Nikola Jokic was thought of in 2014. A pudi center from Serbia, he was a role player for a club in the Adriatic League when the Denver Nuggets played a low-risk gamble in the second round of the NBA draft and selected him with 41st. Pick – then immediately hid him in Europe for another season. There was no guarantee that he would ever appear in an NBA uniform.
On Tuesday, Jokic reached the pinnacle of personal achievement by winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, according to two people with award results but not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Basketball is a global sport, and 26-year-old Jokic, who had An Extraordinary Season for the Nuggets, became the second straight overseas player to win the award after Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is from Greece, last two wins.
Jokic, whose Nuggets trail the Phoenix Suns 1-0 in the Western Conference semi-final series, averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game in the regular season with a career-best set.
At 6 feet 11 inches tall and 284 pounds despite the bulk of his industrial size, Jokic is a nimble, multi-faceted player who can shoot from the outside, bang into paint, and pass with flair. their ability to work at a high position and one handed sling pass Biting teammates opens the floor and creates havoc for the defenders. During the regular season, he shot 56.6 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from 3-point range.
“He should look like future basketball players,” Ogjen Stojakovic, the Nuggets director of player development, said in a recent interview. “‘If I need to shoot it, shoot it. If I have to dribble, dribble. If I need to post, I will post because I am capable of everything.’ That’s modern basketball.”
The race was, in some ways, a battle of casualties in an unrelated season, which was marred by multiple injuries and coronavirus-related absences. LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was the frontrunner to win the award for the fifth time – and for the first time since 2013 – before spraining his ankle in March and missing 26 games. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was also sidelined for nearly three weeks due to an injury to his left knee.
Jokic, on the other hand, was an Ironman, appearing in all 72 of his team’s games, and kept the Nuggets afloat after Jamal Murray, their starting point guard and second leading scorer, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. April. Without Murray, the Nuggets won 13 of 18 games to close the season as the No. 3 seed in the West as Jokic took on even more responsibility.
When Jokic joined the Nuggets as a rookie before the 2015–16 season, he was kicked out of his first MVP campaign in the Adriatic League. It didn’t take long for his coaches in Denver to recognize his versatility. They encouraged him to do what he does best, which is a little bit of everything.
“If you have a chef and you put him in a McDonald’s flipping burger, he’ll feel terrible,” Stojakovic said. “But if you give him a chance to be a chef and create, he can work his magic.”
The team’s general manager, Calvin Booth, recalled joining the Nuggets front office before the start of the 2017-18 season. began to joke install yourself As a young player full of promise, Booth had seen clips and highlights of his handiwork. But Booth found that being around Jokic every day was a different experience.
“I knew he was good,” Booth said, “but I didn’t know he was that good.”
This season, Jokic was considered the best among his teammates.
mark stein Contributed reporting.