and made the All-NBA Rookie First Team.
Accolades and Awards: Finished 2nd in the Most Improved Player Voting
Jokic leaped the following year by moving into a starting role. Jokic got off to a hot start when he scored 23 points and pulled down 17 points in a 115-113 overtime loss to the Trail Blazers. Jokic was eventually moved to the bench after starting the first eight games. In 14 games in a bench role, he was nearly scoring a triple-double each night.
On February 3, 2017, Jokic did earn his first career triple-double with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists against the Bucks. Then, just a week later he scored a career-high 40 points against the Knicks. Jokic finished the season with six triple-doubles, which ranked fourth on the season behind Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and LeBron James.
Accolades and Awards: None
Jokic earned his first career Western Conference Player of the Week after a stretch that saw him drop 41 points in a game. He became the first player for Denver to earn the award since Ty Lawson in 2013. One of his best performances came on February 15, where he recorded 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 17 assists. In the game, Jokic had a triple-double with 1:54 remaining in the second quarter.
Ten days later, Jokic recorded the quickest triple-double in NBA history in 14 minutes and 33 seconds, besting a record of 17 minutes held by Jim Tucker in 1955. The Nuggets finished 46-36, but the team missed the playoffs after losing a play-in game to the Timberwolves.
Accolades and Awards: All-NBA First Team, All-Star, Serbian Player of the Year
Jokic was rewarded for his efforts and the Nuggets signed him to a five-year, $148 million maximum contract extension. In the early part of the season, Jokic joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only player in history to post a triple-double with 30 or more points without missing a field goal. It was the first time this happened since 1967. By the end of the 2018 calendar year, he was recognized as the Serbian Player of the Year by the Basketball Federation of Serbia.
In the season, Jokic recorded his 20th career triple-double at the age of 23, which made him the third-youngest player to accomplish this feat, joining the likes of Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. As the season progressed, he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time list and eventually became the first Nuggets All-Star since Carmelo Anthony. By the end of the year, the Nuggets lost to Portland in Game 7 in the semifinals.
Accolades and Awards: Led Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals, All-NBA Second Team, All-Star
In back-to-back games in November, Jokic hit game-winning jumpers. Winning was a common trend for the Nuggets and Jokic was a big part of that. Jokic scored a career-high 47 points in a win over the Hawks. In February, he recorded a line of 30 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists, which was the third time since 1976 that a player recorded a line of 30/20/10.
Jokic became the first Nuggets player to earn back-to-back All-Star nods since Anthony. He helped the team make the playoffs, where the team overcame the Jazz in the first round. Then, the Nuggets came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Clippers, where he recorded 16 points, 22 rebounds, and 13 assists in the decisive Game 7 win. Jokic joined Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett as the only players to record a 20-rebound triple-double in the postseason. Eventually, the team lost to the champion Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
Accolades and Awards: MVP Award, All-NBA First Team, All-Star
In his first six games, Jokic had recorded four triple-doubles, which featured a career-high 18 assists. He became the first center to record at least 18 assists in a game since Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. On December 30, 2020, Jokic passed Fat Lever for the most triple-doubles in franchise history, as well as moving up to ninth all-time in the NBA. Jokic would continue this stellar play in January, where he won consecutive Western Conference Player of the Week awards, as well as Player of the Month.
In February, Jokic scored a career-high 50 points in a win over the Kings. He set a franchise record by becoming the first Nuggets player to score 50 points and have 10 assists. He joined Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson as the only players to score at least 50 points in the last 20 years. Jokic has some other historic feats by recording 20 consecutive double-doubles, something only Bill Walton had done since 1976.
Jokic’s MVP season was one to remember. He joined Alex English and David Thompson as the only Nuggets players to go to three straight All-Star games. He recorded his 50th career triple-double, becoming the fastest player to ever accomplish that, with only Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson doing it quicker. He also passed Chamberlain for most career 10-assist games. The Nuggets were eventually defeated in the second round of the playoffs, but he became the first center to win MVP since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, as well as the lowest-drafted player in NBA history to win MVP.
Jokic has already started off the season strong. He is averaging 26.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 6 assists. In his first game of the season, Jokic scored 32 points and added 16 rebounds. Going into the year, the Nuggets knew they were going to rely on their big man to start strong given that Jamal Murray is not expected back until February.
Jokic has scored at least 23 points in all but one game this season. He has eclipsed at least 19 rebounds twice this season. In his final game before the suspension, Jokic recorded a 25-point, 15-rebound, and 10-assist triple-double effort against the Heat. Jokic is among the leaders in player efficiency rating and is likely to contend for the MVP again this year.
Credit for an idea: BreakAnklesDaily/Instagram