Going into this year, I had the Nuggets locked as the top seed in the West. After the first two weeks of the season, things look a little murky. Yes, they’re 4 and 2, they aren’t scraping the bottom. They boast wins over solid teams in Portland and Phoenix (YES! Phoenix has somehow jumped into the realm of competence), but also one of the uglier losses of the season against the Pelicans.
Nikola Jokic, where to begin. His shooting has really dipped to begin the year, especially from beyond the arc. Yes it’s only 6 games into the season. The numbers are likely to go up as the sample size increases.
It’s not even his shot making that’s been problematic; not every star erupts out of his gate. The way he is taking (Or not taking) his shots is what is disturbing. He is taking about 3 shots less this year compared to last year. Jokic has never been a chucker, but he’s always been a willing scorer when need be. However, he appears almost passive this year. He’s passing up shots that have been regular attempts for him the past couple seasons. I was watching the Nuggets play Orlando on Saturday and I was just in disbelief of how he was playing.
For example; Jokic was wide open for three at the top right of the arc, and he just wanted no part of it. He finally went up to shoot it and he got halfway through his motion and Vucevic started to close out on him and he just gave up on the shot and shouted out and shook his head in frustration.
It was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen watching basketball. There have been odd outbursts, spurts of disengagement, and overall frustration displayed by Nikola this whole season.
I immediately texted one of my buddies after the aforementioned shot and he diagnosed Shaq Syndrome (Playing your way into shape to start the season). Jokic has never been known for his conditioning, which I think has often been unfairly attributed due to his body type, but this year it rings extremely true.
The supporting cast has been solid. Gary Harris has been playing All-Defensive team level D, and his shot is falling now that he’s finally healthy. Jerami Grant has been a great addition off the bench and closes games for them occasionally. Paul Millsap is the consummate glue guy who is good but not great at just about everything. Murray has been inconsistent which is not at all shocking, he shows flashes of stardom, but they are rarely strung together.
I still have faith in Denver. I believe they will work things out this season and given all the problems they’ve had, they still look ok. It’s not time to panic. But, it is definitely noteworthy.
The Nuggets success is synonymous with Jokic’s. Where he goes, they go.
What do you think is going on in the Mile High City?