There’s no doubt that Nikola Jokic has a massive offensive contribution. However, the versatile center’s defensive output has often come under fire. He has been criticized for not being athletic enough and not blocking as many shots as he could.
Even NBA MVP Joel Embiid called out the Serb’s defensive game in a Q&A with The Athletic in March this year. That’s not what Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler thinks, though.
A Hellified Defender
After facing the center in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Butler saw firsthand what the big man can do in both directions. The Nuggets won 104-93 and Jokic had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.
But, unlike his performances in defense, Jokic’s offensive productivity has never been questioned. The Heat forward made sure to tell reporters that Jokic was a force to be reckoned with in defense too.
Butler told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that “as much as people look at what he does on the offensive end” Jokic was “a hellified defender as well.”
He said Jokic forced opponents to change their decisions when they got to the paint and moved his feet well. Combine that with his rebounding prowess and passing ability and you get a skillful and productive defender, according to Butler.
Doesn’t Create Highlight-Worthy Blocks
DNVR Sports’ Harrison Wind was one of many Nuggets’ pundits and fans who liked what Butler said. Wind reminded his Twitter followers that critics said that, with Jokic in the team, Denver would never be able to make a deep playoffs run.
However, after playing against the towering Serb in the NBA Finals, Butler complemented Jokic’s defensive game and his pick-and-roll in particular.
Some Nuggets fans said that if those comments came from Butler, then they must be true, while others added that Jokic orchestrated the defense and had an “unparalleled” ability to tip balls to himself.
There were also those who claimed that Jokic’s defensive output was overlooked because he didn’t create “highlight-worthy blocks.”