Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic struggled during the first portion of the season by his All-Star standards, but he pointed to a new diet and workout plans as a reason for his lost weight and subsequent improvement.
During an interview with NBA on ESPN, Jokic said he dropped "around 20-25 pounds" as the season was happening because of the changes, which helped lead to his improved play.
To say Jokic failed to live up to expectations at the start of the season would be an understatement.
After all, he made his first career All-Star Game last season and was expected to lead the Nuggets in a daunting Western Conference race as a versatile big man who can score on the blocks, hit from the outside, battle for boards and facilitate as a willing passer.
However, he averaged just 15.0 points in five October games and 15.8 points per night in 12 November contests. He scored single-digit points in three straight outings to end November.
Since then, Jokic has averaged 20.8 points in December, 23.4 points in January and a head-turning 27.0 points during his first six games in February.
Denver is 38-17 and sitting in second place in the Western Conference behind only LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Jokic was an All-Star once again and is playing at a high level as the stretch run approaches.
If he maintains his current pace with a supporting cast of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr. and others, Denver may advance past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign and just the second time since the 1984-85 season.