The Denver Nuggets finally lost on Wednesday, dropping the reigning champs to 4-1 on the season. Still, there isn't a more intimidating offensive team in the NBA right now. Denver has picked right back up where it left off, murdering teams with a movement-heavy system centered on the playmaking brilliance of Nikola Jokic. The two-man actions with Jamal Murray, the hit-ahead passes in transition, the SLOB sorcery — it's all back, and maybe better than ever.
Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 7.4 assists on .604/.350/.700 to start the season. His efficiency metrics are down slightly, but Jokic continues to obliterate defenders of every ilk. Small defenders are battered in the post. More lumbering bigs are roasted with slick footwork on the perimeter. Jokic can shoot over the top or plow straight through, never truly at a loss for how to get the best shot for himself or his teammates.
It's hard to watch Denver and not get the sense that the Nuggets are headed for another season atop the Western Conference standings. There will be competition, no doubt, but Denver's formula proved successful last season. So long as the team avoids serious injury, it's borderline impossible to keep Mike Malone's offense entirely in check. Jokic is probably the most confounding defensive assignment in the NBA. He perceives the game in a manner entirely his own. He understands how to leverage strength and angles in a way few ever have, and he doesn't get nearly enough credit for his individual bag of tricks. Much is said about Jokic's ability to create for others, but he's an impossible solo cover too.
From here on, there's a strong chance Jokic's shooting percentages actually tick upward, as will his assist numbers. Denver is going to win a lot of games, perhaps cementing itself as the new dynastic force in the Western Conference. Jokic is another candidate for 'best player on the best team,' but he's also the consensus best player in basketball, period. That much is certain after Denver's Finals run, and Jokic's newfound respect in league circles could go a long way toward another successful MVP campaign.