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Sharing the Wins

Mike Olson Avatar
December 16, 2022

Another historic moment in Nuggets history passed by in the past two games without a moment’s fanfare, and if you’ve gotten to know this space, of course it was associated with Nikola Jokic.

Jokic’s 43-point, 14-rebound, 8-assist, 5-steal masterpiece? No, that was captured exceptionally by DNVR’s Harrison Wind, extolling the fact that it was the first time in NBA history a player has exceeded that stat line. What about his 31-point, 12-rebound, 14-assist, 4-block triple-double the game prior? No, that was well-documented by DNVR’s Brendan Vogt, who also dropped the fact that Jokic and some guy named LeBron James was the only ones ever to achieve that stat line.

You know, just a couple of average nights for your back-to-back MVP.

What snuck by in the barrage of stats that Jokic is putting up on a nightly basis was an advanced stat that is propped up by the sports-reference folks at basketball-reference.com, a little stat they’ve redesigned called WinShares. The upshot of the idea is how much of a win a player contributed to, assigning a percentage of each one based on how integral they were to the outcome. The Joker is the only currently active player in the Nuggets All-Time Top Twelve for WinShares, and in the six years since Jokmas (thank you, Harrison), Nikola has slowly been climbing that ladder, climbing past names like Dave Robisch and Dikembe Mutombo, then past more, like Bobby Jones and Fat Lever. Eventually, Jokic was passing Carmelo Anthony. Then the immortal Byron Beck to make the top four, and amongst the Nuggets Mount Rushmore.

Then the Skywalker several games back, with the Joker passing the legendary David Thompson for number three all-time on the Denver Nuggets list of All-Time Winshares. Jokic was cruising past the pantheon at a speed that was a little breathtaking. And then. Then this last week.

The guy Jokic passed this last week wasn’t a part of the franchise, he WAS the franchise, in terms of games played. With 837 notches on his belt in the Mile High City, Alex English ranks at the very top of the franchise list in terms of games played. His longevity and incredible consistency still stood no chance before the fast-moving Jokic (bet that’s the only time THAT sentence is ever typed)

With just over 550 games played for the Nuggets now, Jokic’s 84.5 WinShares now only has one more Nuggets icon standing between him and the top…

Knowing his proclivities, of course it’s a Horse that Jokic has to jump on his way to the summit, the one and only Dan Issel. While Issel was the only other Nuggets mainstay to play over 800 games in his career, he kept a slightly quicker clip at WinShares than even English mustered. At the blistering pace he’s set in helping this Golden Era Nuggets franchise to wins, he’ll pass Issel in 68 games. While his current star is shining so brightly that he’s already well-acknowleged as the greatest Nuggets player in history, another two-thirds of a season will make that statistically a no-doubter.

If Jokic plays as long as Issel? Almost 123 WinShares. As long as English? Just over 128. And what if… What if….

What if Jokic gets the chance to play as long as some of the real iron men of the game? As long as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? As long as Kobe Bryant? What might something like that mean for Jokic, and some of the amazingly unique “comps” he is often compared to with his completely iconoclastic game?

Here’s where Jokic looks far more amongst his contemporaries. While his pace is not as insane as Wilt or MJ, he’s also moving faster than either Shaq or Kobe. He may not ever fully pass all the names on this list. As a matter of fact, he most surely won’t. But if Jokic gets to play as many games as Shaq, and can keep up this clip, he’ll have nearly doubled Issel’s output. If he can play as many games as LeBron has? He’ll have probably cruised well past 200. And if by some twist of fate his oldest-slowest-man-in-the-room shtick sticks for as many games as the iron and ironic Abdul-Jabbar played, He could easily even find himself still within spitting distance of Chamberlain’s WinShares mark.

The guy who shares the ball the most for the Denver Nuggets is also the guy who’s helping them win in ways they’ve never seen before, and at a rate that ranks amongst the all-time best. Keep an eye on this Jokic kid. The Nuggets may be onto something there.

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