Nikola Jokic Leaves Game vs. Bulls After Ankle Injury Diagnosed as Sprain

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2017

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 26: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets handles the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on January 26, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic suffered a sprained left ankle Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls and was ruled out during the second half, according to Altitude Sports' Chris Dempsey

Jokic suffered a hip injury last season and played 73 games, although he was durable in 2015-16 and appeared in 80 contests as a productive piece of Denver's rotation.

He averaged 10.0 points and 7.0 rebounds a night while shooting 51.2 percent from the field in his first season but made a leap as a double-double threat in 2016-17. He posted 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists a night while shooting 57.8 percent from the field as one of the league's blossoming stars.

He has followed up by averaging 15.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals this season. 

Denver will likely turn toward Mason Plumlee and Juan Hernangomez to play the majority of the vacated minutes until Jokic can return with Paul Millsap sidelined after wrist surgery.

It can also rely on the combination Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler in the frontcourt, although Chandler is more of an athletic forward who poses mismatch problems for opposing defenses than someone who dominates the paint.

Jokic is a primary reason the Nuggets appeared to be a playoff contender entering the season. They need him back and healthy if they want to challenge the best teams in the Western Conference.    

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