Behold, Nikola Jokic’s one shot attempt against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. In what will hopefully be his worst game of the season, the Nuggets center ended up scoring all four of his points from the free throw line while earning five fouls, and turning the ball over six times in just 26 minutes.
To be somewhat fair to the Serbian big man, he wasn’t the only bad player to put on a Nuggets uniform tonight. Paul Millsap only scored two points on seven shot attempts, and Jamal Murray needed 21 attempts to get to his 20 points. If you asked Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the ultimate 89-87 victory for his team was a result of hard-nosed defense against an opponent’s star player.
“I give our big guys credit,” Bickerstaff said. “We started with Marc, then Jaren got a taste of him. I think they did a heck of a job defending him. Put him in difficult situations where he never had really clear catch-and-shoot opportunities. The plays that he was making from the elbow and things like that. Our guys were all over him, smothering him. So I give our guys a ton of credit.”
Another way to look at Jokic’s stinker of a performance would be to attach it to a recent trend. Jokic began the season looking like a potential MVP candidate. Through the end of October, only Russell Westbrook was averaging at least 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists—with Jokic having the superior shooting percentage in all three measured categories.
But November has shown an uglier side of the center. His stupid jokes aside, Jokic’s scoring average has dropped all the way down to 6.3 points a night on nearly half as many attempts and one-third as many field goals. The other aspects of his game might still be there—his rebounds have only dropped to 8.7 and his assists have actually jumped to 9.0—but the offensive drive from earlier this year just has flat-out disappeared. Coach Michael Malone even referenced this worrying trend after the game.
“This is three or four games now where he’s not shooting the ball. Obviously, he’s unselfish and they’re a good defensive team. But I’ll have to look at the tape and figure out what they were doing for him to take only one shot in the 25 minutes that he played.”
Nobody’s asking Jokic to be the main scorer on this team. Despite their performances tonight, Millsap and Murray are more than capable of doing that themselves. What is being asked, however, is that Jokic at least make himself appear to be a threat to score. If he doesn’t, it’ll only be a matter of time before teams start to sag off of him and his effectiveness in other areas of the court starts to diminish as well. Let’s hope this is as bad as it gets.