Nikola Jokic really loves to pass, which is understandable, since he might be a more creative passer than anyone else in basketball. He leads the playoffs in passes per game, and among centers is second to none in just about every statistical category having to do with the sport’s most egalitarian act.
Jokic’s most aesthetically pleasing passes usually prompt a one-word question: how? There’s cartography in his work; the reigning 1st-team All-NBA center doesn’t see the floor so much as command the other nine pieces on it. He manipulates defenders by reading their momentum before softly delivering a care package to a teammate.
Jokic’s dominance in the Denver Nuggets series against the Los Angeles Clippers can be attributed to several skills that elevate his passing, from the dominant post moves that demand a double team to the precise three-point shot that lets him pump-and-drive into a self-created 5-on-4 advantage. He’ll whip the ball cross-court and side-arm or shovel it underhand—passes that you’d expect to see from a scrambling quarterback or water polo wing, not a 7’0”” NBA center.
To get ready for Game 7, I watched every single pass Jokic made in this series (about 500), then ranked the best. It was an impossible task, especially as I tried to whittle the best 15 or so down—it felt like selecting your favorite Stevie Wonder songs or AJ1 colorways— which is why there are six passes on this list, rather than the intended five.
6. Game 4: Just your typical “overhead, cross-court, no-look for 3”
The most ridiculous Jokic passes are the ones only he knows he’s throwing. Here, all five Clippers are convinced he’s either executing a dribble hand-off with Paul Millsap or dumping the ball off to Gary Harris as he slips to the hole. But no. What happens instead is why they call him The Joker: an overhead, cross-court no-look that hits Jerami Grant right in his shot pocket and catches all five defenders off guard.
5. Game 3: Jokic is the NBA’s most fun teammate
Even though this isn’t even the most impressive outlet pass Jokic has thrown in this series, what it did do was shatter NBA twitter, and for good reason. In the future, packets of $10,000 bills should be printed as flip books that make this play come to life. It’s a crisp touchdown pass, completed perfectly, with zero hesitation and no margin for error, absent consistent practice reps. Jokic just knows that Jerami Grant is streaking up the floor without seeing him take off. How?