Nikola Jokic: Best Passing Big Man In The NBA

Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic: Best Passing Big Man In The NBA


Nikola Jokic is the best passing big man in the league right now and it’s no coincidence the Denver Nuggets offense is going through the roof since his head coach Michael Malone moved him into the starting lineup.

Take this into consideration:  The 21-year-old Nikola Jokic has played 30 or more minutes nine times this season. The Nuggets’ record in those games is 7-2. The two losses? One was an overtime loss against Portland in which Jokic tallied 34:06; the other came in San Antonio, where Jokic recorded a career high 35 points against the second-best team in the West!

Do I have your attention now? Good.

During the last 10 games the young Serbian is averaging 23.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks (41.7% from three. I had do add this one!). The guy is playing out of his mind lately and suddenly it’s the Jokic show up there in the Mile High city.

Nikola Jokic last 10 games shotchart via

Jokic has been the cornerstone of the Nuggets ever since he took over Nurkic’s spot in the starting lineup. He’s a big who can clearly shoot the three, rebound, space the floor and has point guard passing skills.

“He used to be a fat point guard”, Mike Malone pointed out. “He was a point guard growing up, he had the ball in his hands. That’s why I think his ball handling, his passing are where they’re at because he has that foundation growing up.”

Even his teammates admit they’re more motivated to cut every time he has the ball on his hands.

“He has such a great feel for the game.” Gary Harris, Nuggets shooting guard, noted. “When he has the ball everyone wants to cut because they know he’ll make the pass. That just gets the movement going on the offensive end.”

The Nuggets head coach recognized he never coached a better big man passer than Jokic, however, he reminds him of someone.

“To me, he reminds you a little bit of Vlade Divac.” Malone said. “A guy that was just an unbelievable passer no matter where you put him on the floor.”

To me, Arvydas Sabonis is the first name coming to my mind every time I see Jokic on the floor. Even more when he’s on the low post holding the ball high in his right hand. I swear I see that black wristband Sabonis used to play with too.

The Lithuanian played 7 seasons in the NBA, all as a Portland Trail Blazer, and at the time everyone was talking about the 7 footer’s passing skills. Sabonis came into the league on a late stage of his career, as he was 31 in his rookie season, in 1995-96.

Sabonis didn’t play in the space-the-floor-and-let-it-fly-from-deep era but he was a skilled big man who could really pass and shoot an occasional three.



Jokic is an upgraded version of the Lithuanian, who entered the NBA 11 years earlier than Sabonis did.



“He makes everybody around him better,” Malone added. “Which I think is the best definition of a great player, making people around you better.” …and since his return to the starting lineup on Dec. 15, he is leading all centers in assists per 100 possessions with 8.6!


The following clip screams NEW NBA ERA all the way. The Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried gets the defensive rebound and passes the ball to the center (!!!) for him to run the fast break (I know!). The backcourt guys (Murray and Mudiay) never touch the rock as Jokic dribbles and assists the trailer Faried again with a no-look pass for the easy layup.



Jokic allows you this kind of easy transition. Let’s say we would switch Jokic for Faried on this play for instance. It would never work. Jokic would never deliver the ball to Faried so he could start the fast break, in the first place, and secondly, that pass. There aren’t many big men in the league who are able to do it. (Cousins? maybe?) This kind of versatility is making the Nuggets offense/transition unpredictable and more fun to watch.

Malone found his centerpiece and now the playoffs are looking more like as a certainty for the Nuggets.

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