On Thursday, the NBA All-Star reserves will be named, rounding out the rosters squaring off in New Orleans. And on Thursday, for the seventh consecutive year, there will be no Denver Nuggets on that list.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Nuggets are lacking an All-Star. They’ve got one.

It’s just that nobody outside of the small, small group that pays close attention to Denver’s NBA team knows it. Hell, it’s sometimes debatable whether or not the Nuggets themselves know it.

Nikola Jokic is an All-Star.

If you’ve lost touch with the Nuggets, as plenty of people have over the past four seasons, and you were wondering who the team’s best player might be, it’s Jokic. He’s 21 years old and it’s not even close. Jokic is the present, and he’s absolutely, indisputably the future.

It’s tough to argue with the selection of the big men who will likely get the nod for the West in New Orleans. The conference is loaded with talented, reputable bigs, and Jokic is a new kid on the block trying to break into the club. He’s not American. He’s not flashy. And he’s not playing for a team that’s been a focal point of SportsCenter lately. Luckily, when it comes to assessing Jokic as a player, none of that matters.

On the flip side, his numbers – at least on the surface – won’t blow anyone away. On the season, Jokic is averaging 14.9 points per game, 8.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Respectable to be sure, but not Russell Westbrook either. For a more appropriate comparison, DeMarcus Cousins sits at 28.0 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Anthony Davis, who will be starting for the Western Conference All-Stars, boasts 28.6, 12.0 and 2.3.

Cousins and Davis undeniably own better numbers, but it’s not quite that simple. There’s another number that tells more of the story, particularly in favor of Jokic – minutes. Davis plays 36.3 minutes per night, and Cousins logs 34.5. Jokic averages a head-scratching 25.5. On a “per 36 minutes” basis, the numbers amongst these three big men get considerably more comparable: Jokic – 21.0, 11.7 and 5.3; Cousins – 29.3, 10.6 and 4.4; Davis – 28.3, 11.9 and 2.2.

This begs the question: Why doesn’t Jokic play more? The knee-jerk answer from the Nuggets would be “foul trouble,” and that’s partially correct; at times, Jokic has a tendency to pick up dumb fouls. He’s had five fouls seven different times this year, and fouled out once.

But a better, more accurate and honest (and perhaps more confusing), answer looks something like this: Experimentation, lack of team identity, too much perceived depth and probably some behind-closed-door reasons we wouldn’t want to know, wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t necessarily agree with.

The Nuggets currently hold the eighth playoff spot in the West. Not bad, but not great considering their record is only 18-25. The Grizzlies, who sit at No. 7, have a record of 26-20.

Consider this though: Nikola Jokic has played 30 or more minutes nine times this season. In those nine games, the Nuggets are 7-2. One loss was an overtime game against Portland in which Jokic tallied 34:06; the other came at San Antonio, where Jokic recorded a career high 35 points against the second-best team in the West.

In those nine games, Jokic’s numbers are All-Star-esque. When he’s playing 30-plus, he scores at a clip of 24.33 points per game, grabs 12.1 rebounds and dishes it 5.1 times. When he plays 30-plus, he always posts a double-double. He’s got 16 of them on the season, nine of them coming in games when – you guessed it – he played more than 30 minutes.

Why he doesn’t play more is a mystery.

On Sunday night, Jokic logged 27 minutes in Minnesota. The Nuggets lost by three and Jokic missed a double-double by two rebounds. He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists. In fairness to head coach Michael Malone, Jokic did have five fouls, hindering his playing time.

Advanced analytics suggest that Jokic is not only an All-Star caliber player, but one of the best players in the Association, period. He ranks 10th in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating – two slots behind Cousins (No. 8) and two above LeBron James (No. 12). Davis and Cousins are the only two big men who rank above Jokic on the PER list. He ranks sixth in the NBA in Effective Field Goal Percentage, and seventh in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes.

Jokic holds the NBA’s top Offensive Rating (129.7).

Is Nikola Jokic an All-Star? No, not officially.

Would he be if he played 30-plus minutes per game? Probably.

Will the Nuggets make the playoffs if he doesn’t?

Probably not.