Now let’s talk about Nikola Jokic no one expected his all star status other than the Denver Nuggets as they drafted him in the 2nd round he was the 41st pick. 2017-18 Jokic showed signs of greatness as he put stats of 18.5 points 10.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists, Jokic is 1 of 5 players to have these stats for an entire season the others being Oscar Robertson, Russell Westbrook, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain. He is joint youngest at 22 years old with Robertston to average these stats. In the 2018-19 seasons Jokic exploded and had an MVP worthy season averaging 20.1 points 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists an eFG% of 54.5 he also finished top 5 in MVP voting that season and he only missed 2 games that season. Nuggets 54-28 2nd in the west and made it to the Western semi finals losing to Blazers in 7
Jokic’s first postseason he surpassed expectations in 14 games he averaged 25 points 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists he had 3 point % of almost 40% (39.3%) and had an eFG% of 54.8%. Jokic in the postseason led the league in Win shares per 48 (.263) Box Plus/Minus (11.6) Offensive Box Plus/Minus (8.3) Rebounds per game (13) offensive rebounds (54) and Player Efficiency rating (29.6) Jokic was 2nd in VORP (value over replacement player) 4th in Defensive Box Plus/Minus 3rd in Win shares 3rd in Offensive Win shares this is all very impressive for a 23 year old in first postseason appearance the Nuggets went to game 7 against the Blazers led by Lillard and lost but they played very impressive against both Spurs and Blazers keep in mind that the average age of this squad is 24 years.
So what makes Jokic so special? How come he’s ahead of Embiid and Towns? Well other than the stats I listed Jokic is a unique center he is a point center the offense is run through him this has never been seen in the NBA before he is the future, now him being unique isn’t enough of a reason to put him ahead of the other 2, another reason is the durability of Jokic, Towns is in the same bracket as Jokic in term of durability both being iron men and playing majority of the season. Embiid is yet to play 65+ games in a season now of course it is unfair to use that as a negative point as injuries aren’t unavoidable it would be fair to reward those that still play 80 games in a season playing back to back and 30+ minutes a night. An important part of being the best at your position even at Center is ability to impact your team and teammates, elevate your teammates game as well as yours. Do Towns and Embiid elevate their teammates?
No, Simply they do not elevate their teammates’ game as well as Nikola Jokic whether you believe in the old traditional center it is time to accept the game is changing. When we dive deeper into the Assist% advanced stat for 2018-19 season (assist % meaning An estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor.) we can see that Jokic is leader amongst centers in Ast% with 37% and in 2nd is Marc Gasol with 22.2% and 3rd is Nikola Vucevic with 21.9% there is a 15% difference between 1st and 2nd which is crazy when we look at the Ast% for the entire league Jokic ranks 7th and is the only Center in the top 10,20 and 30 there is not another Center listed until 43 and of course it is Marc Gasol. This leads back to another point I made his unique ability of being a point center, Jokic is showing his capability to play-make like a true point guard. When we also look at Win Shares a stat to see how much he contributes to the team. we see Jokic leads with 11.4 (out of Embiid and Towns) however compared to the league Jokic ranks 6th which is still very impressive.
Before I continue on offense let’s talk Defense is an important part of the game now Jokic is not as elite as Embiid but he is still a force on defense while he is slower that still does not affect his game as much. IQ is so important regardless of the position you play. Nikola Jokic’s ability to read the game as well as position himself into passing lanes and break up offensive plays shows how good he is, if you see the graph you will see Jokic is also able to position himself in a way he’s able to disrupt shots. Jokic has very fast hands for a center, he has received criticism for his defense on pick and rolls however he is able to defend the pick and rolls and generate turnovers from this. Here are some clips of Jokic defense
Back on the offensive end of the game while KAT is the obvious better shooter although that playoff series is questionable, Embiid isn’t a known consistent shooter and does not stretch the floor enough, Jokic on the other hand can stretch the floor and is a reliable shooter from inside and outside he is a player you have to guard and can’t give him room or he will shoot, his 17-18 3 point % might just be a glimpse of what he is capable of achieving. Here is Jokic shooting how teams shouldn’t be leaving him open.
Embiid known for his post moves and ability to back down other players well I would like you all to take a look at Jokic in the post
Take a look at his footwork and his ability to play with his back to basket, his ability to get his defender to bite on his post moves its truly a masterpiece
In this clip here you can see his ability to move his defender but also play facing towards the basket and hit some very tough shots.
Something else to also note is Jokic ability to pass out from the post up position the Joker has a pass% of 43% he ranks 3rd among big men, He is joint 3rd with an assist of 0.8 and has an assist% of 10.4% which ranks 7th in the league.
I have covered what I think shows why Jokic is better, In summary Nikola Jokic is the most complete center offensively he can do pretty much everything, In terms of defense he is an above average defender is he All NBA defense worthy like Embiid? I do no think so. All three of these players are young however and I believe that this debate will remain close for the remaining years. I want to know what do you think? Who is the best Center in the league? Let me hear your opinions!