Who is Nikola Jokic? | Stats & Player Highlights
It is truly a fantastic time to be an NBA fan. With the sheer number of talented young players, sensational rookies, generational talents, and rising stars, the NBA talent pool is as deep as it’s been in quite some time.
Over the last few years, the league has seen an influx of marquis international talent with the likes of Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. One rising international star that has worked his way into the mix with the two aforementioned players is Nikola Jokic, a center for the Denver Nuggets.
At just 22 years old, Jokic seems to be destined for stardom sooner rather than later. A native of Sombor, Serbia, Jokic played for Mega Basket in the Serbian and Adriatic Leagues prior to his move stateside. Hot off the heels of a season where he averaged over 11 points per game in Serbia at just 19 years of age, Jokic was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Given how well he’s played already, it looks as though the Nuggets unearthed a buried treasure in their Serbian center.
Standing at 6’10”, Jokic has an incredibly well-rounded game, which is paramount in the NBA as more teams rely on their power forwards and centers to shoot from outside of the paint. The third-year player has a fantastic inside/outside game, as he’s just as capable of scoring in the paint as he is from midrange or beyond the arc. Jokic’s three-point shot has drastically improved so far this season, as he’s shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc–significantly higher than the 32.4 percent clip he shot at in 2016-17. His particular blend of spot-up shooting and capable low post play make him a nightmare matchup to guard on defense.
When watching him, what jumps out most about the 22-year-old’s game is his basketball IQ. Jokic has the type of passing intuition that you can’t teach – he has an uncanny ability to know where his teammates are going and pass the ball to a spot to help them get open. His passing abilities are among the best in the league among players at his position, which is backed up statistically by the fact that he led all centers in assists per game in 2016-17.
The player dubbed “The Joker” made an immediate impact upon his arrival to Denver as he made the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2016. In the 80 games that he featured in as a rookie, Jokic averaged 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. His game has been improving steadily in his last season and a half, and he’s currently averaging 15.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game so far this year – all of which represent significant increases from his rookie total.
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In recognition of his solid play earlier in the month of November, Jokic was named as the Western Conference Player of the Week. The 22-year-old posted one of his best performances of the season on November 7, scoring 41 points on 16-for-25 shooting with four three-pointers, 12 rebounds, and five assists. If he’s able to continue his good form this season, he will surely be considered for a spot in the All-Star Game in Los Angeles this upcoming February.
Despite being just 22 years of age, Jokic has already experienced success on the international level, as he’s been fantastic while playing for the Serbian National Team. In the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament, the Nuggets center won tournament MVP honors thanks to a fantastic campaign where he averaged 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. His Serbian squad won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games after making the finals of the tournament but falling short against the United States.
Given the immense amount of talent currently in the league, it’s easy for players like Nikola Jokic to fly past your radar but I highly recommend making the time to watch him play. There are few players in the league with such a versatile game, and his highlight reel shooting and passing are something that needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. Luckily for us, he should be a mainstay in the league for quite some time and is seemingly only getting better with age.