In case it wasn't clear by now, there isn't a player like Nikola Jokic in the NBA. The Denver Nuggets star center is a truly one-of-a-kind player who can do everything on the basketball court, despite playing at the center position. Jokic is one of the best scorers, rebounders, and passers, in the league, despite playing a position where he doesn't touch the ball on every possession.
Shaq reasserts his claim that he could lock up Jokic on defense
Jokic is a unicorn in the NBA world, but that hasn't stopped Shaquille O'Neal from letting folks know that he still believes he could lock up Jokic on defense in his prime. Earlier this week, O'Neal made it clear that he didn't believe Jokic would give him much trouble on defense, which was a fairly bold take considering Jokic is averaging 24.7 points per game while shooting 61.7 percent from the field.
Given how Jokic has constantly embarrassed opposing defenses throughout the year, it was surprising to hear this take from O'Neal. Despite receiving some confused looks for his controversial take, Shaq doubled down on his Jokic take after the Nuggets' win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, explaining that Jokic wouldn't be able to get many open looks against him.
"Only way he would be able to score on me is in a pick-and-roll situation because I'd probably have to help with Jamal Murray, which frees him up a little bit. If he's going down in the post I don't want no help. If he shoots a jump hook over me, good shot." - Shaquille O'Neal, Inside The NBA
Would Shaq be able to completely stop Jokic on defense?
O'Neal is confident in his ability to lock up Jokic, but would he actually be able to pull off the feat in the way he mentions here? Shaq was certainly a strong interior defender, but Jokic is a strong interior scorer. Combine that with the fact that he isn't going to take shots just to take them, and you begin to see why it's so difficult to slow down Jokic on a nightly basis.
Shaq does admit that he would have a bit of trouble staying with Jokic at the perimeter, which is true. Jokic isn't shooting a great percentage on his threes this season (just 32.8 percent right now), but by placing Jokic at the perimeter, O'Neal would be forced to stick with Jokic, and that's where problems would begin to pop up. Whether it's Jokic or someone else, keeping Shaq out of the paint would open up areas on the interior that could be attacked.
O'Neal is obviously a bit playful in his remarks, and he clearly has respect for Jokic, as he called him the Tim Duncan of big men just moments before making this bold claim. Shaq knows Jokic is good, but he believes in his own abilities more than Jokic's. And who can blame him; Shaq was great throughout his career. But this matchup between two star centers would have been very captivating, and it's a shame we will never get to find out who would come out on top.