After leading the Denver Nuggets to their first NBA Championship, Nikola Jokic proved he is the best player in basketball.
En route to their title, the Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Los Angeles was able to overcome the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors, but ran into a buzzsaw in Denver.
Jokic was at the focal point of the Nuggets’ one, facilitating at the top of the key and imposing his will offensively when called upon. Despite every team’s best efforts, the superstar big man was able to do whatever he wanted with the basketball.
As currently constructed, Los Angeles doesn’t have a “true” center to guard Jokic, though Darvin Ham said he believes the bigs on the roster can hold their own.
“Well, I think having those type of players is definitely a really nice resource to have. But if your roster is not constructed that way, then it’s also good to have a guy like AD, who, when he’s out there and doing what he does, he’s probably arguably one of the top five best defensive players, two-way players, but specifically defensive players in our league the way he can cover ground, stay in front of smalls, block shots at the rim. We saw Jaxson Hayes, though he’s not as thick and heavy as those other guys the way you mentioned, he’s also fast athletic, he can protect the rim. Christian Wood, a natural at blocking shots and protecting the rim.
“If you don’t have those big girthy guys like that, maybe you just get one nice-size guy and put a bunch of athletic 6’7 to 6’9 players around him to build sort of fortress. Guys are going to make multiple efforts, so I think that prototypical big, outside of Jokic, Embiid, Nurkic, a couple other guys, I think the NBA is transitioned sort of out of that, by way of Golden State. The way the game is played and defended in particular has changed so much over the years. Jokic and obviously Embiid and those guys are obviously going to make you have to consider how you’re going to have to guard them, that’s for sure. But you look at guys like AD and Giannis and these types of guys at that position, where it’s like okay, what do we do with that. We feel comfortable with what we have. We are going to ask them to play bigger than their size and they’re already 6-8, 240, 6-9, 250. I think I prefer the speed, the athleticism and the versatility over just one big player, where there’s literally one or two players across the league. And then when that player is not playing, then they’re not playing. I prefer it the other way.”
Most fans were clamoring for a traditional center in the offseason, but the Lakers decided to add Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood to back up Anthony Davis. To Ham’s point, more speed and athleticism could be a decent counter to Jokic, especially if they have someone like Davis patrolling the paint.
The reality is that there isn’t a player in the league that could defend Jokic by themselves, so it’ll take a committee approach to slow down the two-time MVP.
Darvin Ham and Rob Pelinka excited about Christian Wood’s versatility
Wood was the last signing the Lakers made before the start of the season and Rob Pelinka and Ham spoke about how excited they are about his versatility.
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