Basketball Assists, Denver Nuggets, NBA

Here’s why Nikola Jokic is the best passing big man in NBA history

There have only been three players in NBA history to have won the regular season MVP award three times in a row. The last person to do it was Larry Bird in 1986 when he was playing for the Boston Celtics. However, 37 years on, Nikola Jokic stands on the brink of making history.

This is after being priced as the favorite to win the 2023 MVP award at odds of just -120. For all those expectant NBA fans who think Jokic will continue to deliver and has a distinct possibility of winning the MVP award, this Rabona promo code which provides new customers with a deposit match bonus can be used to back the trailblazing center. Admittedly, there is still half of the season to go but at the same time, Jokic is looking his devastating best, which was ruthlessly illustrated when the Serbian broke a long-standing record for the Denver Nuggets during a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves in late January 2023.

The stats behind Jokic’s astonishing record

Incredibly, the 7-0 center became the leading assist-maker in the franchise’s history. That’s more assists than Chauncey Billups, Lafayette Lever, Michael Adams, and Alex English whose record he broke with his 3,679th assist.   The 27-year-old would finish the game with 3,686 career assists to his name.

In particular, what makes Jokic’s record all the more impressive is that the Serb was able to do it in just 568 games while it took English 837 fixtures to rack up that many assists for the Nuggets. A difference of 269 games is hugely significant and proves once more that the Serb is one of the all-time greats in NBA history, which is also a conclusion that Denver’s previous record holder quickly noted upon the achievement.

Tellingly, English congratulated Jokic after achieving the feat and suggested, as we have at the top of the piece, that the 27-year-old is on course to win three MVPs in a row after tweeting: “I knew that eventually my all-time assist record would be broken. I’m honored to see that it’s 2 time, I mean 3 time MVP of the NBA do it. Congrats big fella.”

Is Jokic the best passing center of all-time?

I’m a huge Arvydas Sabonis fan and even though the 7-3 Lithuanian big man was one of my favorite players, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jokic is the NBA’s best passing big man of all time. Let’s look at assist numbers for the center position.

NBA's Best Passing Big Man in History
Rank Player Gms Ast APG
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1560 5660 3.6
2 Wilt Chamberlain 1045 4643 4.4
3 Bill Russell 963 4100 4.3
4 Alvan Adams 988 4012 4.1
5 Wes Unseld 984 3822 3.9
6 Sam Lacey 1002 3754 3.7
7 Nikola Jokic 569 3696 6.5
8 Vlade Divac 1134 3541 3.1
9 Jack Sikma 943 3075 3.3
10 Hakeem Olajuwon 1238 3058 2.5
11 Shaquille O'Neal 1207 3026 2.5
12 Bob Lanier 959 3007 3.1
13 Marc Gasol 891 2996 3.4
14 Al Horford 921 2974 3.2
15 Dave Cowens 766 2910 3.8

Thanks to statmuse for providing the data.

Jokic is still in a league of his own

As of this post, Jokic is already 7th all-time in total assists when it comes to the center position and he’ll be top five by the end of the 2022-23 season. Jokic averages more than two assists more per game than the next center on the list: 6.5 assists per game compared to Wilt Chamberlain’s 4.4 career assist average.

This season Jokic is averaging nearly 10 assists a game.

It’s just not the number of assists that Jokic records; it’s his vision. It’s the angles. The creativity. It’s the timing and accuracy.

 

By the numbers and by the eye test, Jokic is a better passer than Sabonis. Better than Bill Walton. Better than Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol. His ability to bring the ball up, execute in the high post, pass out of the low post, and see the floor in whatever position he’s in, Jokic can do it all when it comes to passing the ball.

Even if catching John Stockton’s 15,000+ assists is unlikely, Jokic still remains in a league of his own when it comes to passing. Jokic’s overall abilities are on display as he hunts a third MVP award in a row which would propel him into the stratosphere of sports history.

By the time he retires, barring injuries, Jokic will be the center that’s passed for the most assists in NBA history.

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