Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic might not be able to jump over a matchbox, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the best low post scorers in basketball.
Jokic is converting two-thirds of his shots in the restricted area this season. He’s the second-most efficient post-up player in basketball (1.11 points scored per possession) out of anyone who’s posted up at least 150 times.
The 6-foot-11 Serbian was particularly lethal down low in the Nuggets’ 126-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. He scored 10 of his 16 points Wednesday by making post moves. Let’s run through some of them to get a better sense of the tools one of the best low-post scorers in basketball has in his tool box.
He takes advantage of mismatches and makes the easy play.
This was Jokic’s first post bucket of the night. It starts off as a pick-and-roll between Jokic and Jameer Nelson. The Cavaliers decide to switch, which leaves Jokic matched up against 6-foot-3 Kyrie Irving. Jokic recognizes the mismatch right away. He backs Irving down with two dribbles rather effortlessly and spins left for the easy two.
His footwork is exceptional.
Jokic doesn’t exactly have the fleetest feet on the defensive end. On offense, it’s a different story. Here he faces Kevin Love up and hints that he’s going to his right-handed jump hook. Then he pivots away from the basket and pump fakes, which causes Love to bite. Jokic pivots one more time toward the basket and flips the ball in after effectively putting Love through the blender.
He’s great with both hands.
This play is hilarious because you can actually see a Cleveland assistant on the bench telling Tristan Thompson the exact move Jokic is going to make before he executes it. Jokic sets Thompson up for the spin move with two hard dribbles into his body. Jokic makes the move and decides to go up on the far side of the basket, where he shoots an awkward left-handed shot. Jokic is great at relying on his non-dominant hand down low, and that helps him get shot attempts off that other big men can’t.
He’s stronger than he appears.
You wouldn’t think that Jokic would be able to hold his own in the post against LeBron James. Jokic is doughy; James looks like he was cut from a slab of marble. And yet Jokic was able to convert this one late in the third quarter that caused the crowd at the Pepsi Center to explode.
“I didn’t think that it was him or whatever,” Jokic said after the game. “I just wanted to score. That’s it. I’m feeling really good on the left block right now. I’m confident in my shooting, in my post moves, in my hook. I feel really good.”
He’s got guard skills in a big man’s body.
What other center in the league can shoot a scoop shot like that? That’s a move you typically see out of guards and forwards. Jokic used to be a point guard — a “fat point guard,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone reminded us earlier this season — before a growth spurt caused him to change positions. His background makes sense when you see some of the passes Jokic makes and when he does stuff like this.
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