Nikola Jokić has received plenty of praise throughout the postseason for his historic offensive output in the Nuggets’ march to the NBA Finals. But, according to Jimmy Butler, the two-time MVP center deserves more respect for another aspect of his all-around game.
Ahead of Sunday’s Game 2 in Denver, the Heat star took a moment to praise Jokić’s ability on the defensive end during his media availability on Saturday. The versatile big man has often been criticized for his lack of athleticism and not being much of a shot blocker at his size, but Butler made sure to stress to reporters that his impact on defense is still felt all the same.
“As much as people look at what he does on the offensive end, he’s a hellified defender as well,” Butler said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
In terms of specifics, Butler reportedly cited Jokić’s aptitude for forcing opponents to change decisions in the paint and moving his feet well despite his large frame, as well as his touted knack for rebounding and outlet passing, according to Mile High Sports.
In Game 1 on Thursday, Jokić displayed his entire bag of tricks on both ends of the floor en route to notching a 27-point triple-double and leading the Nuggets to 103–94 win over Butler’s Heat.
Given all the chatter surrounding Jokić’s offensive dominance, Butler’s comments on his prowess as a defender generated positive reactions from fans and pundits pleased to hear a different side of the narrative:
Nikola Jokic’s critics said for years that Denver would never be able to build a good enough defense with him to advance deep into the playoffs. Ahead Game 2 of the Finals with the Nuggets up 1-0, Jimmy Butler is complimenting Jokic’s defense, specifically in the pick-and-roll.— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) June 3, 2023
This is for all the people that said I had an agenda.— Nikola Jokić Fan Club (2119-0) (@njokicfanclub) June 3, 2023
My only agenda is truth. https://t.co/1nmPFVXZbT
If it came from Butler, it must be true. https://t.co/ESmqfyWHU7— Alaa Alarashi (@AlaaAlarashi) June 3, 2023