Finals Fever: Cementing legendary status, Nikola Jokic can finally go home

Here are the biggest takeaways from Denver’s first-ever NBA Championship.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic celebrates with his team after winning the NBA Finals.

Following a down-to-the-wire Game 5, a reporter asked Nikola Jokic if he was looking forward to the championship parade in Denver. Jokic, looking seemingly confused, asked when the parade would be. The reporter followed up with, “Thursday.”

Immediately, Jokic responded with, “No. I need to go home.” Luckily for Jokic, it is time to go home for him, but this time he’ll be returning to Serbia as a NBA Champion, Finals MVP, Nuggets legend and an all-time great in the history of basketball.

The 2022-2023 Denver Nuggets didn’t just win the franchise’s first NBA title, but did so in dominating fashion all season long. After claiming the best regular-season record in the Western Conference, the Nuggets went on to lose only four games in their championship-winning playoff run.

Jamal Murray and Jokic made a strong case for the title of the NBA’s best duo in their incredible postseason, both averaging at least 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds per game while utilizing a nearly unstoppable pick-and-roll game. Denver’s role players also took turns stepping up when it mattered, switching off dominant offensive games, but anchoring a tough defense all playoffs.

For Miami, it’s another close year to a title that ultimately fell short. While the No. 8-seeded Heat had an underdog playoff run for the ages, they were unable to find efficient offensive production from their role players and had a really tough time containing the Jokic-Murray two-man game. Heading into the offseason, the Heat will have a lot to think about when it comes to reshaping their roster.

Going into this year’s NBA Finals, many believed this matchup wouldn’t be interesting to watch and that the Nuggets would make easy work of the Heat. Now, the Nuggets did win this series in five games, but anyone who watched the Finals could tell you that it wasn’t as easy as it looked, and each game had its moments of electricity.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from these NBA Finals:

Nikola Jokic had an all-time great playoff run

Everyone knew Jokic would be the difference maker and the Finals MVP if the Nuggets were able to win the series. What most people didn’t expect, however, was that Jokic would have an out-of-this-world Finals run that caps off a historic postseason. Who would have thought that a Serbian center drafted in the second round during a Taco Bell commercial would become the first player in NBA history to lead all players in points, rebounds and assists in a single postseason?

Averaging 30 points, 13.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game on nearly 55% shooting, Jokic broke too many records and joined too many lists of NBA legends this postseason for me to name them all. Aside from all the crazy statistical records, Jokic’s impact in the playoffs stretched further than his individual accomplishments. Watch any Nuggets game from this postseason, and it’ll be easy to recognize how important Jokic is to orchestrating the Denver offense — not by just dominating the paint, but getting his teammates involved and making them better.

Defenses swarmed around him. Opposing coaches drew up specific gameplans just to limit his presence. Jokic was quite literally The Joker, terrorizing the rest of the NBA like it was Gotham City, with no Batman to save them. His playoff run is even more impressive when you list all the players he left in his decimation: Lebron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Karl Anthony-Towns, Rudy Gobert, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

Nikola Jokic, take a bow. Your postseason run will forever be enriched in NBA history.

The Heat couldn’t find their offense … even when it was on the bench

The Heat’s unbelievable postseason run wasn’t highlighted by “Playoff Jimmy Butler,” but rather their ensemble of undrafted role players that stepped up in huge moments and became game-changers with their scoring outbursts. What worked for Miami all postseason, however, then became dormant in the Finals. The Heat’s role players struggled shooting, leading Miami to only score more than 100 points once in five games.

When Miami was desperately looking for an offensive spark, they received the lucky news that Tyler Herro, their third-leading scorer in the regular season and former Sixth Man of the Year, was available for Game 5 after being injured the entire postseason. Herro seemed to be the hero that Miami needed for the Finals, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra apparently thought the offense was good as it was and didn’t play Herro for a single second. Miami went on to score 89 points in the loss, the least amount of points it has scored all playoffs.

Like many out there, I have a strong opinion on Spoelstra’s choice to not play Herro, but I believe Miami’s performance in the Finals does open lots of discussions on how it can reshape its roster for a more successful season. Their undrafted ensemble showcased their superb talent this playoffs, but the Heat will probably use some of them as trade bait to potentially acquire another star along with Butler and Adebayo. As impressive as the undrafted role players were, the Heat need more offensive consistency to compete for a title.

But, it was good while it lasted. NBA fans should thank the Heat for a truly entertaining playoff run.

Beware NBA, the Nuggets aren’t going anywhere

During the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy ceremony, Nuggets coach Mike Malone took the microphone and said the following statement that probably gave the rest of the NBA goosebumps:

“But I got news for everyone out there. We’re not satisfied that we won. We want more! We want more!”

Every NBA team immediately wants more titles after they win one, but the Nuggets are serious contenders to repeat their success for years to come. Nikola Jokic is 28. Murray is 26. Aaron Gordon is 27. Michael Porter Jr. is 24. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is 30. Christian Braun is 22. All still in prime years, but the best part about the Nuggets’ starting lineup and young rookie off the bench? All are still under contract for next year.

The Nuggets are looking at a potential dynasty; they may be even better next season than this last one. Jokic and Murray continue to be stars in this league. Gordon and Porter Jr. are still developing their offensive games. Caldwell-Pope keeps shooting well, and Braun is entering only his second year after making a large impact in the NBA Finals. With several other role players’ contracts to figure out, the Nuggets could be at the beginning of the NBA’s next dynasty, and they are only getting better.

The rest of the NBA has been put on notice. The Nuggets are the team to beat going forward.