Finish this sentence: Nikola Jokic is the _ best passer in the NBA right now.
There isn't a right or wrong answer, but the fact that you can make a case that a 6-foot-11 and 284 pound centre is the league's best passer speaks to how unique of a talent Jokic is.
It's quite the case as well.
We started to wonder if Jokic was the best passing centre of all-time a couple of years ago, but he's leveled up to the point where he's now competing for the assist crown. While his 10.0 assists per game puts him ever-so-slightly behind Russell Westbrook (11.3) and James Harden (11.0) for the highest average in the league as we approach the quarter point of the season, he currently leads the league with a grand total of 140 assists through 14 games.
Jokic already has nine double-digit assist games, which leads the league. It's helped him record 14 double-doubles and five triple-doubles, both of which lead the league. His season-high for assists in a single game is 18, which - you guessed it - leads the league.
Because there are few things that I enjoy more than a good pass, I watched every single one of Jokic's assists so far this season and picked out my six that caught my eye for reasons we'll get into.
6. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming
There's nothing particularly flashy about this assist, but there's something about Jokic finding a teammate cutting backdoor with a perfectly executed pass that always puts a smile on my face:
It's all made possible by Jokic being both a willing and capable outside shooter because it forces his defender to make a tough decision between guarding him closely to take away his jump shot or backing off of him to take away those backdoor cuts. Guarding Jokic at this stage of his career is basically a game of pick your poison.
Bonus points for Jamal Murray catching the ball with one hand and immediately laying it in. That's slick.
5. A Nikola Jokic special
When I broke down my five favourite assists from Charlotte Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball so far this season, I called the fullcourt pass he threw that led to Terry Rozier's dunk on Kevin Durant the "Nikola Jokic," so it only feels right to include one of Jokic's signature fullcourt assists on this list.
What makes this one special is that Jokic does it after a made basket.
He goes from taking the ball out of bounds to rifling a pass to the streaking Gary Harris so quickly that whoever was manning the camera struggled to keep up it.
Harris wasn't even wide open. Had Jokic thrown the pass a little more to his left, Cameron Payne might have come up with the steal. Had he thrown it a tad more to his right, it might have bought Mikal Bridges the split-second he needed to block the layup without being called for a goaltend.
Jokic made it look easy, but it most certainly wasn't.
4. Manipulation at its finest
It's not just that Jokic can find the open man that makes him an elite passer. It's that he's among a small group of players - some of the others being LeBron James, Chris Paul and Luka Doncic - who consistently manipulate defences to create high percentage looks for their teammates.
This is a perfect example:
Expecting him to receive a handoff from Jokic, Anthony Edwards overplays Harris, freeing up a backdoor cut. That forces Ricky Rubio to help off of Facundo Campazzo in the weakside corner to prevent Harris from getting an uncontested layup or dunk. (As you saw on the first assist, Jokic will make that pass to the cutter if they're open). Not only does Jokic time the pass perfectly - as soon as Rubio commits to helping - he throws a no-look crosscourt dime that lands directly in Campazzo's shooting pocket.
Jokic made the exact same pass in Denver's recent loss to the Utah Jazz, only the shooter wasn't able to capitalize:
What an absurd pass to have in your arsenal.
3. Sir, this is basketball, not water polo
Just when you think you've seen it all from Jokic, he does this:
To get a full appreciation of what Jokic did, here it is slowed down:
Jokic is out here playing water polo while everyone else is trying to play basketball. Not fair.
2. You get a fake! You get a fake! You get a fake!
In addition to being a good shooter, Jokic is arguably the best post-up scorer in the league.
According to NBA.com, Joel Embiid was the only player in the league who scored more points in the post than Jokic last season. Jokic was highly efficient, ranking in the 86th percentile with an average of 1.06 points per possession. He's in similar territory so far this season, ranking second in post points behind only Embiid while still being in the top half of the league in efficiency.
Jokic isn't only a threat to score against smaller defenders either. He has the size at 6-foot-11 and 284 pounds to also bully centres. As a result, he's a magnet for double teams when he gets the ball on the low block.
The problem, of course, is that throwing an additional defender at Jokic means someone is open. And more times than not, he is going to find the open man.
Which brings us to this:
If you're keeping track at home, Jokic faked out not one...
...but three defenders before Paul Millsap touched the ball.
Granted, the Sacramento Kings have been the worst defensive team in the league by a mile this season, but it doesn't take away from how ridiculous Jokic faking three defenders out of their shoes in a single possession is.
Speaking of faking defenders out of their shoes...
1. What is this sorcery?
As I wrote when it happened, this is downright disrespectful:
Yeah ... Jokic is something else.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.