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Nikola Jokic Is Changing How NBA Big Men Play the Game
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

In their first Orlando scrimmage against the Washington Wizards, the Denver Nuggets starting lineup featured an average height of 6-foot-9. The five included Nikola Jokic at point guard, Jerami Grant at shooting guard, Bol Bol at small forward, Paul Millsap at power forward, and Mason Plumlee at center. Yes, 7-foot, 284-pound Nikola Jokic got the nod at point guard.

This manifested as a result of starting floor general Jamal Murray nursing a hamstring injury and backcourt companions Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Torrey Craig sitting out. Who better to hand the reigns to than the best passing big man of all time?

Nikola Jokic: The NBA’s Point Guard-Center

The Serbian professional basketball player was the 41st overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Nuggets. The scouting report noted his versatile passing and playmaking abilities.

As a rookie, he averaged 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. His year-long performance earned him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie first team with Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kristaps Porzingas of the New York Knicks, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, and Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers. He played for the Serbian national basketball team that lost to the United States in the gold medal game at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The frontcourt passer recorded a career-high 17 assists against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 15, 2018.

Jokic held his coming-out party during the 2018-19 NBA season. He averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists while leading Denver to a 54-28 record and a second-place finish in the West. The Nuggets beat the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in a grueling seven-game series in the Western Conference semifinals. The Blazers fell to Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals. Jokic was named to the All-NBA First Team and finished fourth in MVP voting.

This year, before the regular-season stopped because of the coronavirus, he was handing out 6.9 assists per game — That ranked 15th in the league per NBA.com. Combine that with a 20.2-point and 10.2-rebound average, and the Nuggets have a near triple-double on a game-to-game basis. Denver will need his creativity to advance past LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs. He’s is more than comfortable running the offense from the center position once a healthy backcourt returns.

The Joker’s scoring ability opens up passing lanes for teammates. He’s crafty in the post; lumbering by for dunks and a soft fadeaway jumper. The defense’s focus on him shifts his attention towards passing opportunities. He’s three steps ahead in deciphering these openings—hurling on-the-money full-court heaves or finessed touch passes.

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It’s the main reason why I chose the two-time All-Star as the signal-caller of my NFL team comprised of NBA players.

MORE: J.R. Smith Could Be Lakers’ X-Factor for Deep Playoff Run

Joe Grobeck About the author:
Joe is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lives in Austin, Texas. He believes Ndaumkong Suh should've won the 2009 Heisman and is an avid basketball fan.
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