The Joker Is NBA’s King But the Nuggets Remain Postseason Peasants

Written By Ken Pomponio on 05/09/2022
Nikola Jokic Repeats as NBA MVP

Two years ago, the Denver Nuggets had never had an NBA MVP winner.

Since then, Nikola Jokic has gone back-to-back.

It (essentially) became official Monday morning when the latest Woj Bomb dropped on Twitter.

And it was a biggie — for hoops fans and Colorado Nuggets bettors alike.

Jokic is the 13th repeat MVP recipient since the NBA award’s inception in 1956. 

He’s one of four active players to accomplish the feat joining Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry and LeBron James.

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Wholly deserved honor

Jokic opened the season with +1600 MVP odds, according to BetMGM Colorado Sportsbook.

But as the Joker piled up triple doubles — and played at a level exceeding his impressive 2020-21 MVP standards — the odds of a repeat increased.

And, by the end of the regular season, he was the overwhelming favorite.

Of course there was some expected griping and grousing Monday — mainly from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin area codes.

But Jokic’s repeat feat was unquestionably deserved.

The Serbian center’s stats — raw and advanced — overwhelmingly state his case. And outside of him becoming the first player in league history to top 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season, there literally are too many 2021-22 Jokic statistical achievements to list here.

Still, some argue that Jokic’s second straight MVP was purely an analytically-contrived figmentation.

But how many of those pundits truly watched the Joker dominate game in and game out this season? 

The big man’s brilliance dragged a decimated Nuggets roster missing its second (Jamal Murray) and third-best players (Michael Porter Jr.). to a sixth-place finish in the Western Conference.

En route, Denver won 48 games, eclipsing its preseason over-under win total. The Nuggets also finished only one game off the Northwest Division pace.

But what about the postseason, the critics then counter? 

Jokic’s Nuggets were ousted in the opening round, winning only one game.

What the naysayers fail to mention was that Jokic was (once again) the best player on the court in the five-game series vs. the Golden State Warriors.

Or that it’s a Warriors team that entered the week favored to win its fourth NBA title in the last eight seasons.

It’s also a Golden State squad that was hampered by injuries the previous two seasons and missed the playoffs entirely.

 But unlike this season’s Nuggets, the short-handed Warriors didn’t have a Jokic to light the way.

Nuggets still seeking first NBA Finals berth

So, hey Nikola, much congratulation.

Hopefully, the beer flowed steadily and the music played long into the Serbian night Monday.

After all, you’ve earned a distinctive place in NBA history.

The Nuggets’ franchise, though, has yet to do likewise.

Some cold, hard facts:

  • Denver has won a playoff series in only five of the last 34 seasons.
  • In 46 NBA seasons, the Nuggets have made it to the conference finals only four times.
  • In nine American Basketball Association seasons, Denver made it to the league finals once (1975-76)
  • The Nuggets have yet to make an NBA Finals appearance. 
  • And of the NBA’s 30 current franchises, the Nuggets are one of 11 without a championship.

The NBA Finals drought stands out in particular.

Not only are the Nuggets one of the six current league teams never to gain the championship series.

But they join the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions and Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners as the only franchises in North America’s four major pro sports leagues who have been in existence since 1976-77 and have never played in their current league’s championship series/game.

We’re talking NBA Finals, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals and Super Bowl here.

The other current NBA teams without a Finals appearance are the Charlotte Hornets (expansion franchise in 1988-89), Minnesota Timberwolves (1989-90), Memphis Grizzlies (1995-96) and New Orleans Pelicans (2002-03).

So, in short, the Nuggets have some work to do.

Jokic may well become the fourth player to win three straight NBA MVP awards next season. 

And he should have some needed help with Murray and MPJ expected back at near-full strength.

But none of it will — or should — matter if the Nuggets don’t make a serious run at an elusive NBA title.

Prime championship windows only remain open for so long. And explanations and excuses tend to wear thin.

2022-23 has to be all about the W’s.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Ken Pomponio

Ken is a fourth-generation Coloradan and career sports journalist with more than 30 years covering the gamut from the preps to the pros. A lifelong Front Range resident and son of 1960s Denver Broncos season-ticket holders, he is a long-time sports betting enthusiast whose insight and passion shine through in his coverage at PlayColorado.

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