The decision-makers inside the Denver Nuggets’ front office used to play a parlor game concerning franchise pillar Nikola Jokic.
Had the Nuggets not chosen Jokic with the No. 41 selection in the 2014 draft, a prescient pick that laid the foundation for this season’s surprising success, how high, they wondered, would he have gone a year later after a breakthrough season overseas?
By then, the rest of the NBA would have discovered cheap nba jerseys
what the Nuggets already knew: That Jokic, though he does not look the part, has a preternatural gift for the game. No one could have predicted that Jokic, the team’s first all-star in eight years, would spawn a hoops renaissance in Denver.
The Nuggets are the hottest sports ticket in town, with 18 sellouts this season, four more than all of last season. The raucous environment has made Denver devastating at Pepsi Center; the Nuggets’ 23-4 home record is tied for the best in the NBA. And TV viewership on Altitude has soared by 93 percent, according to data provided by the NBA, the top growth for any market.
“You can feel it and hear it, man,” veteran forward Paul Millsap said of the budding excitement at Pepsi Center. “It’s a big difference. The spirit of basketball in this town has really evolved. It’s up to us to get out there and keep performing for them.”
Come April, the Nuggets, currently second in the Western Conference, will return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. They’ve been building toward this moment for years.
The root of the team’s revival can be traced to April 2014, when the Nuggets tracked Jokic, a 7-foot center from Serbia, at the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland. The annual showcase of prospects routinely brings out dozens of NBA power brokers, and it was there, inside the Trail Blazers’ practice facility, that Jokic proved he could compete against NBA-caliber talent.
While most team executives saw Jokic as a lanky, unsculpted big man and were put off by his lack of classic athleticism, the Nuggets looked beyond aesthetics. They saw a crafty scorer with a shooter’s touch, a center who could handle the ball like a guard.