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Nikola Jokic: The Center Of Attention

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Joker” is on the loose—and not in Gotham.

This time last year, the Denver Nuggets were in the midst of unveiling a prized asset at the center position named Jusuf Nurkic. People went nuts for Nurkic, (also known as the Bosnian Bear), and to his credit, he looked pretty good. It would appear as though it’s that time of year again because there is yet another center emerging on the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic has arrived.

In today’s NBA, with the emphasis on ball-movement and shooting from distance, it’s no longer enough for the NBA’s behemoth’s to simply stand under the basket, pile up close-range points from the post area, and corral rebounds. The NBA has moved beyond that simplified version of a center’s responsibilities. This is why we have seen offensive luminaries specializing in post scoring being moved to the bench in recent seasons, including Al Jefferson, Greg Monroe, and Zach Randolph.

Ideally, teams are looking to find bigs with a mix of play-making ability, rim protection, and shooting range. Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins are established examples of various incarnates of this meld. Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are two rookies who seem well on their way to joining that elite group. The hype over Ben Simmons stems from his potential to join said group as well. Enter Nikola Jokic.

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Shown here are two different NBA centers’ per 36 minute statistics. The key statistics to note here are 3P%, TRB (total rebounds), AST (assists), BLK (blocks) and, perhaps most obviously, points. These are the core statistics embodying the desired meld of player for the modern NBA center.

The two players rebound nearly identically. Player 1 shoots a bit better from distance and averages nearly twice as many assists as Player 2. Player 2 scores more than Player 1 and also averages nearly double the blocks. By the numbers, however, these are both excellent centers to have on an NBA team with much-desired traits. Player 2 is the universally-acclaimed Karl-Anthony Towns. Player 1 is the significantly more unheralded Nikola Jokic.

The breakout performances have been there. Twenty-seven points and 14 rebounds against Toronto. Sixteen points and 12 assists against Chicago. Twenty-three points, 13 rebounds, and four assists against Boston. Even in games where he’s not scoring a lot, Jokic finds ways to contribute, like in his 13-point, 13-rebound, six-assist outing against Sacramento.

To his credit, people around the NBA are beginning to take notice. In Christopher Dempsey’s local piece for the Nuggets’ mailbag, he noted that ”Jokic will be fantastic and will have a handful of seasons at least where he averages more than 20 points and more than 10 rebounds. And probably four or five assists as well. His talent and basketball IQ will see him through.”

Teammates are aware of Jokic’ immense talent and potential as well. “He reminds me a lot of Marc Gasol,” Emmanuel Mudiay said to Jake Fischer. “He’s like a point-center. He’s good at give-and-go’s, he’s good at just making plays himself, and getting other people open. I think he could be an All-Star [one day].” 

The video above shows Jokic’s first breakout game against Toronto. It’s all there; Jokic has got a deep bag of tricks. He’s scoring from all three levels. He’s rebounding in traffic. At 1:13 in the video, there’s a small compilation of Jokic’s better passes, and the man can flat-out pass the ball. He’s attempting and completing some Rucker Park, Sebastian Telfair-back-in-high-school-style dishes. 

Centers with these kind of abilities are in extremely limited quantity. The Denver Nuggets have stumbled upon an absolute gem. Early in the season, pre-media coverage, I told the world that Will “The Thrill” Barton was coming. Heed my words again. Nikola Jokic, The Joker, is here. And he’s just getting started

Edited by Jazmyn Brown, Jaidyn Hart.

Where is Nikola Jokic from?
Created 2/27/16
  1. Lithuania
  2. Latvia
  3. Serbia
  4. Montenegro

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