All season long, Denver Nuggets Serbian sensation Nikola Jokic has quietly played at a Most Valuable Player level.
But it has gone somewhat unrecognized nationally as the Nuggets’ record continued to hover around .500 due to a decimated roster.
Denver has been forced to find a way without Jamal Murray all season long as he recovers from an ACL tear in his left knee. The Nuggets also have been without Michael Porter Jr. who had lumbar spine surgery Dec. 1.
In addition, there’s been a long list of other Nuggets who have spent time on the injury report for any number of reasons.
That reality has dramatically lowered the floor and ceiling for Denver. It also has altered the approach to Nuggets betting.
But the Joker’s basketball brilliance has been undeniable.
Carrying the Nuggets on large shoulders
Despite all of the carnage around him, Jokic has been magnificent.
Entering Monday, the reigning MVP had the Nuggets one game behind the Utah Jazz, who currently occupy the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
For the first time in his career, Jokic’s usage rating has surpassed 30% and currently sits at 30.4% which has expanded his counting stats in an unprecedented way.
Jokic’s point-rebound-assist averages (26 points, 13.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game) have never been accomplished before in NBA history.
League-wide, Jokic is the only player ranking among top 10 in points (ninth), rebounds (second) and assists (eighth).
Denver is an astonishing 22.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court compared to off of it.
That’s a complicated way of saying the Nuggets are much worse than the worst team in basketball when Jokic is not on the court. On the flip side, they profile as the best team in the league when he is playing.
No one has had a larger statistical impact this season than the proud owner of horses Bella Marguerite and Dream Catcher.
Despite Jokic’s historic impact and the immense amount of responsibility he is forced to shoulder with so many injuries, the Nuggets were not winning games consistently enough over the season’s first few months for the center to really be in the conversation for MVP.
But as 2022 drew closer, all of that began to change.
The Nuggets closed out December with a 5-3 record in their last eight games of 2021. And there were inklings that they were figuring things out.
Colorado online sportsbooks have caught on.
Jokic sits at to win the MVP. That trails only Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, who is at to win the award
Catching fire in the dead of winter
Where there is smoke, there is usually fire.
In January, the Nuggets racked up 11 wins which was tied for third most in the NBA during the month.
Denver only suffered five losses in the month. And it did so by scoring the ball at a ridiculous rate thanks to the transcendent creation ability of Jokic, who averaged nine assists per game in the first 16 contests of 2022.
During January, the smoke from the end of 2021 grew into a large fire which manifested as an offense so sweltering it could be compared to the summer sun over the Mile High City.
The Nuggets owned the third-best offensive rating during January with a mark of 117.1. That would rank first in the league if drawn out over the season.
Denver was first in assists per game in the opening month of 2022 with an average of 30.1 dimes on 42.7 made shots per game.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets were hitting 36.8% of their 3-point shots; good for the third-best efficiency from beyond the arc.
They have been moving the ball like the Nuggets teams of old, and it’s leading to open shots from everywhere on the court. Seemingly every offensive action with Jokic on the floor goes through him.
Rout of defending champs a study in dominance
Jokic’s brilliance over the last month was perfectly encapsulated Sunday as the Nuggets dismantled the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on their home floor.
Denver, despite being on the fourth game of a six-game road trip, beat the Bucks 136-100.
Jokic played just 28 minutes, but during that span, the Nuggets’ big man was operating at a different speed than everyone around him. His vision and awareness were so attuned to the game that Jokic was seemingly creating scoring opportunities out of thin air.
He was not just three moves ahead of the Bucks; Jokic seemingly knew every decision they were going to make before they even had to make the choice.
Jokic’s playmaking was so dominant that he did not need to play in the fourth quarter and still managed to dish out 15 assists to go with 18 points, nine rebounds and three steals. He had only four turnovers.
His control of the game was absolute.
Stating a MVP case
Denver’s victory in Milwaukee was not only a statement win for the team. It also was another addition to Jokic’s MVP resume.
To go into the home arena of the defending NBA champs and completely outplay MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo () in every facet of the game while leading the decimated Nuggets to a 36-point win in the middle of a road trip is the type of performance potential MVP candidates need in order to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Jokic locked in one of those performances on Sunday night.
Denver has now won five straight games, four of which came on the road during their current six-game trip.
The Nuggets are potentially a few days away from taking ownership of the fourth seed in the Western Conference if they can keep this winning streak going.
It’s certainly an opportune time to jump into some Colorado NBA betting.
Next up for the Nuggets? Two divisional battles against the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Tuesday and against the Jazz in Utah on Wednesday.
Can Denver win both games?
Yes, but it won’t be easy.
Good thing they have the greatest player on earth in Jokic to lead the charge.