In the midst of a free agency carousel that has engulfed the NBA this offseason, the Denver Nuggets were more concerned with preserving their best player. That’s why they granted 23-year-old center Nikola Jokic a five-year, max contract extension that is worth $148 million.
The Nuggets were extremely smart in making this move, since Jokic is likely still developing. At the same time, he has also achieved so much already in his relatively short time in the league. Jokic is a rare player, who can do things that most big men his size could only dream of. At 6’10, not many players have the vision and passing ability that he possesses. Despite starting the 2017 season in relatively slow fashion, he still averaged a solid 6.1 assists per game. That many assists across an entire season are usually reserved for point guards in the NBA.
The “Joker” is a one-man wrecking crew, who can take over a game in so many different ways. In just his third season in the league, he averaged 18.5 points per game. He can score in a variety of different ways, including in the paint, where he has a myriad of moves that most big men simply can’t keep up with. He’s not just some post up and force-a-hook-shot type of center. He has the feet of a much smaller man, and the athleticism to boot. Moreover, Jokic can shoot three pointers at a very efficient clip, evident in his season long average of 39.6 percent.
Jokic is not shy in going up and getting the basketball either, as he also was responsible for 10.7 boards per game. With so many ways that he contributes to the Nuggets, it’s no wonder they were quick to lock him up for the foreseeable future. Jokic enables Denver to build around a player who is talented and unselfish, and he has quickly pushed the Nuggets toward the top of the league’s best offensive teams.
Now that Denver has its core player, the team has begun to lock up his supporting cast. Jamal Murray is certainly a keeper, as he improved his points per game average to 16.7 in 2017. He is a rising star at just 21 years old. Another player the Nuggets locked up this offseason is shooting guard Will Barton, who signed a four-year, $54 million contract back in July. Barton is a solid contributor, who averaged 15.7 points per game last season, while also adding 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists each time out on the floor. Barton is also responsible for some effort on the defensive end, which the Nuggets definitely need. He is not the best defender, but he still averaged one steal and 0.6 blocks per game.
And then there is 23 year old Gary Harris, who was forced to struggle through some mid-season injury issues last year, but came back toward the end of the season. Harris still played in 67 games, and was good for 17.5 points per game, and a 39.6 percent three-point field goal percentage. He also added 2.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game.
The Nuggets are so loaded with young talent, that they knew they could afford to take a risk in the draft, when they selected Michael Porter Jr., who fell to them all the way to the 14th and final lottery pick. If Porter can get back to his former self, the Nuggets could be looking at a steal at his position.
Ultimately, Jokic is the centerpiece of the Denver Nuggets. He is a great player, who will continue to develop and appears to be approaching the upper tiers of rising NBA stars. While his unselfishness may keep his points per game average lower than some other NBA stars, he makes up for it by tallying up triple-doubles at a rather shocking pace. Denver fans should thank their team’s front office for doing the smart thing, and making sure Jokic is a Nugget for at least the next five years.