The Denver Nuggets find its way back to top-tier status in the Western Conference, mainly due to Nikola Jokic’s recent improvement in his perimeter shooting.
Typically, teams move parallel with their star players. As such, the Denver Nuggets suffered as an offensive unit while Nikola Jokic found his footing following a long summer of FIBA basketball. Thankfully, Denver survived with an at-the-time second-ranked defense.
Denver, although sporting a formidable defense, must excel on the offensive end if the franchise’s championship aspirations genuinely exist. Jokic is the be-all-ends-all player on the roster. Meaning, without the essential ascension in performance, the Nuggets remain a cute story with no significant bearings in the NBA.
Aside from the positional transcendence, Jokic represents, it’s his three-point shooting which causes fits for the league. Moreover, the Serbian center’s recent success in perimeter shooting directly correlates with the Denver Nuggets rise to the second-best team in the conference.
Before delving into the Denver Nuggets’ current state, we must return to the season’s first two months. The team found success, albeit with Nikola Jokic playing below his usual standards. In the season’s first two months, Jokic converted only 23 percent of his three-point shots.
While Jokic struggled, the Nugget stayed afloat. However, the offenses’ championship potential lacking during the two months. Regardless of the Denver Nuggets squeaking by competition, Jokic’s spike in production deemed necessary for the team’s progression.
Advanced stats, typically weigh in the Nuggets’ favor. However, the October and November saw six games ending with a .500 or less true shooting percentage and four games which concluded with sub-100 offensive rating performances.
Without Jokic’s three-point efforts, the Denver Nuggets’ offense grew stale. The Denver Nuggets, although finishing with a pedestrian 10-6 record in December, ignited Jokic’s shooting production. Jokic shot 39 percent from deep in a month, which featured a seven-game winning streak.
Nikola Jokic is back in MVP candidate form. The weight criticism from early in the season seemingly ceased to exist in light of the recent exceptional offense showcases. The Nuggets are 13-7 in its last 20, while only dropping below a 100 offensive rating on three occasions.
The team continues its quest to rival the Los Angeles Lakers at the top of the Western Conference. While Jokic’s production steadily improves, the team’s chances of victory multiply. In the past 15 games, Jokic showcased a 66.2 true shooting display.
During the same stretch, the team’s superstar center put forth an elite effort in his three-point shooting. In true MVP aspiring fashion, Jokic converted 46 percent from deep, on 63 attempts. Once again, Denver’s success runs parallel with Nikola Jokic’s resurgence as an All-NBA performer.
The Denver Nuggets impressive victory over the Dallas Mavericks perfectly symbolizes the need for Jokic’s three-point shooting. In specific his eruption in the third quarter. With Jamal Murray as the only other Nugget to make noise coming out of halftime, Jokic swung the momentum with his outside shooting.
No matter who closed out on the slow-but-sure big, the shots seemed successful even before the ball eventually fell through the net. As the Mavericks struggled to contain Jokic in the third quarter, the Nuggets’ chances of winning on the road exponentially grew.
After playing the whole third period, Jokic finished with 21 points on 4-6 from deep.
Aside from the Los Angeles Clippers, the next five contest consists of subpar perimeter defending teams. It’s imperative to Denver’s success that Jokic remains aggressive at the three-point line. In light of the stiff competition between the top six teams of the Western Conference, Denver must create distance in the standings.