What’s there left to say about Nikola Jokic at this point?
After a 30-point, 14-rebound, 13-assist triple-double on a night where he broke Wilt Chamberlain’s 56-year-old record for most triple-doubles in a single playoffs and willed the Nuggets to a four-game sweep over the Lakers, there’s simply nothing else.
Incredible. Inconceivable. Impossible. Once in a lifetime. Jokic does not seem real at this point. But how does one of the few people who’s been by the two-time MVP’s side throughout his entire eight-year career describe the greatest player on the planet and what he’s been able to do this postseason?
“He’s a basketball God,” Nuggets assistant coach Ogi Stojakovic told DNVR on the way out of Crypto.com Arena late Monday night.
Stojakovic is one of the few members of the Nuggets’ organization who was in Denver when Jokic arrived in the Mile High City in 2015. He was originally hired by former GM Tim Connelly prior to the Nuggets even drafting Jokic because Connelly thought there could be an influx of European players entering Denver’s pipeline. But once Jokic came to Denver, Stojakovic, who is also from Serbia, became a key figure in his development.
“He never stops amazing me,” Stojakovic told DNVR. ”He never stops.”
Watching Jokic in the Western Conference Finals was a spiritual experience. He averaged 27.8 points (50.6 FG%, 47.1 3P%), 14.5 rebounds, 11.8 assists per game, 1.8 blocks, and 1.8 steals per game. He transformed into a higher being. His stats don’t seem from this world.
In the playoffs, he’s averaging the 5th-most points, the 2nd-most rebound, and leads the postseason in assists and +/- despite averaging the 12th-most minutes per game. In four games against the Lakers, Jokic scored or assisted on 88 of the 156 (that’s 56.4%) baskets that the Nuggets scored when he was on the floor. After Jokic dropped 34 points on 12-17 shooting in Game 1, the Lakers were forced to switch “All-World” defender Anthony Davis off of him. That battleground was decided after 48 minutes.
How Jokic conducted this series was beautiful. He’s the only player in the NBA right now who manipulates almost every possession that his team plays. No one else has this kind of influence over their group. No one else’s fingerprints are all over everything that their team does like Jokic’s are. It’s something that we haven’t seen in this league in a long, long time.
“He’s a maestro with the basketball,” Aaron Gordon said of Jokic. “He’s a savant.”
On defense, he more than held his own. We’re awaiting Game 1 of the Finals, and Jokic still hasn’t been played off the floor defensively. Opposing offenses still haven’t been able to put him in a million pick-and-roll and expose the Nuggets on that end of the floor. One of the most laughable storylines around Jokic entering the playoffs has officially been proven false and can be put to rest for good. Jokic is a fine playoff defender, which is something that those who actually watch him already knew.
“I think it’s self-explanatory, brother,” said Jamal Murray when asked about what Jokic has done this postseason.
In the series, Jokic held Anthony Davis to 49.1% shooting when he was Davis’ primary defender. By the end of Game 4 — a game where Davis shot 6-15 while not even guarding Jokic on the other end of the floor — it looked like Davis wanted to throw in the towel. He had had enough. Jokic will wear you out mentally and physically during a playoff series. That’s what he did to Davis.
“He’s developed into an all-timer in a rapid amount of time,” Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth told DNVR after Game 4. “When I got here, there were a lot of big guys over him. And now there’s not.”
No one can do what Jokic does, and he’s the only one who hits these types of shots with regularity.
Remember this third-quarter stunner in Game 1?
Then in Game 4 with less than three minutes on the clock, he nailed the shot of the playoffs.
Those were Basketball God-like.
The narrative around Jokic has shifted. He’s proving all of his doubters wrong and all of his believers right. Jokic has now taken down Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert (twice), Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and now LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the playoffs. During his first-ever playoff run, Jokic beat a veteran Spurs team coached by Gregg Popovich and led by LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. It’s a hell of a resume, and Jokic is just 28 years old.
“I think he’s showing other people nationally that he’s real. Like what he’s doing is real,” Michael Malone said. “The MVPs are real. The triple-doubles are real. The narratives, the silly narratives this year are just what, silly and somewhat ignorant. He’s a great player, and give him the respect he deserves.”
How Jokic has carried himself in these playoffs — amid those narratives and with an enormous amount of pressure on his shoulders — has been stunning. He has been unbothered. He almost laughs it off. And what pressure? Of course, Jokic doesn’t feel it. He doesn’t feel the weight of the world on his shoulders. Jokic always says that he never stresses or gets nervous about taking game-winning shots with no time on the clock simply because his only option in those situations is to shoot the ball. He just goes out there and performs. He’s just focused on doing what it takes to win.
There’s still more of this journey to go. Of course, Jokic celebrated after sweeping the Lakers, first with his brothers and family in the stands, and then on the court with his teammates and coaches. Then, he hit the weight room in the bowels of the Lakers’ arena.
Because while getting to the Finals was a goal of his, there’s still one more box this season to check. The job isn’t quite finished.