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Nikola Jokic is in the midst of a remarkable, MVP-worthy season. His numbers have been impeccable and he’s even helped keep the Denver Nuggets afloat since Jamal Murray went down with a season-ending injury. His passing gets most of the attention, which makes sense since it generates most of the highlights and is easily the most incongruous part of his box score averages for a 6-foot-11 center.
If you’ve watched Jokic for even a few possessions you can tell that his assist per game average doesn’t do justice to the way his vision and passing creativity affect the game. So I dug deep for a few other numbers that to contextualize just how special he is as a passer.
63.0 percent of Nikola Jokic’s potential assists are converted
With the NBA’s player tracking statistics we can see not just a player’s assist totals but also their potential assists — how many passes they made which would have generated assists if the shot had been made. It’s a stat that’s obviously influenced by the quality of shooters around a player, for example, explaining why John Wall has one of the lowest assist conversion rates in the league this season. But Jokic is on the other end of the spectrum. In total, 63 percent of his potential assists have been converted by his teammates this season. That’s the highest mark of the 34 players who average at least 10 potential assists per game this season, and makes him one of only three players with an assist conversion rate above 60 percent (Ja Morant and Draymond Green are the others).
8.7 assists per game as a player 6-foot-11 or taller
As of today, Jokic is averaging 8.7 assists per game, putting his average one-tenth ahead of Wilt Chamberlain’s 1967-68 season. If he can stay ahead of Wilt it would give him the highest assist per game average for any season in NBA history by a player 6-foot-11 or taller. Either way, Jokic will finish this year holding four of the 10 highest assist-per-game seasons by a player of that height.
An assisted 3-pointer to 13 different players
Jokic knows how to find shooters beyond the arc and so far this season, he’s recorded an assist on a 3-pointer for 13 different teammates. That number should hit 14 once he picks one up with the newly acquired Austin Rivers. For comparison, LeBron has assisted on a 3-pointer for nine different teammates this season, Trae Young to 11, Luka Doncic to 12.
28 touchdown passes for Nikola Jokic
You’ve seen this play plenty of times before. Jokic grabs a defensive rebound and barely finishes turning up court before he’s flinging a perfect bullet to a streaking teammate for a layup. Using PBPStats.com we can filter down and find that Jokic actually has 28 assists this season that have been for a layup and come within four seconds of a possession beginning. That’s essentially one of these epic highlight assists every two games.
Once again, no one does it like Nikola Jokic.
Nobody brings more nuance to the MVP discussion than The Action Network’s Matt Moore. Here are his eight questions to ask yourself as you’re making your pick.