Now there are some legitimate arguments to be made that Nikola Jokic is already one of the best players in NBA history.
A two-time MVP who probably should have won a third straight last season, the 28-year-old big man just led the Denver Nuggets to their first NBA title.
Of course, Jokic doesn’t look like a dominant NBA player physically, and even those in the league didn’t expect a guy of his stature to become one of the best in the game, let alone an everyday starter.
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Two-time New York Knicks All-Star Julius Randle was in the 2014 NBA Draft along with Jokic: Randle was the seventh overall pick out of Kentucky, while Jokic went undrafted until he was 41.
Randle certainly ruled out the lanky Jokic.
“Nobody knew who it was,” Randle said recently on the Paul George podcast. «That wasn’t even a thought.»
But Randle quickly learned not to judge a book by its cover.
«I remember, like, my sophomore year, and we’d played him, and I was like, because he was killing, I was like, ‘Man, why is this guy killing him, bro? Slow, fat, he’s not nice like that, is he? Right? It’s in my head, bro. He… played here and had like 25 [points]» Randle said. «And I was like, ‘Man, how the hell did this happen, bro?'»
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In his second season, Jokic was a quality big man, averaging 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, starting 59 of the 73 games played in the 2016-2017 season. But even though Randle, and the rest of the world, got a sneak peek, he couldn’t predict what Jokic has become.
Jokic came within 0.2 assists per game of averaging a triple-double last season (24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 9.8 assists), all at 6-foot-11, which was a sign of things to come in the postseason.
In the playoffs, Jokic was an animal. In 20 playoff games, he lost a double-double in all but two and had one of the greatest playoff runs ever.
Jokic had 37 points, 12.3 assists and 12 rebounds per game en route to his NBA Finals MVP.
«It’s crazy, bro. You talk about getting better. It’s crazy to watch. He’s always had that ability … but to really hone his skill set and improve like he did year after year, that’s amazing,» Randle added. .
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His $264 million contract signed before the 2022 season is the richest in NBA history.