Nikola Jokic carried the Denver Nuggets on his back for the entirety of last season, but they ended up losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in five games in the first round of the postseason. While many expected that the return of Jamal Murray (and to a lesser extent, Michael Porter Jr.) would give Jokic the help he needs to lead the Nuggets to yet another deep playoff run, the two-time MVP wanted to temper everyone’s expectations before the season began, saying that Murray was “gonna be really bad” for the first 20 games as he recovers from a torn ACL.

While he is yet to return to his pre-injury levels, Murray is definitely playing better as of late. In fact, the 25-year old point guard dropped a season-high 31 points on 11-17 shooting against the Houston Rockets, his first 30-plus point outing since March 30, 2021. However, Jokic, being the joker that he is, still doubled down on his preseason prognosis despite Murray’s season-best effort.

“He’s gonna suck for a few more games,” Jokic said in jest, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Jamal Murray was beginning to look more and more like his usual self before he missed a few games due to health and safety protocols. His performance against the Rockets was just a continuation of that trend. Sure, the Rockets entered Monday night’s game ranked 28th in defensive rating, but Murray was able to get into a rhythm, which should only bode well for his future prospects.

While Nikola Jokic will definitely be elated after seeing his two-man game partner resemble the player he was before more closely, he knows that Murray doesn’t need to press the issue. The Serbian international will be there to pick up the slack anyway. Not to be outdone by Murray, Jokic put up 32 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists of his own to lead Denver to a 129-113 victory.

Nonetheless, head coach Michael Malone knows that Jamal Murray still has another level to reach, which will be crucial for the Nuggets’ quest to win a championship.

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“I think he’s still got another level… I still don’t think he’s in optimal game shape. I think that’s going to come and when he gets there that will allow him to impact the game on so many levels,” Malone told reporters after the game.

On the season, Murray is averaging 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game on 43.5 percent shooting. It’s frightening to think how much better the 13-7 Nuggets can be once the Canadian international is back to playing at his best.