For the last few weeks of The Bubble action, the myth of a Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic has grown to unimaginable proportions, gaining attention from media and the fans. Over the last couple of weeks, Jokic was praised as the best passing big man ever to play the game. In the upcoming 2020 Western Conference finals between the surging Nuggets and well-rested L.A. Lakers, Joker’s recent accomplishments will be put to the test in a match-up with Anthony Davis.
Exclusively for Basketball Network, longtime NBA scout and Director of player personnel for both New Jersey Nets and Indiana Pacers Al Menendez, reveals his thoughts on the spectacular match-up that might prove to be the key for the eventual outcome of this series.
It’s gonna be a great match-up. This might have been the first time this ever happened – those two are centers just because they are the tallest guys in the starting line-up. The way they play the game is gonna be very interesting to watch.Al Menedez
Seeing Jokic perform as he did over the series against the Utah Jazz and L.A. Clippers made Menendez even more confident that he is a point guard in the center’s body. In Menendez’s opinion, Jokic is extremely hard to double-team because he immediately faces double-team, quickly recognizes the situation, and then uses his extra court-vision to throw a variety of passes to his open teammates.
I don’t think I would ever double-team him. I think Denver is so perfect because Jokic is more point-guard than any of their other guards. I mean, he runs the team; he is in control of how the offense should be run and who gets the shot. And that’s perfect! That’s so different from all of the other teams. – Al MenendezAl Menedez
Menendez identified Jazz center Rudy Gobert as one of a few big men who had some success in guarding Jokic. But even Gobert had to back off at some point because of Joker’s point-guard mentality. Menendez thinks that Davis, who nominally lacks strength and experience, might be the player who could use his guard-mentality and match-up well with Jokic, giving him the fits.
When he learned how to play basketball, he learned how to play as a guard. He played the game from the outside looking in. He’s just a great player; it doesn’t matter where you play him. And he doesn’t care. He learned to play the game the right way; he learned to play the game like the European center. Facing the basket, not just playing in the low post. Davis learned to play the game as a guard. – Al MenendezAl Menedez
He now identifies Davis’s perimeter game as a significant obstacle for the Nuggets defense to their first-ever NBA finals. Davis will force Jokic to guard him on the perimeter to get exposed because of Davis’s explosiveness.
Davis is a first center that can take him away from the basket when the other team has the ball. So, he might have to go out and guard Davis, which might get him into the foul-trouble. So, Jokic has to be very careful not to get into the foul-trouble too early. – Al MenendezAl Menedez
The Lakers won the first game in the series and showed much more playoff experience than the Nuggets. On top of that, Jokic played through early personal fouls but still ended the game with 21 points, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to beat the energized Lakers. If Jokic somehow continues to dominate the series against the Lakers, the sky is the limit for the Joker. He can then claim not just the title of the best passing big man ever but also the throne of the best big man in the NBA.