Nikola Jokic has made an incredible start to the season, leading the Nuggets in scoring with 18.7 points per game and averaging 6.0 rebounds on top of his stellar playmaking skillset. He’s also only 24 years old at this point, so there is plenty more room for improvement down the road if he can avoid injuries — something that may be hard given how physically demanding playing basketball is nowadays.
Nikola Jokic’s Dust-Up With Markieff Morris May Finally Force People to Recognize His Historic Start to the 2021-22 NBA Season. Nikola Jokic has been a key player for the Denver Nuggets since he was drafted in 2014. He is currently playing on his 6th contract with the Nuggets, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Denver Nuggets visited the Miami Heat on Nov. 8, which was maybe the most exciting event to strike an NBA court thus far in the 2021-22 season. Markieff Morris of the Los Angeles Lakers chose to hip check reigning MVP Nikola Jokic on a half-court heave, something Jokic did not enjoy.
When Morris turned away, the Denver center launched a powerful forearm shiver, sending the Heat falling to the ground and almost inciting a melee.
Jokic, who has been banned for one game, is now firmly entrenched in the NBA news cycle, as he should have been all along given his incredible start to the season.
Nikola Jokic has kept the Nuggets afloat on his own.
During the fourth quarter of Denver’s 113-96 victory over the Miami Heat, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is dismissed after punching Markieff Morris of the Miami Heat with a retaliatory strike. | AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Jamal Murray, Denver’s starting point guard, tore his ACL in April. Murray’s comeback isn’t set in stone at this moment.
Jokic has taken his place as the team’s leader in points, field goal %, 3-point percentage (minus Zeke Nnaji, who has played less than 10 total minutes this season), and assists.
The 26-year-old also leads the Nuggets in free-throw attempts, rebounds, assists, and steals, and is tied for the team lead in blocks per game with Aaron Gordon.
So far this season, Denver head coach Michael Malone has used a rather tight rotation. Despite being healthier than a lot of other NBA teams and Murray’s absence, just five Nuggets have played more than 265 minutes.
Jokic is second on the squad in minutes, behind only Will Barton, although he has a far higher use rate. The Cookie Monster leads the Denver offense with a usage rate of 29.4, which is nine points more than Barton and more than ten points higher than Michael Porter Jr and Gordon.
It also puts him in the top 24 in the NBA, ahead of any Lakers player and franchise-carrying superstars like Damian Lillard and Jimmy Butler.
After defeating Miami, the Nuggets improved to 6-4 through the first three weeks of the season. Jokic had a triple-double with 25 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists, which was unsurprising.
In Denver’s six victories, that’s how the cookie has crumbled.
The Joker is having a spectacular first few weeks after winning MVP.
The highest ever PER:
34.9 34.8 34.7 34.6 34.5 34.4 34.3 34.2 34.1 34.0 33.9 33.8 33.7 33.6 33.5 33.4 33.3 33.2 33.1 33.0 32.9 32.8 32.7 32.6 32.5 32.4 32.3 32.2 32. Wilt (’61-62) is number one. Giannis (’19-20) 32.0 31.9 Wilt (’62-63) 31.8 Jordan (’87-88): 31.7 pic.twitter.com/nCtRik4We9
November 9, 2021 — StatMuse (@statmuse)
Jokic’s numbers don’t only rank first among Nuggets players. They’re also one of the top teams in the NBA.
Big Honey’s scoring average of 25.4 points per game ranks 10th in the league. He’s also the NBA’s leading rebounder.
His career-high 40.0 percent 3-point shooting ranks fourth among centers who try more than four 3-point attempts per game. In terms of assists, he tops all big men.
Then there’s the fact that Jokic’s 35.0 PER would be the most in NBA history. According to StatMuse, Wilt Chamberlain’s 32.1 PER in the 1961-62 season is the current standard-bearer. (Wilt also holds the record for the third-highest score ever, 31.8, set the following year.)
During his 2019-20 MVP season, Giannis Antetokounmpo ranked 31.9. Michael Jodan concluded the 1987-88 season with a PER of 31.7.
Simply simply, the Serbian has had the best start to a season in the history of the league. Perhaps all it needed was a vicious forearm to the back and a suspension to get everyone’s attention.
To compete with the best teams in the West, the Nuggets need Jokic.
It normally takes a year or more to completely heal from an ACL injury. Murray’s comeback will coincide with the start of the playoffs, so there will be no time to shake off any rust for the 24-year-old.
Denver is relying heavily on their MVP to get near the top of the Western Conference rankings, as seen by his top-25 usage rate.
For the last three years, the Nuggets have been toying with the idea of going from excellent to great. On the cusp of making the conference finals, they were defeated in five games by the eventual champion Lakers. This was wedged between two appearances in the conference semifinals.
Jokic will have to make it happen if the team wants to be a title contender this year. Any further bans would be counterproductive to the cause, but The Joker will have to keep battling to keep Denver on track.
NBA.com provided all data.
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