Nuggets center Nikola Jokic made history Tuesday night when he was named NBA MVP for the 2020-21 season.
Jokic became the lowest drafted player to win the award. The Denver star also became the first center to win the MVP since Shaquille O’Neal earned the honor in 2000.
The announcement was a two-decade time in the making for Jokic and the NBA centers. But it was also a reminder of how shocking second-round picks can be in the NBA Draft and how some talented players can slide.
When was Jokic written? And why did it last so long? Here’s a look at how the Nuggets were able to lift an MVP-caliber player so late in the 2014 NBA Draft.
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When was Nikola Jokic recruited?
Nikola Jokic was selected with the 41st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He was selected one pick after Glenn Robinson III and one pick ahead of Nick Johnson.
At the time, not much was known about Jokic, an 18-year-old who played in the Adriatic League and later in the Serbian League. He had averaged 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 25 Adrian League games, but he was not considered a great prospect.
In fact, the announcement for Jokic’s pick was not even aired during ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 draft. His name simply appeared on the bottom line during a Taco Bell commercial.
That happens to a number of prospects every year, but typically the net is cut off for announcements from the biggest names in the draft. Jokic, a stranger, was not considered one of them.
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Why was Nikola Jokic drafted so low?
Jokic lasted so long for countless reasons that Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly explained in a 2019 interview. But the main issue seemed to be his body type.
“It’s such an inexact science,” Connelly said of the draft, according to the Denver Post. “Nikola, up to that point, his professional numbers (in Europe) hadn’t been something to jump off the page, and certainly the body type is one that is easy to have questions about.”
Indeed, Jokic’s lack of athleticism and strength was a topic of conversation in his early NBA seasons, but he has largely outgrown them to become an MVP-caliber player.
But what made Denver willing to take a chance on him?
“We thought about previous drafts of teams that failed guys like him,” Connelly said in Sports Radio 104.3 The Amateur. “As if Marc Gasol wasn’t exactly Adonis (a Greek mythological figure known for his physique) when he was selected in the second round and became a great player. So all these things come into play and then you say, well, he’s an elite passer, he has a great sense of the game. “
Certainly, that passing ability has translated into the NBA. And his “sense of the game” seems to be what prompted Denver to express interest in Jokic.
It’s good that they did. Jokic was ready to withdraw from the draft before the Nuggets promised him they would use the 41st pick on him. That sealed his entry into the 2014 draft and allowed the Nuggets to sign him.
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Who beat Nikola Jokic in the 2014 NBA Draft?
In all, 40 players got ahead of Jokic and in retrospect it is hard to argue that any should have overtaken him. MVP runner-up Joel Embiid probably has the best case, if you want to make that argument.
However, Jokic leads the ’14 draft class with 64.4 career win shares, a metric that estimates the number of wins created by a specific player, and it’s not particularly close. Runner-up in the draft, Clint Capela, is nearly 20 shares of wins behind Jokic.
Of the 60 players selected in the 2014 draft, 25 played three or fewer seasons in the NBA. Of those 25, 10 players got ahead of Jokic, including DeAndre Daniels, the 37th overall pick to never play in the NBA.
Here’s a complete look at the 2014 NBA Draft, including the player selected at each spot and his career total winning percentage.
|2. 3||Jazz||Rodney hood||16.7|
|28||Pair of scissors||CJ Wilcox||0.1|
|3. 4||Knicks||Early Cleantonia||-0.6|
|40||Timberwolves||Glenn Robinson III||7.9|
|Four. Five||Hornets||Dwight Powell||29.8|
Suffice it to say, the Nuggets managed like bandits to get Jokic.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.