When was Nikola Jokic drafted? How the Nuggets landed future MVP on draft day
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic made history Tuesday night when he was named NBA MVP for the 2020-21 season.
Jokic became the least drafted player to win the award. The Denver star also became the first center to win the MVP title since Shaquille O’Neal won the honor in 2000.
The announcement was a two-decade moment for Jokic and the NBA centers. But it was also a reminder of the impact of second-round picks in the NBA Draft and how some talented players can slip.
When was Jokic drafted? And why did it last so long? Here’s a look at how the Nuggets were able to reclaim an MVP-caliber player so late in the 2014 NBA Draft.
When was Nikola Jokic drafted?
Nikola Jokic was selected with the 41st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He was selected a pick after Glenn Robinson III and a pick ahead of Nick Johnson.
At the time, not much was known about Jokic, an 18-year-old player in the Adriatic League and later the Serbian League. He averaged 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 25 Adrian League competitions, but he was not considered a significant prospect.
In fact, Jokic’s selection announcement didn’t even air during ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 draft. His name simply appeared on the bottom line during a Taco Bell commercial.
Several prospects come to them each year, but generally the network cuts down on the announcements of the biggest names in the draft. Jokic, a stranger, was not considered one of them.
NBA REWARDS: List of winners for MVP, ROY and more
Why was Nikola Jokic drafted so low?
Jokic has lasted so long for a myriad of 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 inaccurate science,” Connelly said of the project, according to the Denver Post. “Nikola, until then, his professional numbers (in Europe) hadn’t been obvious, and the body type is certainly one that is easy to wonder about.”
Indeed, Jokic’s lack of athleticism and strength was a topic of discussion during his early NBA seasons, but he largely overcame them to become an MVP-caliber player.
But what prompted Denver to take a chance?
“We have been thinking about past drafts of teams that missed guys like him,” Connelly said on Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan. “As Marc Gasol was not exactly Adonis (a figure in Greek mythology known for his physique) when he was selected in the second round and he became a great player. So all of those things come into play and then you say, well, he’s an elite passer, he’s got a good sense of the game. “
Certainly, this passing ability translated into the NBA. And his “sense of the game” seems to be what led Denver to express interest in Jokic.
It’s a good thing they did. Jokic was ready to retire from the draft before the Nuggets promised him to use the 41st selection on him. It sealed his entry into the 2014 draft and allowed the Nuggets to land him.
Who beat Nikola Jokic in the 2014 NBA Draft?
In total, 40 players edged out Jokic and, in retrospect, it’s hard to argue that any of them should have beaten him. MVP finalist Joel Embiid probably has the best of times, if you want to have that argument.
However, Jokic leads the draft class of 14 with 64.4 career winning shares, a metric that estimates the number of wins created by a specific player, and it’s not particularly close. The second in the draft, Clint Capela, has nearly 20 victory shares behind Jokic.
Of the 60 players selected in the 2014 draft, 25 players lasted three seasons or less in the NBA. Of those 25, 10 players edged out Jokic, including DeAndre Daniels, the 37th overall pick who has never played in the NBA.
Here’s a full look at the 2014 NBA Draft, including the player selected at each location and their total winning shares for their careers.
|2||Roe deer||Jabari parker||13.5|
|13||Wood wolves||Zach LaVine||17.8|
|22||Grizzly bears||Jordan adams||0.4|
|28||Lawn mowers||CJ Wilcox||0.1|
|31||Roe deer||Damien Inglis||-0.1|
|36||Roe deer||Johnny O’Bryant||0.2|
|40||Wood wolves||Glenn Robinson III||7.9|
|44||Wood wolves||Brown Brown||1.1|
|48||Roe deer||Lamar Patterson||0.1|
|53||Wood wolves||Alexandre gentile||–|
Suffice to say that the Nuggets pretended to be bandits by getting Jokic.