The Los Angeles Lakers are nearing their first matchup against the Denver Nuggets since last season’s Western Conference Finals. The two teams didn’t have an overly competitive playoff matchup but the Nuggets have a young team and are capable of surprising anybody. Nikola Jokic is one of the best players in the NBA and is firmly in the MVP race right now.
The 25-year-old Serbian is averaging a career-high 26.8 points and 11.8 rebound a game. The Lakers also have an MVP candidate right now in LeBron James. Ahead of the matchup, Jokic was asked about how he and LeBron are similar and gave a hilarious response.
“Athleticism. Quickness. I don’t know if he can jump as high as me,” Jokic said, via Nick Kosmider.
Obviously, Jokic is an amazing player but he’s never been accused of being quick or having great jumping ability. On the flip side, LeBron might be the most athletic person on the planet. The two men have contrasting styles but are still elite. It’s a testament to how skilled Jokic is at playing basketball.
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Jokic & LeBron Among MVP Favorites
Jokic has been a very good player for several years now but he’s hit another level. He’s one of the two best centers in the NBA, along with Joel Embiid, and has led the Nuggets to a solid 12-8 record in a loaded Western Conference. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll be among the favorites to win an MVP at the end of the season.
LeBron has also been in the midst of an MVP-caliber season. At 36-years-old, he continues to be a dominant force. He’s averaging 25 points a game with over seven rebounds and assists. What he’s doing at his age seems to defy logic. It’s hard to argue against the notion that he’s still the best player in the NBA. LeBron didn’t win the MVP last year but he’ll get a chance to win it this year. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if his body can hold up for the whole season and it’s possible that he gets an extended rest at some point before the playoffs. If that happens, his MVP chances will diminish.
Are Nuggets a Threat to the Lakers?
The Nuggets surprised a lot of people last season when they beat the Clippers en route to the Western Conference Finals. They had found a lot of magic in the bubble. While they still have a good, young team, it’s hard to see them making a deep run in the playoffs again.
Jamal Murray was excellent in the bubble but he hasn’t sustained that success. His 18.9 points a game this season are solid but not what you’d want from your second-best player. Jokic is capable of carrying Denver to a lot of wins but they still aren’t good enough to win the West. They probably couldn’t get past the Clippers and Jazz again as they did last year. As of right now, the Nuggets don’t look like one of the teams that will threaten the Lakers’ title defense this season.