Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone did not imagine that Serbian big man Nikola Jokic would become quite as good as he is, especially so early in in his NBA career. Jokic had a great rookie season, surpassing the expectations that Denver had for him.

From Mike Olson of Denver Stiffs, Malone recently expressed his surprise regarding Jokic’s rapid development:

“Bottom line, if I sat here today and told you a year ago that I expected Nikola Jokic to be first team All-Rookie…,” Malone said while laughing before gliding into a separate conversation.

Jokic was drafted late in the draft with the 41st pick back in 2014, and after a year abroad, he stepped up to the NBA level for the 2015-2016 season.

Malone realizes that Jokic probably deserved a bigger role earlier than he ended up giving it to him:

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“I laugh, and I have no problem making fun of myself, it literally took Nikola Jokic scoring 26 points and having 13 rebounds, whatever it was at San Antonio for me to finally say, ‘Geez, I have to play this guy more!'”.

At the age of 21, Jokic averaged 10 points, seven rebounds, and two assists in under 22 minutes per game. As previously mentioned, he made the All-Rookie first team and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Malone continued:

“That was a big surprise. Not that we didn’t think or know that he would be a good player, but it happened a lot sooner than anybody in the organization expected, even Nikola, if you asked him. It’s a testament to him. After Summer League, he dedicated himself to losing weight and getting in better shape. He lost close to 30 pounds and worked and worked and worked.”

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