December Budweiser Nugget of the Month Winner: Nikola Jokić
Nikola Jokić bore the brunt of the burden on his shoulders and carried the Nuggets to the top of the Western Conference standings against the toughest of odds to close 2018.
Toting the load for the squad, depleted by injury, the 7-foot Serbian guided his team to eight wins against only four losses on his way to being named the Budweiser Nugget of the Month. Playing without Opening Day starters Will Barton, Gary Harris and former all-star Paul Millsap, for much of the way, Jokić led the Nuggets in nearly every major statistical category, including points (20.9), rebounds (10.1), assists (7.9) and steals (1.8) in the month.
It wasn’t simply what he did during the 31-day stretch, but how he did it.
Jokić played his very best against very league’s best and made history with stat sheet-stuffing performances along the way. In two resume-building wins against the Toronto Raptors, who’ve recorded the most wins in the NBA in 2018-19, Jokić went for 24.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists. In the Nuggets’ 106-103 victory at Scotiabank Arena, he logged his second triple-double of the season, putting up 23 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds, all team highs, to lift Denver to its sixth win in a row at the time. It was his second game of the season with at least 15 assists, a feat no other center has accomplished even once in the last 20 years. Thirteen days later, he dropped a double-double comprised of 26 points and 10 rebounds in a 95-86 win at home against Toronto.
Jokić had eight double-doubles in eight-straight games to start the month and catapulted himself into not the only the all-star, but MVP discussion.
“We need to score, he scores 32. We need him to rebound, he does that,” Nuggets coach, Michael Malone, said of Jokic on Dec. 19. “We need him to facilitate and make plays for his teammates he does that.”
Malone continued: “I think Nikola has shown everybody in the NBA that he is a most valuable player candidate,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on Dec. 19. Not just from a stats standpoint, but he does it every single night in so many different ways.”
But don’t just take it from his head coach - others have become believers as well.
“He’s played like an MVP this entire season,” TNT NBA analyst, Candace Parker, said.
Charles Barkley described him as a “frontrunner” for the award too.
December was just a sample. The best is yet to come for The Joker.