Denver Nuggets: Why Nikola Jokic’s durability may be his best ability

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets pauses during the second quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on 18 Mar. 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets pauses during the second quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on 18 Mar. 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Ever since he joined the Denver Nuggets in 2015, Nikola Jokic has built a reputation as one of the most complete players in the NBA. On the heels of another historical campaign, Jokic has a great shot to repeat as the NBA MVP this season.

The Serbian superstar’s incredible production reached new heights during the 2021-22 season as he became the first player in NBA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a single season.

Jokic posted per-game averages of 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists while shooting an outstanding 58.3 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from 3-point range.

Unlike his counterparts, Nikola Jokic ranked top eight in points, rebounds, and assists while posting a top-ten field goal percentage in the league. He also ranked 11th in steals with 1.5 per game and led the Denver Nuggets with a defensive rating of 105.3.

While Jokic combines a unique array of all-court skills with his elite basketball IQ, the reigning MVP provides additional value through one particular facet of his game: durability.

Over the years, the Joker has displayed an ‘Iron Man’ knack for staying healthy through his lack of missed games. During his breakout 2020-21 MVP season, the Big Honey didn’t miss a game. This season, he continued that trend as he played in an impressive 74 out of 82 possible games.

In fact, Jokic has played no less than 73 games in every 82-game season of his seven-year NBA career.

Denver dealt with a slew of unfortunate injuries this season, from Jamal Murray’s torn ACL to the absence of Michael Porter Jr. However, Jokic consistently avoided the injury report on a nightly basis, and it is no secret that his presence alone has kept the Nuggets afloat.

Making a clear-cut case for the league’s most impactful player, Jokic recorded the highest single-season PER in NBA history with a rating of 32.94. His box plus-minus of 13.73 also represented the highest ever.

Additionally, Jokic led the league in real plus-minus and RPM wins according to ESPN, an estimate of the number of wins a player adds to his team’s win total on the season.

Based on Jokic’s whopping 26.12 RPM wins, the Nuggets would have been projected to hold a 22-60 record without their superstar, tying them for the second-worst record in the NBA. Instead, Denver went 48-34 as Jokic missed just eight games all season.

Every game held importance for an undermanned Nuggets squad as they battled for a top-six seed throughout the season, placing even more gravity on the health and fitness of their star big man.

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Bolstered by his steady presence in the lineup, Jokic’s unwavering leadership and impact weathered the storm of the injury bug that bit Denver harder than any other playoff team.

The Nuggets endured 306 missed games by players due to injury or illness according to Spotrac. Even so, that didn’t stop their MVP superstar from carrying the team to a playoff berth and a first-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors.

Jokic’s monumental impact is perhaps illustrated best of all by his on/off rating. When Jokic is on the court, Denver boasts an elite net rating of 8.4, the best in the league according to’s tracking data.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets become one of the worst teams in the league when the Joker heads to the bench. When he’s off the floor, the Nuggets possess a net rating of -7.9, which would rank bottom five in the league.

Essentially, Denver scores an incredible 16.3 points per 100 possessions more when Jokic is on the floor than when he is not.

Given the major boost he provides his team with, Jokic’s durability has transformed him into one of the most reliable and impactful competitors in the NBA.

Jokic will look to continue his basketball dominance as the first round of the NBA playoffs commence. He’s yet to miss a playoff game in three career postseason runs and let’s hope that never changes because if so, the Nuggets will be in trouble.

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