2-time MVP Nikola Jokic is one of the most unique players to ever grace the NBA, let alone for just centers.
After starting his career as a second-round draft pick, averaging 10 and 7 a game, Jokic already has a third consecutive season average over 25 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists a game, he’s 6th in NBA history in career triple-doubles, and this year he is on pace to have his best year from the field, converting on 62% of his field-goal attempts.
There are so many aspects to break down with Stat Inflation, so let’s start with his scoring abilities.
While Nikola Jokic has one of the deepest scoring bags in the NBA, he still is producing in a league no longer run by bigs. So how does his scoring compare to the other best centers in NBA history?
Jokic is 1 of 8 centers to win multiple MVPs, joining Bob Pettit, Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Moses, Karl Malone, and Tim Duncan.
Despite having a slower start to his NBA career, Jokic has already accumulated 86 Win Shares in under 600 games, where if we use future inflation years and double his amount of games played, he’s on pace to end up in the top-8 for centers in NBA history.
But, if we had all of those players balanced to the same league average, who would be the best scorer of this group?
Jokic’s developmental years are potentially the biggest reason for him not being higher on the list, as since his rookie year he has increased his point-per-game production by over 150%.
Plus, Jokic’s unique scoring abilities for a player this size actually hurts him, as he loses his 3 per game since this comparison used my pre-3 point line metrics.
But to calculate Jokic’s projected scoring without the three-point line and view him as a permanent low-post presence takes a hit to his numbers. So how does the back-to-back MVP compare to just the best centers post 3-point line installation in a balanced era?
When it comes to simply putting the ball in the hoop, Jokic’s career pace would only trail Shaq atop this list.
Even though Jokic is such a versatile scorer, the fact that NBA offenses are no longer run through the bigs gives the Joker a bump of over 2 points a night, due mostly to an extra 2.5 attempts a night from inside the arc, where he shoots north of 60%.
He’s also a league-average shooter from deep, but since he only averages 1 make a night from distance, the 22.4% deflation of the shot does not impact him.
So despite Jokic’s high-end scoring, the appreciation for Denver’s superstars is his stat-stuffing abilities on the boards and as a playmaker, which is like we’ve never seen before.
Currently, Jokic averages 10.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game in his 564-game career.
That is the most by any player in NBA history with over 500 games played, with Wilt Chamberlain’s average of 4.4 assists a game being the second-closest.
If we flip the qualifications, Jokic obviously leads in total rebounds per game, with Oscar Robertson’s 7.5 rebounds to 9.5 assists per game trailing in second.
So, since Jokic is such a unique stat collector, how would his combined rebounds and assists compare to Robertson and Chamberlain?
While it’s almost impossible to compete with Wilt’s rebounding numbers, a combined per-game average of 20 assists and rebounds is unheard of for a center, let alone any player’s career pace.
So time will tell if Jokic does enough this season to win his third consecutive MVP, but even without the accolade, it’s important to appreciate the unique superstar in Denver.