Widely regarded as the best basketball player on the planet, Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to a somewhat easy championship in 2023. Part of that easy journey was making quick work of the Los Angeles Lakers, sweeping LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the Western Conference Finals.
Thus, the title-contending formula didn't just become about how to build the best roster, but also how to counter Jokic and what he brings to each game. There truly is nobody else in the league like him who can do all of the things he does on the offensive end with his size.
It is hard to find a defense that can stop Jokic but the two-time MVP can be slowed down. The Lakers successfully slowed Jokic down enough in the 2020 NBA Playoffs but that was before he hit his apex as an MVP-caliber player. But still, Jokic himself admitted on Michael Porter Jr's 'Curious Mike' podcast that those 2020 Lakers were the toughest challenge he has faced.
Nikola Jokic comments should haunt the Lakers after what happened to Frank Vogel and the roster
This wouldn't be so painful to hear if the Lakers didn't go away from what obviously worked against the best player on the planet. The center position has been a revolving door for the purple and gold and it started after the 2020 season when they booted Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee for Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell.
Lakers fans have long wanted the team to go back to the roots of having traditional bigs on the roster that can put some physicality on players like Jokic or even Joel Embiid. Instead, the Lakers have tried out guys like Christian Wood (who can't really defend), Jaxson Hayes, Thomas Bryant, and Mo Bamba.
In addition, this only hammers home the fact that the team was foolish to fire Frank Vogel when it did. Vogel became the fall guy for the awful Russell Westbrook trade that obviously was not his fault. Since then, the team hired Darvin Ham, who fans are now fed up with.
The Lakers are title contenders despite themselves. The only thing the front office has done since winning that 2020 championship is make the team worse. Sure, the current version of the Lakers is better than years past, but it obviously still is not up to the standard set by the 2019-20 team.
Just ask Nikola Jokic.
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