Earlier this season, our Global NBA.com Staff joined forces to vote on the five-best passers in the league today.
You can read the article here, but all you need to know for the purposes of this article is that Luka Doncic came in fifth place behind Chris Paul, James Harden, LeBron James and Nikola Jokic.
While it's hard to argue with those five making the list, Doncic being in fifth still feels low to me. Full disclosure, I had him in third place behind only LeBron and Jokic. I also think he's closer to being the best passer in the league than he is to the fifth-best.
Anyway, that's just my opinion. What's undeniable is that Doncic is an elite playmaker who has an uncanny ability to set up his teammates.
With that in mind, I watched all 523 of Doncic's assists to this point of the season and picked out my six favourites, partly because that's my idea of fun, but also because he's had so many absurd passes that are worth highlighting.
6. A well-executed nutmeg
There's something about watching someone throw a pass between a defender's legs - more commonly known as a nutmeg - that will always be satisfying.
5. Not what you were expecting
Doncic had two passes in transition that made my final cut.
The first one - a behind-the-back dribble to lose a defender, followed by a behind-the-back pass to Willie Cauley-Stein for an and-one dunk - was much, much flashier, but I'm partial to this one:
Doncic gets Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter to leave Kristaps Porzingis, the third-tallest player in the NBA who is running down the middle of the court, by staring at Dorian Finney-Smith sprinting down the left side. He then delivers a pinpoint pass over John Collins, who also seems to have no idea what's coming, to set Porzingis up for an uncontested dunk.
If you missed it, a closer look at Doncic's trickery:
Bonus points for holding the release.
4. A step ahead
A scary sign for the rest of the league: Doncic is posting up quite a bit more this season than he did last season without a drop in efficiency. According to NBA.com, he's currently scoring at a rate of 1.10 points per post-up possession, ranking him in the 83rd percentile.
At his size and with his skill, most guards have no shot against Doncic when he gets the ball in the low block. He can play bully ball against them and has the footwork to pirouette his way to silky-smooth layups and turnaround jumpers, as well as all of the tricks to bait them into committing fouls they wish they could have back.
The problem, as we've already established, is that Doncic is also an elite passer, so doubling him is tricky business.
Because if you try to take the ball out of his hands, you run the risk of this happening:
Not only does Doncic fool Desmond Bane by rifling a pass to Tim Hardaway Jr. in the corner instead of Dwight Powell underneath the basket, he appears to fool his own teammate in Powell.
That's what it looks like to be one step ahead of everyone.
3. Master manipulator
Something else Doncic does at a ridiculous rate? Score out of the pick-and-roll.
According to NBA.com, Doncic is averaging 13.6 points per game as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll this season, putting him behind only Trae Young (13.7) for most in the league. He's been incredibly efficient yet again, ranking in the 85th percentile with 1.01 points per possession.
There's not really anything defences can give Doncic in the pick-and-roll anymore. Go under, and he'll burn you with his much improved pull-up jumper. Go over, and he's a threat to score from midrange, floater range and at the rim. Switch, and he'll go to work in isolation, where he's also an elite scorer.
To tie a bow on it, doubling, trapping or hedging Doncic isn't much of a solution. At 6-foot-7, he has the size to see over defenders, and he might be the best in the league at tricking the back line of the defence with no-look passes.
Just ask Miles Bridges what it's like trying to predict Doncic's next move...
...or PJ Dozier...
...or Malcolm Brogdon...
...or Robert Covington...
...or Tristan Thompson.
You get the idea.
I know I broke my own rules by including five passes in this section, not one, but it felt necessary. (Plus, picking only one out of those proved to be an impossible task for me, a sucker for perfectly executed no-lookers).
2. Fakes on fakes on fakes
Who did it best: Jokic...
I'll let you be the judge, but it's worth noting that Doncic did it in the competitive portion of a game against a Phoenix Suns team that has the league's fifth-best defence this season. Oh, and he fooled Chris Paul, who picks off passes for breakfast.
Whichever side you're on, both are flat-out mean.
1. How did you ... nevermind
I had the above assist at No. 1 until I remembered Doncic did this to the Portland Trail Blazers:
To rub salt in the wound, he did this to the Blazers later in the same game:
Confirmed: Doncic has eyes in the back of his head.
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