Wilt Chamberlain is typically regarded as one of the most dominant players in NBA history. It’s telling, then, that Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is planting his name right next to the Big Dipper’s.
The Nuggets are riding high on the tails of a five-game winning streak, and Jokic has emphatically bolstered his claim to NBA MVP honors. He’s also joining Chamberlain in the record books while proving he’s the most unstoppable all-around force in basketball.
Denver still needs to make moves to bolster the roster and give Joker some help before the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. However, Jokic’s historic dominance is almost single-handedly powering a Nuggets surge up the Western Conference standings.
Nikola Jokic starred for the Nuggets in a shocking blowout of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks came into Sunday’s matchup with the Denver Nuggets feeling pretty good after winning four of their last five games. Nikola Jokic wasted little time eradicating the good vibes and leaving the Bucks feeling despondent.
Jokic needed just over 28 minutes to decimate Milwaukee. He tied his season-high with 15 assists while scoring 18 points on 7of-9 shooting from the field. That efficiency, ball movement, and shot selection sparked a 36-point blowout, as the Nuggets made over 60% of their field-goal attempts and went 23-of-43 from beyond the arc.
Joker’s unselfishness rubbed off on his teammates. The Nuggets tallied 39 dimes, the second-highest single-game total in the NBA this season.
That self-sacrificing style of play has been a staple of Denver’s five-game winning streak. According to NBA.com, the Nuggets are averaging the second-highest number of assists in that span.
Naturally, Jokic’s prolific assist output has plenty to do with those numbers. His court vision and playmaking, paired with his strength and footwork on the block as well as his perimeter shooting ability, have elicited comparisons to Larry Bird.
Jokic’s name also rings out with another NBA legend: Wilt Chamberlain.
Jokic nears Wilt Chamberlain’s record for most 15-assist games by a primary center
Wilt Chamberlain is more commonly known as a scoring behemoth than a passing savant. But Wilt the Stilt could dish the rock, too.
Chamberlain finished his career with nine games of at least 15 assists. That remains an NBA record for centers, but it isn’t likely to stand much longer.
Nikola Jokic’s 15-assist outing against the Bucks marked the eighth such game of his career. He and Chamberlain were already the only two centers to record a 15-assist game. Now, Jokic finds himself on the cusp of surpassing the Big Dipper and carving out a unique place in NBA history.
As impressive as his vision and passing ability both are, it’s every bit as important to note just how efficiently Jokic scores the ball. He’s averaging 26.0 points on 65.6% true shooting, which is tied for the sixth-best mark in the NBA.
Jokic’s dominance on the block and his efforts as a screener make him impossible to guard. But double-teaming him also typically haunts opponents because he can fit passes to absurd angles and excels at anticipating cutting action.
Just as Wilt’s size and skill made him one of the NBA’s first genuinely unstoppable forces, so too are Jokic’s talents and supreme basketball intellect helping him to carry Denver.
Nuggets head coach Mike Malone previously called Jokic the most disrespected reigning NBA MVP in league history. But it’s becoming impossible to ignore the Joker’s credentials as the best and most dominant basketball player on the planet.
A step ahead in the NBA MVP race
The NBA MVP race is loaded this season, particularly with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid embarking on an absurd two-month stretch that garnered massive praise from Shaquille O’Neal.
But while O’Neal and other personalities continue to laud other candidates, it’s absurd not to single out Jokic as the front-runner.
Jokic’s 33.29 player efficiency mark is the highest single-season in NBA history. The same is true of his 14.63 box plus-minus value. Throw in the fact that Jokic carries an absurd +22.2 margin in terms of his on-off splits, and the Nuggets center has the makings of an unprecedented season.
Oh, and now the Nuggets are starting to heat up, mainly because Jokic has elevated his play. In Denver’s last seven games, Jokic is averaging 30 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 10.3 assists on an absurd 73.4% true shooting clip while also averaging 2.0 steals and 0.6 blocks. He has an 18.0 net rating in that stretch.
The Nuggets are 10-3 since Jan. 7 and now find themselves one game back of the Utah Jazz for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. They owe quite a bit to Jokic, who continues to prove why he’s an impossible cover for opposing defenses.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.