Nikola Jokic only has ‘5-6 years’ left in NBA, former Nuggets teammate Austin Rivers says

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is an NBA champion, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, and a two-time NBA MVP. He is one of the best basketball players of his generation, and if his former teammate, Austin Rivers, was right on the Bill Simmons Podcast, we may only get to watch him for a few more years.

Free agent guard Austin Rivers is doing more podcasting than playing these days, and he recently joined his new boss from The Ringer podcast network, Bill Simmons, to discuss all things NBA.

During the conversation, Simmons asked Rivers about Nikola Jokic, who Rivers played with on the Nuggets from 2020-22.

“How long do you see Jokic playing?” Simmons asked. “Do you see him being one of those guys who’s like 39 and just kind of holding on?”

Before Simmons even finished his question, Rivers shook his head dramatically and said, “Nope. No chance.”

“I have him playing another five, six years,” Rivers responded. “I don’t think he really gives a s**t about the American pop culture and trends and like fame and relevance. Those things just don’t interest him, like really deeply to the core. And the things that do interest him aren’t those things.”

Rivers also told a story about Jokic about the Nuggets big man leaving just two days after the season when they lost in the playoffs to the Golden State Warriors.

The free-agent guard did some math about Jokic recently signing a new supermax extension and how old he will be after one more massive deal before deciding that “by 35, maybe 36, I think he’s gone.

A lot of this stems from Jokic’s reaction after winning the NBA championship. He got upset about having to attend the victory parade and bemoaned not being able to get back to his native Serbia sooner to watch his horses race.

So, the moral of the story here is to enjoy the brilliance of Nikola Jokic while you can, because he may not be in the NBA for much longer.

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Nuggets 2023 offseason recap: Will Bruce Brown’s departure derail Nikola Jokic, Denver’s repeat quest?

Pure excitement and roars of “Let’s go Nuggets” coming down from the very top row was all that could be heard in Ball Arena when the Denver Nuggets dribbled out the clock in Game 5 of the 2023 NBA Finals. It took over 50 years, but the Nuggets were finally able to call themselves NBA champions.

Nikola Jokic went from a two-time regular-season MVP to a Finals MVP, Jamal Murray completed his redemption arc from a torn ACL in 2021, Michael Porter Jr. successfully made his comeback from multiple back injuries, and head coach Michael Malone cemented his spot as one of the best coaches in the NBA over the last decade.

The celebrations from Denver’s championship lasted weeks, and while the focus has now shifted to the upcoming 2023-24 season and training camp, their fans are still embracing this championship nearly three months after they won it all. With their entire starting five returning, the Nuggets enter the new year as favorites to repeat as champions, something very few teams have been able to accomplish.

As long as Jokic and Murray are healthy, the Nuggets have to like their chances against any other team in the league. However, change is inevitable for every franchise, and Denver’s bench is going to look a lot different this upcoming year than it did during their recent title run.

Bruce Brown, the guy who was the bridge from the starting unit to the bench, ended up leaving for a bag from the Indiana Pacers in free agency. Brown did a little bit of everything during their title run and fit in so well, which is why his departure could really change the trajectory of the Nuggets heading into the new season. The same can be said for Jeff Green, as he was one of the veterans who led this locker room.

Great teams win championships, while legendary teams sustain success and overcome adversity year-after-year such as roster changes. Will the Nuggets be remembered as a great team that broke through and won a championship, or will they truly assert their dominance as the team to beat over the next several years?

Offseason additions and departures

Additions: G/F Justin Holiday (free agency – DAL), F Julian Strawther (draft), F Hunter Tyson (draft), G Jalen Pickett (draft)

Departures: G/F Bruce Brown (free agency – IND), F Jeff Green (free agency – HOU), C Thomas Bryant (free agency – MIA)

The Nuggets absolutely lost more than they gained this offseason, which is not too surprising for a championship team. Many of the core players from a title team end up returning to try and repeat as champions. At the same time, some jump ship and you cannot blame certain talents, especially role players, for chasing a larger contract.

This was the case with Bruce Brown this offseason, as the 27-year-old swingman ended up agreeing to a two-year, $45 million contract with the Indiana Pacers. He will now make $22 million during the upcoming 2023-24 season, a no-brainer decision when you look at the maximum $7.8 million that the Nuggets were able to offer him this summer.

Brown came to Denver for one season, and he played his role as well as any other player in the league. Defensively, he could realistically guard any position from point guards to centers, plus he was an extension of Jokic on the offensive side of the floor. Rebounding, passing, three-point shooting and energy is what the Nuggets got from Brown. While they would’ve loved to keep him, it just wasn’t a realistic scenario.

Along with Brown, veteran Jeff Green also leaves a hole on this roster, as he agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract with the Houston Rockets. Another instance of Denver getting out-bid by another team for one of their players, nobody can really fault Green for getting paid at 37 years old.

His leadership and commitment, despite seeing an inconsistent role all year long, is what made Green a special player for the Nuggets. The entire coaching staff viewed him as an extension of themselves as the veteran aided everyone from Jokic to the end of the bench. While he did help out on the court, Green made a positive impact in the locker room by helping establish a culture, which is something every championship team needs behind the scenes.

Aside from the talent they had on the court, the Nuggets ended up winning a title this past year because of the fact that they were a tightly knit group. There were no cracks in their relationships, they all genuinely enjoyed playing with one another, and no drama presented itself over the course of the regular season. The focus for this group from their very first day of training camp in 2022 was to win it all, no matter who or how many people doubted them.

Brown and Green were big parts of this team’s secondary unit, and they showed up to play their roles to perfection every single night. They may not have been the best players on the team, but these two made an impact when the Nuggets needed them. Replacing both players will not be an easy task for this organization.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Nuggets lost some big-man depth in free agency with Thomas Bryant departing for the Miami Heat, the team Denver beat in the NBA Finals. General manager Calvin Booth and the Nuggets’ front office have been constantly searching for reliable depth in their frontcourt, but things did not work out with Bryant as intended when he came over from the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline.

The additions to the Nuggets’ roster this offseason mainly came by way of the NBA Draft. Not having many draft picks entering this year’s draft, Denver made a handful of trades and leveraged future draft picks in order to snag one first-round pick and two second-round picks. With the 29th overall selection, the Nuggets grabbed Julian Strawther out of Gonzaga, followed by Jalen Pickett (No. 32) and Hunter Tyson (No. 37) in the second round.

Strawther is an intriguing player for Denver, especially since he shares a similar build to that of Brown. The Gonzaga product is an above-average athlete and presents some upside as a two-way player on the wing. What the Nuggets will look to utilize right away during Strawther’s rookie campaign is his shooting abilities, as he shot 40.8 percent from deep this past year in college.

Pickett and Tyson are two other interesting rookies the Nuggets will integrate over the course of the 2023-24 season. Known for his rebounding abilities at the guard spot, Pickett can do a little bit of everything with or without the ball in his hands. He understands the game at a high level and also demonstrated his three-point shooting abilities at Penn State.

When talking about three-point shooters, Tyson is the rookie who stands out. He shot 18-36 (50.0%) from the perimeter at Las Vegas Summer League and ended up being named to the NBA 2K24 All-Summer League First Team. Expect all three rookies the Nuggets drafted to see time over the course of the 82-game schedule, and perhaps at least one of them will make an impact like Christian Braun did last season.

While not listed above as additions, the Nuggets did retain some of their veteran leaders in free agency, as Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan both returned on new deals.

Who will step up in Brown’s place?

Christian Braun, Bruce Brown, Denver Nuggets, Zeke Nnaji, Peyton Watson

The main question for the Nuggets entering the 2023-24 season revolves around where they will get production from outside of their starting unit. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are going to do their thing, plus Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon will supply the team with secondary scoring out on the wing and in the paint.

Bruce Brown was so effective for Denver because of his abilities to rebound on both ends of the floor and hit a big three-point shot in transition. Even though he shot 35.8 percent for the season from downtown, Brown still opened up the floor and drew attention from his opponents. When looking at the Nuggets’ roster right now, it is hard to point to a player on their bench and claim they have what it takes to fill this void left behind by Brown in free agency.

Bones Hyland is no longer a source of bench production after he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers ahead of the trade deadline, and Vlatko Cancar will not be available after he suffered a torn ACL while playing with the Slovenian national team this offseason. Brown, Green, Hyland and Cancar supplied the Nuggets with roughly 23 percent of their total scoring output from the 2022-23 season, which is why there are questions about who will step up.

The obvious choice to do so is second-year shooting guard Christian Braun. The Nuggets drafted Braun 21st overall in 2022, and he barely played over the first two months of his rookie season. As he gained more experience and worked with the veterans on this roster, he became one of the first players to come off the bench.

Defensively, Braun can be just as impactful as Brown was, and his confidence is very apparent no matter what role he holds. The 22-year-old is conformable going up against any other player in the league and there are not many limitations to his game. Looking at last year’s draft class, Braun has a chance to become one of the most improved in his sophomore season.

Another second-year player to watch is Peyton Watson, the 30th overall selection in 2022. Unlike Braun, who saw his minutes increase during the second half of the season, Watson entered the league as a very raw prospect who spent a lot of time working behind the scenes. During games, he was a sponge for most of the year in the sense that the team wanted him to learn as much as he could from the veterans.

When Watson did get a chance to play when the core of this team took days off near the end of the year, the rookie showed flashes of his two-way potential on the wing. The 21-year-old has the ability to run in transition really well and has a lot of potential overall as he develops. Still very young and working on his craft, the Nuggets continue to be very high on Watson’s ceiling.

As for another player whose role is expecting to increase during the 2023-24 season, Zeke Nnaji could wind up being the player the Nuggets have been searching for behind Jokic. The problem with Nnaji is that he has had trouble remaining healthy. In terms of where this team could receive production from in their frontcourt outside of Jokic and Gordon, the Nuggets should look no further than the fourth-year forward in what will be a contract year.

2023-24 season outlook

Even with all the changes the Nuggets have on their bench, the same starting group is back and Michael Malone’s coaching staff remains untouched. This is the reason why the Nuggets still have a very good chance at claiming the 1-seed in the Western Conference and making it back to the NBA Finals.

Jokic is the epitome of someone who shows up to work every day and does their job to the best of their abilities. Jokic may not be the most athletic nor the best scorer in the league, but he is arguably the best passer in the NBA and may be the most skilled player we have ever seen at the center position. Everyone on this roster is a better player when he is on the floor, including Murray.

These two make up one of the most underrated duos in the league, and the only reason they gained appreciation this offseason was because the Nuggets won the title. If Denver failed to do so, nobody would be talking about how good these two really are.

The DNA of this team remains the same, which is why they will once again win 50-plus games during the regular season. Whether or not they can sustain postseason success is a whole different story, especially since more pressure is going to be on the core group of Jokic, Murray, Porter and Gordon during the first half of the year.

Guys like Brown and Green took strain off the stars and provided the Nuggets with a sense of depth. Right now, the team is hopeful Braun and Watson will be able to emerge as contributors, but they are still young talents who are learning the ropes of the NBA. What the Nuggets lost in the offseason will not be replaced so easily, which is why this team could face some struggles against the better teams in the league.

Until they are beaten in the playoffs, the Nuggets will still be sitting on the throne at the top of the league. However, they have gone from the hunters to the hunted, making it very interesting to see how this impacts the mindset of the organization.

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‘He’s gonna get his’: Markieff Morris sends warning to Nikola Jokic after brutal cheap shot in 2021

Markieff Morris has not forgotten about what happened on the court in 2021 against Nikola Jokic. When Morris was a member of the Miami Heat, they were on the road to face Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in November 2021. It was what transpired in the middle of this game that drew headlines.

Looking to stop play and take a foul, Morris ran into Jokic and made contact with the two-time MVP’s ribs. As Morris walked away after the foul, the Nuggets big man charged at him and knocked him to the ground from behind. Forced to miss a lot of time with a neck and whiplash injury, Morris still seems to hold a grudge for what happened.

“Catching me off guard, he really ain’t do s**t. But you know, at the time, I was a little off,” Morris told former NBA player Matt Barnes on Showtime’s All The Smoke podcast. “It was more so with the Miami Heat, they was just trying to protect me from, you know, against me from myself. But I was cleared to play like two weeks after that, they just held me out. It really wasn’t one of those things where I was injured or in pain or anything like that…

“It was a sucker shot. But he gonna get his though. Don’t trip.”

Since this incident occurred, Markieff has not played against Jokic. However, his twin brother Marcus Morris has, and he stated on the podcast that he made it a point of emphasis to go after the MVP. As Marcus states, the league was watching him closely since they had a feeling he would retaliate and defend his brother, so nothing ever transpired between him and Jokic.

It’s interesting that Markieff mentions that he was ready to play again after two weeks and the Heat kept him out, especially in light of the league’s new “load management” rules pertaining to player participation.

On Wednesday, the NBA’s Board of Governors approved new rules that will put an end to teams keeping healthy players and stars out of games. While this would not have necessarily impacted Morris since he isn’t an All-Star or All-NBA talent, the league may have had something to say about Miami keeping him out of games.

As far as his involvement in what transpired with Jokic, Morris explained what exactly he was doing by fouling Denver’s big man and what the reaction from everyone was after the altercation happened.

“I put my hand up so he knew I was coming,” Morris continued. “It’s what he did. He tried to jump pass the ball as I’m coming to foul you, like, I don’t know what he was thinking. He made it seem like I was trying to hurt him when it wasn’t… I fouled you and let you know I was going to foul you. Then you hit me from behind, but it’s like ‘you shouldn’t have turned your back.’ Okay.”

Recently agreeing to a one-year, minimum contract to return to the Dallas Mavericks, Morris will potentially get a chance to see Jokic again early on in the 2023-24 season and hash things out on the same court in which he got injured on a couple of years back. The Mavs will be in Denver on November 3 to face the Nuggets.

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Nikola Jokic used to drink a gallon of Coca-Cola each day

No matter how much weight Nikola Jokic seems to lose these days, he never seems to have a body similar to LeBron James, Joel Embiid, or even pass the eye test as one of the greatest NBA players in today’s game. Now we know why.

Jokic once revealed in an interview with ESPN that he used to have a very unhealthy diet centered on Coca-Cola. He said that he’d drink at least three liters of the drink each day and had trouble holding back:

“I used to drink two or three liters of Coca-Cola every day and I had my last can on the flight to the United States. The first week in practice was tough. All my teammates were more physical and athletic. I kind of wanted to go home,” said Jokic.

Oddly enough, that isn’t the first time Jokic wanted to pack his bags and quit basketball. When he was around 12 or 14 years old, he was more interested in horse racing— a hobby that’s become well-documented in the Denver Nuggets’ 2023 championship run. 

What made Jokic so addicted to Coca-Cola?

It’s normal for NBA players to have unhealthy eating habits. Michael Jordan ate at McDonalds so much that they named a meal after him. Stephen Curry has become so addicted to popcorn that he’s even made a power ranking of every NBA team’s popcorn.

In Jokic’s case, he never knew what the soda could do to the body. As per Nuggets trainer Steve Hess, he thought soft drinks and candy high in sugar were okay since it gave him a jolt of energy. However, while some people can struggle to withdraw from an addiction, Nikola Jokic was actually relieved that he finally had a reason to stop drinking it:

“No. Nothing. It was easy. I felt really good, actually. It was good to know I didn’t need it,” Jokic said.

Once he gave up the drink, the results of his workout began to show. In his first three years in the NBA, Jokic dropped more than 40 lbs. while decreasing his body fat from 21% down to 9%.

You can only imagine how dominant Jokic would actually be if he had a better diet when he was younger.

Nikola Jokic’s Hidden ADDICTION 😲 I Clutch #Shorts – YouTube

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Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic goes viral again with epic Serbia celebration after FIBA World Cup

The NBA offseason is a time to relax a bit after investing so much time and energy in your game and team’s success. Denver Nuggets superstar and NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic has thoroughly enjoyed being back in Serbia. The party rolled on when the national team returned home after a praiseworthy FIBA World Cup showing.

A shirtless Jokic was celebrating and singing with the Serbian squad, who just fell short against Germany, in what looked to be a lively club or bar. This is not the first time the champion has danced the night away. He has fully embraced his culture, losing himself in Serbian music and merriment.

The 28-year-old has done an excellent job separating his personal life from his basketball one. Although he will sometimes showcase his dry sense of humor while playing for the Nuggets, Jokic is rarely animated. Not every player can contain their enthusiasm until after the season concludes, but the two-time MVP apparently prefers to wait until the job is done to unleash his wild side.

Nikola Jokic will not have many more opportunities to soak up the Serbian nightlife until the 2023-24 NBA campaign starts. Denver’s training camp begins at the end of September, so he is probably looking to make the most of his remaining stay in his beloved home country.

Future opponents would be wise not to expect this type of jovial nature on the court. Jokic is likely to be all business when he and the Nuggets defend their title, starting on Oct. 24 versus the Los Angeles Lakers.

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10 best draft picks in Nuggets franchise history, ranked

The Denver Nuggets, of all teams, know how important it is to nail their draft picks, as the Mile High City isn’t a particularly attractive destination for superstar free agents. And to their credit, they have made the most out of their picks, especially in the 2010s, where they built the core of their 2023 championship-winning team.

With that said, here are the 10 best draft picks the Nuggets have made in their franchise’s history.

10. Raef Lafrentz

Raef Lafrentz was a prototype for the unicorn big man archetype we see nowadays. And the Nuggets certainly had high hopes for Lafrentz when they selected him with the third overall pick of the 1998 NBA Draft. Lafrentz was the rare big man who could space the floor and protect the rim; he averaged 2.5 swats a night in 3.5 seasons in the Mile High City while making 198 triples.

Even though he fell way short of expectations, especially when the Nuggets could have taken a ton of other more impressive players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, or Vince Carter, Lafrentz wasn’t a huge bust. Compared to other Nuggets draftees, Lafrentz is certainly deserving of inclusion on this list.

9. Bryant Stith

The draft is a crapshoot. No matter the draft spot, there’s a risk that the player teams select would end up falling way short of expectations. But in Bryant Stith’s case, the Nuggets were able to draft a player who was a capable starter for multiple years, which is a good enough return for the 13th overall pick, all things considered.

Stith spent eight seasons with the Nuggets, averaging 10.9 points and 3.5 rebounds on 43 percent shooting from the field and 30.8 percent shooting from deep.

8. Kenneth Faried

Kenneth Faried didn’t exactly excel in protecting the rim and at spacing the floor. But what Faried was during his heyday was a bundle of energy. In every possession, Faried was bursting with vigor, setting screens as hard as he could, rolling as fast as he could to the rim, and crashing the boards with such undeniable ferocity.

Dubbed as the Manimal, Faried didn’t take long in establishing himself as the Nuggets’ starting power forward in the early 2010s. He was a livewire on both ends of the floor, a wrecking ball of a man who instilled fear in the hearts of his opponents with his top-tier athleticism. For a good chunk of seven seasons, Faried was a crucial member of the team, averaging 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in 441 games for the franchise.

As the Nuggets entered a new era with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading the way, however, Kenneth Faried eventually gave way to Paul Millsap as the team’s starting four, a defensively-inclined burly power forward who also spaced the floor — the better complement to Jokic.

7. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, in many ways, was ahead of his time as a lead guard in the NBA. 30 years ago, a point guard’s job was to run the offense, get the ball into the post, or hand off the ball to their best player and get out of the way. But Abdul-Rauf was much more than the prototypical guard. He was a shot-creator at heart, and he loved pulling up from distance before it became en vogue in the league.

In fact, Abdul-Rauf’s style of play drew comparisons to Stephen Curry from Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson. That’s how ahead of his time the Nuggets guard was.

Alas, despite averaging 16 points in six seasons as a member of the Nuggets franchise, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf last played in the NBA in 2001, when he was just 31 years old. Abdul-Rauf felt like he was blackballed out of the league thanks to his staunch expression of his political beliefs. But that shouldn’t hide the fact that he was a high-quality player in the NBA for nearly a decade.

6. LaPhonso Ellis

LaPhonso Ellis isn’t exactly a Nuggets legend. He won’t be making any greatest Nuggets players of all time lists soon enough, as he didn’t exactly have a high career peak. But there’s value in being a high-level role player for multiple years, and Ellis certainly was that during his six-year stint with the franchise.

Ellis was a solid frontcourt partner for Dikembe Mutombo, as Ellis was capable of spacing the floor — not exactly a common occurrence during his time. In fact, the 6’8 power forward had a season wherein he made 95 of his 259 attempts from deep, good for 36.7 percent, a rarity for power forwards during the 1990s.

In six years (343 games) with the team, LaPhonso Ellis averaged 15,2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, peaking with an impressive 21.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game season with the team in 1997.

5. Michael Porter Jr.

Entering the 2018 NBA Draft cycle, Michael Porter Jr. was drawing rave reviews, as he had the potential to be the next great forward in a wing-driven league. However, Porter wasn’t exactly cut from the same cloth as Kevin Durant, as he flourished more as an off-ball scorer, while his uninspiring physical condition did not exactly help his standing on team’s draft boards. His back was a red flag, with even some evaluators believing that Porter may not have the longest NBA career.

Even then, the Nuggets took a chance on Porter with the 14th overall pick of the draft and brought him along slowly. Porter did not play at all during the 2018-19 season, and he played such a bit role off the bench during his debut campaign before emerging as a key fixture of the team in the latter half of the season.

During the 2020-21 season, Michael Porter Jr. broke out in a big way, earning himself a huge contract extension in the process to fill the role as the team’s third star alongside Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. After a lost 2021-22 campaign, Porter is now back and has settled into a role lower down the offensive hierarchy than many thought he’d seize following his impressive sophomore season. But with what the Nuggets require out of him, Porter performs his role at an exceptional level — an audacious bomber who never shies away from any shot.

4. Dikembe Mutombo

When taking into the account the entire body of work for the Nuggets franchise, Dikembe Mutombo may be deserving of a higher spot on this list. Alas, the man who placed third was huge in propelling the team to its first-ever championship, so Mutombo will have to “settle” for number four.

With the fourth overall pick of the 1991 NBA Draft, the Nuggets were able to draft one of the greatest rim protectors in history. Even though Mutombo played in just five seasons for the franchise before he signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Hawks, he still remains the team’s all-time leader in blocks with 1,486 swats.

Of course, Dikembe Mutombo had some iconic moments in a Nuggets uniform as well. The lasting image of the Nuggets’ incredible 1-8 upset over the Seattle Supersonics in 1994 was Mutombo falling to the ground with the basketball with his face full of jubilation. He then broke into tears with his head resting upon the hardwood of the Sonics court as his coaches tried to console him, to no avail.

3. Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray did not have the most seamless transition to the professional level after he was drafted by the Nuggets with the seventh overall pick in 2016. With the Nuggets having drafted Emmanuel Mudiay not too long before Murray’s arrival, the talented guard was stuck between two positions. But it didn’t take long after that for Murray to set himself apart and forge a magical duo with Nikola Jokic.

In his second season, Murray firmly established himself as the Nuggets’ starting point guard, being the exact kind of player the team needed to keep up with where the position was headed amid the three-point revolution. But it wasn’t until the 2020 NBA playoffs where Murray burst onto the limelight as one of the premiere postseason performers in the league. He went toe-to-toe in a thrilling offensive battle against Donovan Mitchell and snatched the Los Angeles Clippers’ collective souls, leading the way for two historic 3-1 comebacks, the first of its kind in league history.

And then in 2023, Jamal Murray showed that he’s now all the way back from the torn ACL he suffered in 2021. Murray played some sweet string music with Nikola Jokic in their vaunted two-man game, even notching historical numbers in the process. Without Murray playing the way he did, it’s difficult to imagine the Nuggets winning the 2023 NBA championship, Jokic’s greatness notwithstanding. Teams cannot put a price on mental fortitude under the bright lights of the playoffs, and Murray has that in spades.

2. Carmelo Anthony

Back in the 2003 NBA Draft, there were no guarantees that the Nuggets would be able to draft Carmelo Anthony, the dynamic small forward who lit the collegiate world ablaze as he led his Syracuse Orange to the national championship. They had the third overall pick of the draft, with the Detroit Pistons looming as a threat to add Anthony to their core that had just made the Eastern Conference Finals.

But as fate would have it, the Pistons took Darko Milicic over Anthony, so the Nuggets were in business. And for all the flak Anthony has caught throughout his career for not being the best two-way player he could have been given his athletic gifts, the talented small forward had an immediate impact for the team. Before Anthony arrived, the Nuggets won just 17 games; during his rookie season, the team was able to win 43 games, 26-game improvement.

With Carmelo Anthony in the Mile High City, the Nuggets made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, winning 50 or more games four times and making the Western Conference Finals once. In 564 games as a member of the franchise, Anthony averaged 24.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.1 games, notching four All-Star appearances along the way.

1. Nikola Jokic

When the Nuggets selected Nikola Jokic with the 41st overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, not too many paid attention. After all, his selection came during a Taco Bell advertisement on ESPN. However, from the beginning, Jokic’s skill was apparent. He had buttery touch around the hoop, and he was a burly presence in the paint, so his offensive prowess wasn’t exactly an issue. It was his lack of athleticism, subpar conditioning, and projected shortcomings on the defensive end of the court that didn’t instill belief in talent evaluators that he’d turn out to be one of the biggest stars of the game.

But gradually, Jokic began asserting himself as the Nuggets’ best player. He even forced the team to make a decision in 2017, when the Nuggets dealt away Jusuf Nurkic for Mason Plumlee to completely hand over the keys of the team to the Serbian star. And Jokic did not disappoint.

Nikola Jokic has become an otherworldly offensive force, an unstoppable presence on that end of the floor who bends defenses to his will. Jokic leverages his incredible touch from everywhere on the court to make his teammates better, setting them up with dribble handoffs, dunker spot dump-offs, and pinpoint crosscourt passes straight into their shooting pockets. The Nuggets have even built a team that more than compensates for Jokic’s shortcomings as a rim protector, with the team maximizing the Serbian’s strengths in blitzing the pick-and-roll and being an overall disruptive presence in the passing lanes.

No one could have foreseen that Jokic’s selection in 2014 would culminate in the franchise’s first-ever championship nine years later, but here we are. Credit must go to the Nuggets for helping develop Jokic into a two-time MVP and the greatest draft steal of all time.

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Why Charles Barkley felt ‘good’ after Nikola Jokic, Nuggets championship win

NBA Hall of Famer and analyst Charles Barkley is often critical of the current state of the NBA, but it sounds like Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets have restored some of his faith in the current generation after an impressive, and drama-free, championship run in the 2023 season.

On the Bill Simmons podcast, Barkley shared his feelings on Denver and Jokic’s impressive title win.

“With all the BS that goes on in the NBA, what the Nuggets and the Joker accomplished just made me feel good,” Barkley said. “No super team, no drama.”

“Joker and Giannis, they make me feel good about my sport.”

Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo both notably stayed and won championships with the franchises that originally drafted them, and did so without trade demands or any major distractions.

The homegrown duo of Jamal Murray and Jokic served as a stark contrast to some of the teams in the Western Conference that stood in Denver’s way, including the new-look Suns with Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Denver’s dominant run through the playoffs was as impressive as any seen in recent history, as the Nuggets never faced elimination and won 10 of their last 11 games to win the 2023 championship.

Charles Barkley, who was traded multiple times and never won an NBA championship, perhaps has a unique perspective on how the Denver Nuggets and Jokic managed to win a title. Perhaps more importantly, Jokic and Giannis have never represented their respective franchises in a negative way in public life, keeping relatively low profiles for superstars of their stature.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, 28, is a two-time regular season MVP, 2023 Finals MVP, and 2023 NBA Champion.

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Lamar Odom flames Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic over viral dancing video

Nikola Jokic is living his best life back in Serbia. The Denver Nuggets center was seen dancing at a concert Thursday night, showing his offseason is going very well after his team won the 2023 NBA Finals.

Many have joked about the Jokic clip. Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom chimed in with a hilarious roast Friday night.

“My man plays ball like a brotha, but he sure don’t dance like one!” Odom said on X.

Jokic has been arguably the best player in the league for the last three seasons. He has that crown after the Nuggets won their first-ever championship.

Jokic was named 2023 NBA Finals MVP and put up huge numbers throughout the playoffs. He averaged 30.0 points, 13.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game en route to the five-game Finals win over the Miami Heat.

Denver is widely expected to defend its title in 2023-24. Jokic, guard Jamal Murray and forward Michael Porter Jr. are each under contract through 2025. Jokic, who is in the midst of a five-year deal, will be signed with the Nuggets through the 2027-28 season.

Nikola Jokic is cementing his claim as one of the best centers of all time. He has won two Most Valuable Player awards and has been named All-NBA five times.

Jokic was considered an MVP favorite, along with the eventual winner, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.

The Nuggets will open their championship defense Oct. 24 against the Los Angeles Lakers. The game will be at Ball Arena in Denver at 5:30 p.m. MT and broadcasted by TNT.

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Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic continues to live it up in Serbia following NBA Finals victory

Ever since the Denver Nuggets won the NBA Finals, clips have continued to go viral of star big man Nikola Jokic having a blast in his home country of Serbia. It looks like the party is still going on for Jokic, as another clip has surfaced of him dancing and singing along at a party with his fellow Serbians, via LeBronchitis.

Jokic is having a great time, singing and dancing and showing not a care in the world towards anybody that could be watching. Throughout the NBA offseason Jokic has showed that he is a simple man with simple priorities, attending his horse races and hanging out with his friends in Serbia after winning the NBA Finals.

While Jokic was in the United States and fighting for a ring, reports continued to surface about how little Jokic actually cares for the spotlight and that the things that really matter to him are his family and enjoying his hobbies in his home country. This has been evidenced by the amount of time that he has spent at the race track this summer, as well as the partying that he did after his horse won a race. It honestly looked like he was more excited after this horse race than he was after the Nuggets won the NBA Finals.

Stay tuned into any more updates from a fun summer for Nikola Jokic before he returns to the Nuggets for the 2023-2024 NBA regular season. Once the season arrives, Jokic will probably return to his stoic self that NBA fans have gotten accustomed to.

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How the 2024 NBA MVP odds stack up to ESPN analyst’s top picks

The 2024 NBA MVP odds were released after the Denver Nuggets conquered the NBA championship, and now a panel of ESPN NBA experts have released their early voting projections for next year’s award.

Joel Embiid dominated the second half of the the 2023 season to prevent Nikola Jokic from earning three straight MVP awards, after he took the trophy home in 2021 and 2022. Looking forward to next season, there will be a heated race between previous winners with Jokic, Embiid, and Antetokounmpo responsible for the last five seasons.

Nikola Jokic received 42% of the first place votes from panel experts, resulting in 77 points for the tw0-time winner. He was followed further behind by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who earned 23% of the first place votes and ended with 58 total points.

After those two stars, there is a large drop off, finding Luka Doncic in third place with 31 points. Jayson Tatum (13), Joel Embiid (12) and Kevin Durant (11) round out the top six.

All six of the top candidates received a first place vote, except for reigning champion Joel Embiid, likely due to pending Philadelphia 76ers drama.

Now, how do the odds stack up against the voting of the ESPN experts? When matched up with the FanDuel Sportsbook odds to take home the award in 2024, the experts were pretty spot on in their projections.

Jokic leads the pack with +430 odds to earn his third trophy in the last four seasons, and is closely followed by Giannis who has +500 odds. Similar to the voting, these two have the best odds by far, and the most dollars wagered on them in the early going. Luka rounds out the top three with a +650 offering, so far equal to the ESPN panel.

The odds finally divert from the experts in the four and five spots, where the most recent winner Embiid has earned +700 odds, slightly edging Tatum out at +800. Kevin Durant falls further back at +1400 in sixth place, but don’t count out the 2014 MVP as he begins his first full season with the Phoenix Suns.

Will one of the four winners add another trophy to their collection, or will rising stars Luka Doncic or Jayson Tatum grab their first Michael Jordan trophy? That will be settled on the court, but for now, the experts and oddsmakers are in pretty close unison on who has the best shot.

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