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Nikola Jokic has done his part, now it’s on the Nuggets to do theirs

May 13, 2022, 6:41 AM | Updated: 6:41 am
Nikola Jokic...
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

This week, Nikola Jokic won his second-straight MVP award. Despite many naysayers, it was very clear Jokic was one again the best player in the NBA. The Nuggets played the entirety of the season without Jamal Murray and most of the year without Michael Porter Jr.

Given the injuries that the Nuggets sustained, the fact that Jokic was able to lead the Nuggets to the sixth seed and a playoff appearance was remarkable. Especially in the competitive Western Conference.

Next for Jokic is to win an NBA championship. Many people say he can’t be considered an all-time great until he is able to accomplish this. Which is interesting, because it’s not as easy as “just win a championship.” You can’t just snap your fingers and be a champion.

It’s not squarely on Jokic to win an NBA title, he’s become the best basketball player in the world. Right now, it’s on the Nuggets as an organization to win an NBA championship. Jokic has done his part, now it’s time for Denver to hold up their end of the bargain.

One great player is not enough in the NBA. It takes an entire roster. The talent on the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors is ahead of the Nuggets. Even with a healthy roster, the Nuggets depth doesn’t match up.

John Elway started five Super Bowls and lost his first three. The commonly held belief is that Elway took lesser talent to those three Super Bowls and once he got there he was overmatched by the opposing roster. Early in his career it was up to Elway to take his team all the way. That’s similar to Jokic this past season.

It wasn’t until Elway had a roster that included fellow Hall of Famers, Gary Zimmerman, Steve Atwater, Shannon Sharpe and Terrell Davis that he was able to finally win a Super Bowl. For over a decade, Elway had been everything the Broncos needed, but the Broncos weren’t everything that he needed. Elway was the one taking all of the heat, however.

The Colorado Avalanche that won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001 and were loaded with so much talent. Those teams included Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy. Valeri Kamensky, Adam Foote, Claude Lemeiux, Milan Hejduk, Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay, Ray Bourque and Rob Blake.

Bourque joined the Avalanche late in his career while chasing a Stanley Cup. He was a Hall of Famer, but the elusive Stanley Cup loomed over his career. He joined the elite players on the Avalanche and was finally able to hoist the trophy.

The Avalanche were led by Sakic, Forsberg and Roy, but they could not have done it by themselves. There was real depth on those teams that allowed them to continually compete and win championships.

Currently, Nathan MacKinnon is playing with arguably the best roster in the NHL. MacKinnon is great, but Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and others have played a pivotal role in the Avalanche rising to the NHL’s best. MacKinnon is now competing to define his legacy as the Avalanche are blazing through the playoffs.

In the bubble, Jokic and the Nuggets had their chance and were unable to topple the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Since then, Jokic has improved while the Nuggets have not. Plagued by injuries, it’s hard to tell where the Nuggets currently stack up with the NBA, but the “next step” has been on hold for two seasons.

There is a feeling among some that the Nuggets have wasted Jokic’s prime years. It’s not quite there yet. Injuries happen and it’s unavoidable. However, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are expected to be back next season. This should help Aaron Gordon go back to playing where he’s more comfortable. The small sample size we saw of Gordon, Jokic and Murray was solid.

As exciting as it is to see the potential of Murray and Porter Jr back, the Nuggets can’t continue to rely on “running it back.” The depth of the roster needs to be improved.

Jokic is currently the one that everybody is saying needs to win a championship for his legacy. Well, it’s not on him anymore. It’s on the Nuggets to complete a roster every season that allows their superstar to compete with the rest of the league’s best. Allowing the injuries to topple two straight postseasons was inexcusable, the Nuggets should have been better prepared last season.

John Elway was the guy who couldn’t win the Super Bowl, when really it was the Broncos who couldn’t win. In 1997-98, Elway had a roster that was able to finally win Super Bowls. The Avalanche are once again the elite of the NHL and they did it by amassing talented players up and down the roster.

Great players can be great and not win. There is only so far one player can take an entire team. If the Nuggets can’t figure out a way to put together a roster that can be on the floor and compete for an entire season, Nikola Jokic’s legacy will suffer and it won’t be his fault.

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Nikola Jokic has done his part, now it’s on the Nuggets to do theirs