Nuggets 2018-19 Player Previews: Nikola Jokić
Last Season: Nikola Jokić continued his ascension up the ladder of elite players in the NBA, once again proving to be arguably the most versatile center in the NBA with career-high averages of 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.2 steals.
He led the Nuggets in both scoring and rebounding. He was third in the NBA in triple-doubles with 10. His rebounding was ninth in the NBA. His assists were tops among all centers, second among all NBA bigs, and 15th in the league overall.
And as the games got bigger, Jokić simply got better. In the final 18 games of the season he averaged an eye-popping 24.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. When Jokić had a double-double, the Nuggets were 27-11, and they were 9-1 in his triple-double games.
With Jokić leading them, the Nuggets went 8-3 in the last 11 games and 6-1 in the final seven. Jokić was the rock that the team counted on each and every night, and he delivered. His hustle stats were even high. He was second on the team in average deflections (2.4), led the team in contested two-point shots (9.5), was third in contested 3-point shots (3.0), and led the Nuggets in total contested shots per game (12.6).
2018-19 Outlook: Jokić was rewarded in the offseason with a lucrative new contract extension, and he’ll go into the season as, again, the Nuggets’ unquestioned leader. He’ll start at center, and have the benefit of another summer where he was able to fully rest and recover without having played with his national team.
Expect the offense to once again flow through Jokić, who has already proven time and again that he’ll make the right decision – whether that’s scoring himself or getting the ball to the open man. Jokić can operate anywhere on the court – from the post to the perimeter – and the Nuggets like to get him the ball on the elbow where he could put a ton of pressure on the opposing defense. Look for Jokić to also continue improving as a defensive player. He made strides on that end of the court last season.
Bold Prediction: Nikola Jokić will make an NBA All-Pro Team and his first All-Star team this season, while again finishing third in triple-doubles and averaging over 20 points per game.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.