When Nikola Jokic was drafted 42nd overall in the 2014 draft by the Denver Nuggets, many would have considered it surprising if the big Serbian was able to solidify a starting role on any NBA roster. Since stepping onto NBA floors, however, Jokic has shown that the Nuggets may well have found themselves a diamond in the rough.
With no veteran centers, Denver has put their faith in young two prospects, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. After receiving a good amount of minutes as a rookie (21.7 MPG), Jokic put up 10 Points and 7 rebounds per game. This season, particularly in recent weeks, it seems that we are witnessing a breakout season from Jokic. And what is the best thing about his growth? It's exponential! Who knows where and when he will stop?
Jokic's performances go beyond just hitting shots and grabbing boards; the Serbian is dishing out 4 assists per game, which puts him in the top 5 for assists by NBA big men. And who are his company in this top 5? Draymond Green, Marc Gasol, and Demarcus Cousins. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before "The Joker" joins (or even replaces) them on the Western All-Star team. Jokic even has a 3-point shot in his arsenal, which has been used to good effect this year.
The fact that Nikola Jokic is so well rounded, including being a sound defensive player must be hugely pleasing for the Nuggets. He is without a doubt the best player on their roster right now and still has plenty more time to develop as he is currently only 21 years old! Considering he is the best player on his team he still gets comparably few minutes compared to other stars, averaging just under 26 minutes per game. During this match-time in the 2016-17 season, Jokic is averaging 15.2 ppg 8.3 RPG and 4 APG. The only other players able to put up these sort of numbers up are LeBron, Antetokounmpo, Cousins, Durant, Griffin, Westbrook and Harden. Again, Jokic finds himself in some fine company, and he is averaging the least minutes of them all. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that the big Serbian has the highest offensive rating ever for a 1st or 2nd year player since the offensive ratings began being tracked in 1973.
But this all begs the question, can Nikola Jokic be depended on to perform at this high level when he is required to have larger spells on the court? Well, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say, yes he can. In the four games that he has played over 35 minutes, Jokic is averaging 27 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and 7.25 APG. So if the big man were averaging the same sort of minutes as Westbrook, Harden, and LeBron, would find himself in the MVP conversation? One can dream. For now, though, in reality, Jokic is putting forward a strong case for Most Improved Player.
So what's the secret to his success? On top of consistent court time and growing NBA experience, Nikola Jokic has been fine tuning his life off the field, in particular, his diet. In a recent interview with ESPN, Jokic admitted that he used to consume approximately 3 liters of Coca-Cola per day. Yes, you read that right. Perhaps it is that sort of diet which lead him to be a second rounder in the draft. So when was his last drink of Coke?
"On my flight to come to Denver, I had my last Coke ever," Jokic told ESPN. The way he is playing I wouldn't be surprised if he's replaced it with Mike's Secret Stuff.