Nikola Jokic assuredly predicted the postgame questions the way we’re expecting the Denver Nuggets center to drive this season’s Kia MVP conversation.
“Actually, I can just talk because I know what you’re going to ask,” he said.
But we’ve got a good idea of what “The Joker” might do in 2023-24, fresh off a title run and NBA Finals MVP honors.
Before rattling off two minutes of answers to anticipated questions after Monday’s 134-116 win against New Orleans, Jokic climbed another rung up the league’s all-time triple-doubles list to seize fourth all-time (108). In doing so, the 28-year-old broke a tie with LeBron James and Jason Kidd.
The milestone pushes Jokic into pole position for this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder.
Setting the stage this week is Jokic, who followed up his big night Monday by dropping a season-high tying 35 points, 13 rebounds and five assists Wednesday in Denver’s 108-105 win against Golden State. Jokic made mistakes late, but the Nuggets held on.
One stat to know: 70.7% — Jokic has taken 22.7% of his shots from 3-point range, up from just 14.6% last season. But he remains more effective inside the arc. And his 70.7% on 2-point shots was the best mark (by a healthy margin) among 46 players with at least 75 2-point attempts through Wednesday. (via John Schuhmann)
Highest 2-point percentage, 2023-24
Minimum 75 2-point attempts (46 players)
Through Nov. 8, 2023
What they’re saying: “He approaches the game different game to game. I felt like he was really aggressive today.” — Warriors center Kevon Looney.
And now, the top 5 in the 2022-23 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder.
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Season stats: 29.1 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 8.0 apg
His case: Back-to-back 35-point performances left Jokic laboring late Wednesday, which likely played a role in some critical mistakes he made down the stretch. Still, the two-time Kia MVP produced his ninth double-double in leading Denver to a league-best 8-1 record.
Next up? Two road games (at Houston and at New Orleans) are sandwiched around an In-Season Tournament home game vs. the LA Clippers.
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Season stats: 31.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 5.9 apg
His case: Lit up Boston for 13 of his 27 points Wednesday in the third quarter. The Sixers outscored the Celtics 56-40 in the paint with Embiid tallying his fifth straight double-double after none over the first two games.
He notched four blocks, too, after recording just three the previous three games combined. With the James Harden drama in the rearview, the big man should continue to roll.
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Season stats: 31.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 8.8 apg
His case: Dallas sits at No. 2 in the West heading into tonight’s In-Season Tournament game against the LA Clippers (8:30 ET, NBA League Pass), and Doncic deserves credit. In a loss to Toronto on Wednesday the 24-year-old delivered his 233rd game with 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists.
Mavs coach Jason Kidd wants Doncic to simply participate on defense. He’ll continue to do that. Doncic swiped four steals against the Raptors.
4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Season stats: 28.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.6 apg
His case: Racked up 30 points or more in four consecutive games before finishing Wednesday with 16 points in a loss to Philadelphia. While he struggled offensively in that game, Tatum made an impact on the glass with a season-high 15 rebounds (his fourth double-double of the season).
The 25-year-old needs to step up tonight in an In-Season Tournament matchup vs. Brooklyn (7:30 ET, ESPN) to prevent a three-game skid after Boston won five straight to open 2023-24.
5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season stats: 28.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.4 apg
His case: Who knows how long Gilgeous-Alexander remains in the top five? But he’s now scored 30 points or more 50 times since the start of last season, which ranks as the most in the NBA over that span.
Gilgeous-Alexander has scored 30-plus points in five of seven games. But the road becomes more treacherous with two straight road games on deck at Sacramento and Phoenix.
The Next Five:
6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
7. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
8. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
9. Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
And five more (listed alphabetically): Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors; Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers; Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns; Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks; Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers.
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