Nikola Jokić of the Denver Nuggets is quietly a superstar and one of the best players in the entire NBA (and world). Playing center, Jokić averaged 20.1 points per game (PPG), 7.4 assists per game (APG), and 10.8 rebounds per game (RPG) last season. Only Russell Westbrook had as many assists (10.7) and rebounds (11.1) last season as Jokić had, with no other player in the NBA averaging at least 7.4 assists and 10.8 rebounds a game. Jokić ranked 4th in the 2019 MVP vote, sandwiched in-between 3rd place Paul George and 5th place Stephen Curry.
At the end of the 2018-2019 season, Jokić was elected to the ALL-NBA First Team. Jokić’s amazing season helped the Nuggets grab the 2nd seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets finished 54-28 and 3 games behind the 1st seed Warriors. The Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Semifinals, losing to the 3rd seed Portland Trailblazers in 7 games.
Jokić is currently playing for Serbia in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. This is not Jokić’s first time representing Serbia in international competition. Jokić played for Serbia during the 2016 Summer Olympics, with his country getting the Silver medal.
With the tournament in full swing, the Serbs beat Team USA in a classification game on September 12, 2019. Jokić scored 9 points, dished out 7 assists, and had 3 rebounds for Serbia, who beat the USA 94-89. Serbia will now go on to play for fifth place in the FIBA World Cup. Team USA will play for seventh place.
Team USA lost to France in the quarterfinals the day before. In a tweet by NBA analyst Jonathon Givony, he writes “Back to back losses to France/Serbia means USA Basketball has logged it’s worst result ever in FIBA World Cup /World Championship history (no better than 7th). Hopefully this serves as a wakeup call for how much the world has caught up (no one wants to hear your roster excuses).”
Americans are used to dominance from Team USA basketball, so their performance is surprising. In international competition, Team USA hadn’t lost two consecutive games with NBA players since 2002. Team USA had won the last two FIBA tournaments, so only qualifying for 7th place is a huge disappointment.
In 7 games for Serbia in the tournament, Jokić has averaged 12.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 6.6 RPG. Jokić should be one of the best players in the NBA next season, as the Nuggets look like legit Finals contenders in the very competitive Western Conference.