Anthony Davis and the Los Angles Lakers couldn’t get past Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to reach the NBA Finals, but C.J. McCollum said he’s found Davis harder to defend than Jokic in his past playoff matchups against them.
.@CJMcCollum's toughest NBA players to defend ⬇️
1. Kevin Durant
2. Steph Curry
3. LeBron James
4. Anthony Davis
5. Nikola Jokić pic.twitter.com/efuLlKp20v
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) June 7, 2023
McCollum and the Portland Trail Blazers played Jokic and the Nuggets in the 2019 playoffs and 2021 playoffs. The center averaged 27.1 points per game in the 2019 series and 33.0 points per contest in the 2021 showdown.
The Lehigh University product, a guard, admitted that the younger version of Jokic was not the player who won NBA MVP in 2021 and 2022, so he has him ranked No. 5 among his toughest players to defend, one spot behind Davis.
“I gotta preface this with a lot of things here,” McCollum said of his rankings. “I was told to make a list about the hardest five players that I’ve played against in the playoffs, starting like this. I have not had to play against this version of the Joker, right? When I played against him, he was not the two-time MVP. He was not what we’re seeing now. But I have him at five. Obviously, you can argue either way, lots of ways. The version I played against, I had him as the fifth-hardest player that we’ve had to guard as a team collectively. Obviously I’m not guarding him. But we see what he has to offer, the versatility, the skill set, averaging a triple-double, gets 30 when he feels like it, can get 40.”
McCollum and the Trail Blazers faced Davis and the Lakers in the first round of the 2020 playoffs, and the Lakers defeated the Trail Blazers in five games on the way to winning the NBA championship. Davis averaged 29.8 points per game in that series.
“Four, I got AD,” McCollum said of where he ranked Davis. “I played against bubble AD, AD that shot 3s. I played against AD that played some 5 and enjoyed playing the 5. I played against AD who was gettin’ treatment at 2 a.m. so he was always available AD. I have him at four. He speaks volumes in terms of defense, presence, what he has to offer and the impact.”
This season, Jokic and the Nuggets swept Davis and the Lakers out of the Western Conference Finals. McCollum also ranked LeBron James as the third-toughest player his teams have had to defend in the playoffs.
The Trail Blazers won the 2019 playoff series against the Nuggets in seven games to advance to the Western Conference Finals, where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. McCollum ranked Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry at No. 1 and No. 2 on his list, respectively.
The Nuggets won the 2021 series against the Trail Blazers in six games. McCollum was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2021-22 regular season and then lost to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of those playoffs. New Orleans did not make the playoffs this season.
McCollum has played in 13 NBA playoff series and won four. The 31-year-old entered the NBA in 2013 with the Trail Blazers.
Jokic has been an absolute force for the Nuggets in the 2023 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. He had a triple-double in Denver’s Game 1 win and then scored 41 points in its Game 2 loss. Game 3 is Wednesday night at Miami.