Burgeoning Serbian superstar, Nikola Jokić is simultaneously the one of the most unique and talented players in the NBA.
Even with his recent weight loss, Jokić stands at 7’0”, with imposing shoulders and a bruising build. In this sense, Jokić looks every bit the part of a classic NBA big man.
And while Jokić can certainly use his post moves to get the drop on his defender, he has essentially pioneered the point center position.
Jokić has a salivating combination of excellent court vision, ball-handling skills that are well above average for his size, and the ability to complete difficult passes.
Whilst Jokić may not be an elite shooter from long range, he is a good enough shooter from both mid-range and beyond the arc to warrant respect from the defense.
With all the talk of position less basketball being the future, Jokić is a preview of that future. Unlike some players, who will switch between different positions during the game, Jokić seems to seamlessly transform from center to point guard or even to wing on a moment to moment basis.
It is not unusual for Jokić to start a possession at the top of the key, back his man down a bit, and rather than continue to work for his shot – instantly whip the ball to a cutting teammate for an easy basket.
Sometimes this may fail, and the ball is worked back to Jokić – who uses his combination of size, footwork, and post moves to get an easy looking bucket in the paint.
The Joker’s ability to shoot, pass and dribble effectively from the triple threat position makes him a nightmare to guard. Rather than relying on traditional athleticism, Jokić is a highly skilled big man with the size and strength to also play bully ball.
Defensively, Jokić is not quite as elite as he is on the offensive end. He is no slouch defensively however, and still improving. Jokić lacks the physical tools to be a top tier lockdown defender, but his basketball IQ enables him to be an excellent team defender.
Rather than relying on verticality [which he lacks] to challenge shots at the rim, Jokić will use his body as a deterrent. Either beating players to their spots, or protruding outwards into their physical space just enough to be disruptive.
Nikola Jokić is approaching 26 and clearly in his prime. Given his age, and how he goes about impacting the game, it is unlikely that Jokić will make any significant leaps as a player going forward. Conversely, his lack of reliance on conventional athleticism means that Jokić will likely enjoy a prolonged prime.
Considering that the Denver Nuggets made it all the way to the NBA’s Western Conference Finals before being thwarted by the Lakers, it is certainly conceivable that Jokić is capable of being the best player on a championship team.
This is not necessarily a likely outcome, however. And that is not a knock on Jokić . As good as he is, the league is as deep as it has ever been. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Dončić have scary upside, and neither are NBA champions.
Regardless of how Jokić ’s career accomplishments shake out, he is definitely contributing to the advancement of NBA basketball as we know it.