Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is not your traditional big man for many reasons, including that he rarely decides to dunk in a game.
Considering he is such a great passer and distributor, he already has more triple-doubles than dunks this season.
Jokic has a standing reach of 9-foot-3, but he was described as having “possibly the shortest vertical leap” of any player in the league. One report described his vertical jump as less than five inches.
Jameer Nelson, one of Jokic’s former teammates who is 13 years his senior, has described himself as “old and fat” but says he’s still able to jump higher than the 23-year-old.
Michael Malone, his head coach, has joked that fans should get free hot dogs whenever he decides to dunk because it’s such a “rare” sighting.
To put this in perspective, he has made 157 layups (32.4 percent of shots made) while his dunks have accounted for just 1.6 percent of his field goals. Last season, layups accounted for 37.8 percent of his total shots made. As a rookie, that mark was even higher at 47.2 percent.
According to Cleaning the Glass, he ranks in the 49th percentile for accuracy near the rim, but in the 80th percentile for his midrange shots as well as long-distance attempts.
He is 6-foot-10 and has averaged 8.1 points per game in the paint, which is still impressive. But for comparison, rookie Donovan Mitchell is 6-foot-3 and has averaged 8.5 points per game in the paint.
Rather than drive to the basket to score, he will often decide to pass. In fact, only three players have averaged more passes per game (2.0) from the paint than Jokic. He leads the NBA in total assists (35) from the paint.
Malone spoke about what makes Jokic such an unusual player (via Sporting News):
“He used to be a fat point guard. He was a point guard growing up, he had the ball in his hands. That’s why I think his ball handling, his passing are where they’re at because he has that foundation growing up.”
Only four players (including Golden State’s Draymond Green and Cleveland’s LeBron James) have more assists from post-ups (52) than Jokic.
His teammates have averaged 1.29 points per possession after his passes when he is posting up. This leads all players who have had more than 45 possessions on this play type, per Synergy Sports. So it makes sense he would opt for this rather than showcase his inability to dunk.
Even when nudged on by adorable children, he told them he never dunks in games and refused to show off for them.