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JACKED JOKIC: It started with a comment made a few days ago by Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. It was then pushed again by Denver’s stud point guard Jamal Murray. We’ll find out soon enough how true it is, but apparently Nikola Jokic used the past two-plus months to get into the best physical shape he’s been in since reaching the NBA.
Connelly told media over a Zoom call that Jokic’s body is beach-ready and that he has abs now. Murray reiterated that by telling members of the media that Jokic has a four-pack now and that it’s weird to see him how he is now, more athletic than is the norm for the big Serbian.
We’ll try not to overreact to that commentary from two reliable sources, but we can’t lie: We’re excited to see this new fit Jokic the next time he does hit the floor. As is, Jokic – who’s averaging 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists this season while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor – is one of the Top 10 players in basketball. It’s not just us saying that either; advanced metrics Value Over Replacement Player, Player Efficiency Rating and Box Plus/Minus (where Jokic ranks fourth in 2019-20) all agree with that assessment.
Adding athleticism to Jokic’s already outstanding, well-rounded game could be the equivalent of giving Ben Simmons an outside jumper, an unfair addition that takes him to the next tier as a player. And in a postseason that already projects to be a bit funky, with home-court advantage out the window and fans watching the action from home, Jokic finding a higher level of fitness could low-key be a game-changer for the Nuggets come playoff time.
Watch out for Denver once games start back up.
NO HELP FOR BROOKLYN: The NBA might be ready to return on July 31, but that doesn’t mean reinforcements are on the way for the Nets, who will officially be without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving until 2020-21.
WITHOUT WALL: Washington also won’t be able to count on John Wall returning when the NBA returns, as the former All-Star guard ruled himself out for the rest of the season.
KNICKS COACHING SEARCH: The Knicks plan to interview Mike Woodson for their impending coaching vacancy, but the frontrunner for the job remains Thibs.
ANOTHER LEGEND GONE: Rest in peace Hall-of-Famer Wes Unseld, who passed away this week after a lengthy health battle. Unseld is a Washington legend who helped bring a title to that city in 1977-78.
FRESH RANKINGS: Our own Alex Kennedy and Frank Urbina ranked their Top 20 NBA players to build a team around. That’s surely a topic that won’t ruffle any feathers or anything.
INTERESTING DISCOVERY: When LeBron James has been defeated in the postseason, he did so against better competition than anyone else, as the combined winning percentage of teams to defeat James in the playoffs is 74.1 percent, a higher rate than any other NBA legend.
For the full ranking of what our research showed us, click here.
NEW POD: Alex Kennedy was joined by Kendrick Perkins on the podcast this week, who talked about his strong belief in LeBron’s GOAT candidacy, social justice and much more.
CAROLINA-BRED: Coby White and future NBA point guard Cole Anthony, both former North Carolina ball-handlers, have a good amount in common, writes our Bryan Kalbrosky.
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE: We recently spoke with former NBA and European player Bostjan Nachbar. Nachbar discussed his role with the Euroleague Players Association, Euroleague’s decision to cancel their season due to COVID-19 and the differences between the NBA and Euroleague when it comes to coming back after the outbreak of the virus.