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Type of Free Agency: Team option (restricted free agency if turned down)
2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks
Were DeMarcus Cousins coming off a fully healthy campaign, this would be a neck-and-neck competition. But Nikola Jokic is now the runaway favorite for the No. 1 spot at his position, even if his defensive deficiencies at the rim and the point of attack have prevented him from becoming a complete player.
At this point, relitigating Jokic's effectiveness is pointless. The whole world should have come around on his skills by now, especially while he's averaging per-game marks that no center has replicated in decades. Wilt Chamberlain was the last pivot to average at least 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists during a qualified season.
Far more interesting is what the Denver Nuggets will do with their franchise centerpiece this summer—a situation complicated by the second-round pick's unexpected blossoming on his rookie deal.
Denver could pick up his 2018-19 team option and pay him only $1.6 million, but doing so would make him an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. It could also turn down the option and allow him to enter restricted free agency this summer, during which time the two sides could come to terms immediately or wait for the big man to sign an offer sheet the Nuggets inevitably would match.
The organization has to weigh long-term certainty with the financial implications of pushing closer to the luxury-tax threshold. It should ultimately opt to make him a free agent sooner and lock him up, but that isn't a guaranteed course of action.
Either way, we are virtually assured of Jokic becoming the best center on the 2018 free-agent market.
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