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Where Does Nikola Joki? Rank?

I believe Nikola Joki? is somehow still overlooked despite being a player that has back-to-back MVP awards. He’s undoubtedly having the best season in the NBA currently by nearly every major metric. Three straight MVPs are rare in the history of the NBA. The last player to do it was Larry Bird. Jokic should be the front-runner currently putting up the yet again insane numbers he is, but if he’s really going to overcome the voter fatigue it’s probably going to take the Nuggets finishing 1st and/or a triple-double to capture the narrative. I don’t even care about the MVP at this point, he’s simply the best player on the planet right now.

We just wrote about the incredible week he just had last week. He was putting up Wilt Chamberlin-like numbers, not once but twice. Now he has done it again on Christmas with a 41-point-15 rebound, 15-assist gem on 25-floor shots. His third 40-point game in the last 6. He’s averaging 31.8ppg, 14.6rpg, 10.8apg over the last 6 games and the Nuggets have moved into first in the West. It’s almost a shame it’s taken putting up numbers this insane to get the conversation started about where he really stands not only in the NBA today, but all time. That’s the conversation that should be happening in my opinion.

We ranked Jokic the 2nd best player in the NBA coming into the season, like a few, but some outlets don’t even have him in the top 2 even as of a few days ago. Nearly every person I respect opinion still always talks about Jokic with caveats about his defense. Personally, I’ve always thought his defense was underrated given the consensus around it and how you use him in the playoffs. I believe there is a difference between the regular season and the playoffs but with on/off and the kind of value is producing in nearly any metric I don’t think he’s the issue. The Nuggets have some probably that will make it hard for them to win, but he can only control what he can control is the way I view it. Certainly, the defense that has to be generated by the center is more important than that of a guard, but he’s not James Harden on defense. He has shown up in the playoffs as well overall.

Giannis Antetokounmpo & Nikola Joki?

I don’t think there is any question Jokic’s the best player in the NBA currently. He’s #1 in PER, VORP, BPM, Win Shares, Raptor you name it. In most metrics, it’s not even close. For G. Antetokounmpo there has been a significant slippage in the numbers. It’s not shocking to me that Giannis would see a decline given the way he plays. He’s highly reliant on his athletic ability and while we gave him the benefit of doubt time is not as kind to players like Giannis. Obviously, I don’t see him falling off of a cliff tomorrow, but I do believe this is a real trajectory. We’ve studied the aging progression extensively (link) and it was always going to be harder for him to maintain the level of play he has been at than Jokic past about 28 years old.

Both Jokic and Giannis are essentially the same age (Giannis is 75 days older) but are very different players. Jokic has had old man game since he was a rookie. Although he has improved physically I think it’s the lack of explosiveness that keeps him more underrated than he should be. The thing about that is that it also bodes well for him long-term as he’s not really dependent on the athletic ability he will inevitably lose. The things he does well he should be able to maintain the next 3 or 4 seasons.

He could probably even still improve in some areas. He’s only getting smarter as a player, and the passing could actually still improve more. His shooting has already been better than it even is now. There is meat on that bone for sure he’s not even at his full potential there. This is a player that could realistically be the best player in the league for several more seasons and a mainstay until his late 30s. That’s what makes what he has been doing the last few years so exciting. I don’t think he’s going anywhere in the next few either.

Jokic’s Rank All Time Rank

Historically if he keeps this season up and adds another couple at a similar level, which he seems capable of, and potentially where does that put him? It’s got to put him in the pantheon of all-time greats. Personally, I think he’s already there even without the playoff success, where teammates still matter.

These are all the 30+ PER seasons ever. Jokic already has the highest-rated one and could add the 2nd. He also would pull up to a tie for 3rd place behind LeBron and Jordan for 3rd most with good years left to add.

30 PER Club
Nikola Joki?32.852021-22LeBron James4
Nikola Joki?32.332022-23Michael Jordan*4
Wilt Chamberlain*32.081961-62G. Antetokounmpo3
G. Antetokounmpo32.052021-22Shaquille O?Neal*3
G. Antetokounmpo31.862019-20Wilt Chamberlain*3
Wilt Chamberlain*31.821962-63Nikola Jokic3
Michael Jordan*31.711987-88Anthony Davis2
LeBron James31.672008-09Joel Embiid2
Wilt Chamberlain*31.631963-64Stephen Curry1
Michael Jordan*31.631990-91David Robinson*1
LeBron James31.592012-13Dwyane Wade1
Stephen Curry31.462015-16James Harden1
Nikola Joki?31.282020-21Russell Westbrook1
Michael Jordan*31.181989-90
Joel Embiid31.162021-22
Michael Jordan*31.141988-89
LeBron James31.12009-10
G. Antetokounmpo30.892018-19
Anthony Davis30.812014-15
LeBron James30.742011-12
David Robinson*30.661993-94
Shaquille O?Neal*30.651999-00
Russell Westbrook30.632016-17
James Harden30.572018-19
Shaquille O?Neal*30.551998-99
Dwyane Wade30.362008-09
Tracy McGrady*30.272002-03
Anthony Davis30.262018-19
Joel Embiid30.262020-21
Shaquille O?Neal*30.232000-01

People will probably crap on PER, but these are clearly the best seasons in NBA history and it’s a stat that encompasses all of NBA history. It’s adjusted for per possession and for the league averages meaning it’s apples to apples. He’s not running anything up in the era he plays or how it’s called or the rules. It’s all relative to the rest of the league which makes it a solid stat for this exercise. It’s already a more efficient era overall, so to be this much greater than the league average speaks to how efficient he really is. He currently has a .685% true shooting while averaging 25.4ppg in 33 minutes. That’s got to be the greatest efficiency ever relative to the usage, perhaps only outdone by Curry in his best season.

Career PER
1Michael Jordan*27.91
2Nikola Joki?27.39
3LeBron James27.28
4Anthony Davis27.08
5Shaquille O’Neal*26.43
6David Robinson*26.18
7Wilt Chamberlain*26.16

Currently, Jokic is 2nd All-Time in Career PER. There is reason to believe after a couple more years of playing like he is playing he will probably overtake Jordan for 1st if not this year, next year. The difference is many players kill their numbers as they age unless they retire young. I don’t really see that being the case for Jokic unless he is hanging on after 35 years old. He may even have enough value banked up that he’s still right there with LeBron and Jordan.


We’ve never seen a player like Jokic. What makes him so exciting is that he can still probably be essentially close to the same level of player 5 years from now. If that is the trajectory what do people do with him? He seems very content in Denver and I can’t see him pushing his way to LA, or teaming up with teams like the Heat or Warriors we’ve seen from other stars. How do you then place him if he never wins a title or only drags a team to say one? It’s unfortunate that he may never win a title and even if he does win one I believe many people will criminally underrate him historically for that reason if that’s how it does play out. That’s a narrative around championships that are developed. Should it though? How much can you really knock him if Jamal Murray is his best running mate, and he’s not even been healthy the last 2 playoffs? The most reliable player he has had in the last couple of years is Aaron Gordon.

Barring some catastrophic injury or unforeseen completely falling off I do believe he would have to be in the all-time top 5 to 6 conversations for me. At this point, I believe he’s going to have at least 2 more 30+ PER type MVP seasons. That seems like the most likely outcome if he remains healthy. He’s also incredibly durable. If Jokic does finish this year at this rate and adds another couple of seasons like this I think you have to have him in the conversation regardless of team success isn’t there. He can’t control who he plays with. Especially if he is still playing like this into his 30s. I expect he will end up as one of the more polarizing players by the stat nerds/Championships crowds.

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