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Simply The Best

Mike Olson Avatar
January 20, 2023

You’re simply the best
Better than all the rest
Better than anyone
Anyone I’ve ever met
– Simply The Best, Tina Turner

Wow, it turns out Nikola Jokic actually can say something nice about himself… even if briefly. When asked by ESPN last night about becoming the Denver Nuggets new franchise leader in assists, he let the word “proud” actually seep into his conversation, culminating in his hoping his teammates will remember him as “someone great to play with”. Hard to imagine him even having that concern, isn’t it? With the way he raises everyones game, I picture every player who ever gets to play with Jokic as happy as Gary Harris is at the end of this Jokic pass…

That’s just one of the 3,686 assists the Joker has hung up for the Denver Nuggets over the 568 games he’s worn the uniform. That first number ended up being special because it vaulted Jokic into first place all-time for Denver in assists, the stat that absolutely must be Jokic’s favorite, with the way he plays. It pushed him (seven assists) past the iconic Alex English, who hung up 3,679 assists in his franchise-most 837 games.

It’s an astounding stat, one of many Nuggets records Jokic should own by the time he hangs them up with the team. He also already owns the franchise triple-double title (90 and counting). He’s also already atop the lists of the team’s advanced metrics in PER, Offensive Rating, WS/48, BPM, OBPM, and VORP. Shocker.

Unsurprisingly, the hopefully three-time MVP is no one-hit wonder. Jokic is also in the top 10 and climbing in stats like Games Played (6th place, look out Bill Hanzlik), Minutes Played (6th), Field Goals (5th), Attempts (6th), 2-Pointers (6th), 3-Pointers (5th), Misses (9th), Free Throws (5th), Offensive Rebounds (5th), Defensive Rebounds (2nd), Total Rebounds (2nd), Steals (6th), Turnovers (4th), Personal Fouls (9th), Points (5th), FG% (4th), 2-Pt % (2nd), Points Per Game (8th), Rebounds Per Game (5th), APG (9th), TS% (2nd), EFG% (4th), Defensive Rebound % (2nd), Total Rebound % (4th), Assist % (4th), Usage % (8th), Offensive WS (3rd), Defensive WS (3rd), WS (2nd), and Defensive BPM (4th).

Holy. Crap.

So the guy that already owns eight of Denver’s most important franchise stats… also sits in the top ten in THIRTY other categories, with only misses and turnovers the negatives amongst them. How many other franchises have a player who sits across so many statistical categories in their histories? That list is a short one, indeed, made up of names like Bryant, Russell, and Bird.

It also makes Jokic an interesting anomaly amongst his Nuggets peers, where stats like his assist-per-game more closely match all of the guards in the top 10 than the other forward/centers. Compare Jokic, at 6.49 assists per game over his career, in what would narrowly be the lowest APG amongst the guards…

– Ty Lawson – 6.60 (#5 in total assists all-time)
– Andre Miller – 6.66 (#4 all-time)
– Michael Adams – 7.17 (#6 all-time)
– Fat Lever – 7.52 (#3 all-time)
– Nick Van Exel – 8.36 (holy sh–, Nick! And #7 all-time)

… but surely matches more closely than the APG numbers of the other forward/centers amongst the top ten…

– Dan Issel – 2.50 (#8 all-time)
– Bill Hanzlik – 2.97 (#10 all-time)
– Ralph Simpson – 3.76 (#9 all-time)
– Alex English – 4.40 (#2 all-time)

While Jokic’s career APG numbers don’t reach the heights of a Van Exel, he also has amped up that portion of his game to a degree that his last three seasons (8.3, 7.9, and currently 9.9) have been very comparable. With those improvements, the Joker continually piles onto a stat that he is already the franchise leader in. With Wednesday night’s game, Jokic tacked on his 90th career triple-double, over double the second place leader (Lever) in the stat. In fact, if you add up all other recorded triple-doubles on the Nuggets top-ten list, including the nine guys tied for ninth place with one apiece, you come to a grand total of 73. If I’m reading those stats right, and doing my most-basic subtraction, Nikola has 17 more triple-doubles than every other Nuggets player in history combined. He’s now sixth all-time for the entire league, with a very real chance of climbing into the top five early next season if he keeps up the pace.

All of this, combined with one of the healthier and more talented squads in recent memory, has the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference for the longest stint this particular reporter can ever recall, and has them with their best-ever start after 45 games (32-13). As the man they call the Joker climbs nearly every statistical category the franchise has to offer, and shoots to become only the fourth person ever to become a back-to-back-to-back MVP, the team looks to be in as good a position to win a championship as they ever have. This moment in Nuggets history, and the Joker who is leading the way…

Simply the best.

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