Buy Low on Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic by the numbers
- Age: 21 (Feb 19, 1995)
- Rookie WARP Projection: 3.1 (Brandon Ingram was 2.9)
- Player Efficiency Rating: ’15-’16 (21.58) and ’16-’17 (16.86)
- ESPN RPM: ’15-’16 RPM led all NBA rookies
- CARMELO Forecast: All-Star with higher 5-year market value than Kristaps Porzingis
- CARMELO Comparisons (3 of 10): Carlos Boozer, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Love
He’s a blue chip prospect without the expensive price tag
Though he slipped to the second round in 2014, Jokic wasn’t a “pop up” prospect. Given his combination of age, production and size in the Adriatic League, his statistical prospect status compared favorably to college stars such as Brandon Ingram and Jahlil Okafor. He was a blue chip prospect discounted due to his lack of “NBA readiness,” limited information and track record… plus whatever biases linger about “Euros” among NBA GM’s. (You know, the same bias that caused pundits to have a heart attack about drafting a superior prospect in Porzingis over Justise Winslow).
It’s highly unlikely last year was a fluke
While Porzingis got more attention, in some respects Jokic had a more efficient rookie year. Jokic’s relatively slow start, coupled with low minutes, may have some dynasty owners believing last year was a fluke. Basketball stats normalize fairly quickly, which is why we can be reasonably certain that what Jokic did in 80 games last year was “real” and we should have patience. What he’s doing this year at 21 is still plenty impressive and I expect quick gains when he is given a chance to play more at center with Jusuf Nurkic relegated to the bench.
He’s good in real life, which means the playing time is coming
Jokic isn’t just an offensive specialist, in fact he actually be better on defense. Defensive metrics are tough across many sports and can be unreliable and noisy, but based on everything the have at our disposal we can be reasonably certain that Jokic is a tremendous asset on defense. We know he has a diverse offensive game (more on that below) and there’s evidence he can handle center, so I’m confident the starters minutes are coming.
Jusuf Nurkic’s game just doesn’t translate well to the modern NBA and it’s only a matter of time before he starts to get phased out (he’s under 20 mpg in his last two… maybe it’s happening now).
He’s a play-making, scoring, shot blocking, theft artist
Jokic has the skill set to finish in the top five of the player rater perennially. His per minute numbers are slightly down this year, but how many centers do you know that, with a little more playing time, can reasonably expect to average over four assists per game with a three, a steal, a block while averaging over 50% from the field and 80% from the line?
His true shooting percentage, free throw percentage, assist rate, rebound rate, block rate, steal rate and defensive plus minus all rated significantly above average last year.
What I would trade for him
Jokic is still an easy top 20 dynasty asset for me, which means I’d happily part with a more productive established veteran like Isaiah Thomas, Demar Derozan or Carmelo Anthony. Given his playing time blues, Euro and second round pick bias, and the fact that he hasn’t been as efficient as he was last year, he may not cost you that much.