Chart: Nikola Jokic’s steadily improving assist proficiency

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By now, Nikola Jokic’s unique passing ability is no secret, even on the national media stage which has tended to overlook the Denver Nuggets in recent years, as his flash, flair, and efficiency in creating easy looks for his teammates last season earned accolades not only from loyal fans and stat heads but also the likes of Charles Barkley, Jeff Van Gundy, and Bill Walton.

Still, sometimes it’s good to confirm that what we already know – or think we know – based on the good old eye test is backed up by the numbers. And in Jokic’s case, it certainly is.

The two lines in the graph above chart the rise of Jokic’s assist proficiency through the 153 games he has played thus far in his two-season career. The blue line might be less surprising, as it represents his assists per game, a number that would be expected to rise as he earned a larger role and along with it more minutes. The more telling figure, however, is the red line, which shows that not only has his per-game production consistently increased, but at the same time his assists per minute have as well.

Granted, this is among the simpler assist metrics (a good description of some of the more advanced ones can be found here at Basketball-Reference.com, which is also the source of the above statistics). Nevertheless, it is sufficient for our purposes here since we are only looking at The Joker’s performance over time in isolation, and not comparing him to other players. And we can clearly see a definitive and steady increase throughout his first two seasons in how prolific a playmaker he has been.

I would currently be prepared to put money down on him being the next in a fairly elite set of NBA centers who have averaged 5 or more assists per game, though I might be more reluctant to wager on this if the Nuggets were to acquire, for example, a ball-dominating point guard like Kyrie Irving who might take away touches from Nikola and alter Denver’s offensive flow. But for now, Jokic indeed appears to be on a 5-plus trajectory, and the addition of Paul Millsap, who like Jokic is an excellent passer who keeps the ball moving, will likely only facilitate this prospect.

ICYMI, My latest at BSN: Understanding the Nuggets’ next big salaries as a percentage of the salary cap

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Should the Nuggets, or any team, pay Gallinari $22-25 million a year? Head on over to BSN Nuggets for my latest article on how all these outlandish new NBA salaries are best understood as a percentage of the salary cap.

You can read it here: Understanding the Nuggets’ next big contracts as a percentage of the salary cap.

And while you’re there at BSN Nuggets, be sure to also check out all the great coverage of NBA and Nuggets free agency and trade news and rumors.

 

The Nuggets Den social media stuff

Twitter: @NuggetsDenJoel

YouTube: NuggetsDenJoel

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NuggetsDen/

Instagram: nuggetsdenjoel

Twitter is pretty much where I live, so if you want to actually communicate with me, that’s the best place to do it.

I don’t make videos nearly as often as I used to, so my YouTube channel contains more relics than not (although that is kind of fun in its own right). I will have some time this summer so I hope to make some fresh vids there, but it’ll more likely be for embedding in posts than standalone content.

I created a Facebook page mainly in case some people might just prefer that medium as a way to follow posts. But it will primarily be a repository feed for Nuggets Den blog and Instagram posts, so if you already follow me on Twitter it’ll probably be pretty redundant.

Mainly to follow rather than post, I just got on Instagram today, inspired by Steve Hess’ posts of Jokic working out in Serbia. Again, there will be a good deal of redundancy here, as I’ll basically be posting Nuggets charts and graphics, most of which will have already been used in my posts either at the Nuggets Den or at BSN Denver. So if you’re already checking those, you may not find a whole lot of new offerings there.

The bottom line is that I’ll always be most active on Twitter, and much less so on Facebook and Instagram, so the latter two are mainly just there for people who really prefer those platforms.

Oh yeah, I have a Google+ page, too, but I can’t get WordPress to auto-trigger posts to it, and does anyone use that, anyway? I don’t know. I don’t. As of now, thouh, I have a lot of posts sitting there that say “Shared only with you” that I can’t seem to make publicly visible – and frankly, it hardy seems worth trying.

So now that you know where everything’s at, feel free to follow or like – or not – as you please, and maybe I’ll see you around one place or another. Thanks for dropping by.

 

Jamal Murray’s production in 9 games as a starter puts him in good company

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During his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets, Jamal Murray started 9 games.
In those 9 games as a starter, he averaged 13.0 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game in 32.9 minutes with a true shooting percentage of .519.
Using search parameters approximating those stats (>/= 12.5 pts, 4.5 ast, 2.5 reb, .500 TS%), this is the complete list of NBA guards 20 years old or younger (per Basketball-Reference.com) who had that level of production in their rookie seasons:
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Murray is not, of course, on that list, as his numbers for the entire season were considerably lower (9.9 points, 2.1 assists, 2.6 rebounds, .518 TS%).
So while this is not to suggest that he had nearly as impressive or impactful of a rookie season as the players above, what it does show is that, in the small 9-game sample size of his games as a starter, he was producing on a level that, if he can sustain it going forward, will put him in some fairly respectable company.
It is also worth noting, that even as his minutes and production increased as a starter, his TS% stayed constant, which is a good sign that his efficiency will likely not drop off in the larger role he will certainly have next season.

Why is Jamal Murray’s offensive rating 103 at Basketball-Reference.com but 109.1 at NBA.com/stats? Explained.

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A few days ago I was perusing the data for Jamal Murray at NBA.com/stats, and noticed that his offensive rating was fifth in the NBA among all qualified bench guards, significant not only since it’s a high ranking for a rookie, but perhaps even more notably due to whose company he was in the midst of:

The Blue Arrow’s offensive rating of 109.1 (the 109.4 in my initial tweet was a typo) was fifth among bench guards, after Andre Iguodala, Eric Gordon, Patty Mills, and Manu Ginobli. Coming in next at sixth and seventh were Joe Johnson and Lou Williams. It’s a feather in Murray’s cap for him to be so solidly in the mix of this crew of veterans, all of whom have eight or more years of experience in the NBA, and play for some of the league’s best teams (as evidenced by the fact they have all advanced to their respective conference semi-finals in the playoffs).

Wanting to explore Murray’s standout offensive rating in a little more depth, I turned to Basketball-Reference.com, intending to search for a historical perspective on how many  past players (qualified with a sufficient number of games and minutes) had likewise finished their rookie campaigns with an offensive rating of 109 or higher.

The only problem was, when I looked up Jamal’s page at Basketball-Reference, they had his offensive ratingg listed as 103. I wrinkled my brow, scratched my head, and tweeted about my puzzling find:

I had noticed in the past that there had sometimes been this sort of discrepancy, but I had always chalked it up to the two sites perhaps having slightly different formulas, and, if memory serves (and it might not), this was the first time the difference was so big as to really jump out at me.

For one reason or another, probably just because I got sidetracked, I didn’t pursue the matter any further, and I expected it would likely go unresolved.

But just now I had the pleasant surprise of getting a very helpful reply from Basketball-Reference which clears the mystery up completely:

So there you have it. In basic terms, offensive rating at Basketball-Reference is an individual production stat, while the metric of the same name at NBA.com/stats is essentially a measure of team production when the player is on the court.

So in Murray’s case, the Nuggets as a whole scored 109.1 points per 100 possessions while he was on court, but Jamal himself individually produced 103 points per 100 possessions during his playing time.

Clear enough, right? Two different stats, measuring different things, but both have ended up bearing the same name. (I didn’t ask, but presumably the same difference will be found between defensive ratings at the two sites as well.)

What is less clear, to me at least, is the immensely complicated formula, which is quite a few levels above my pay grade, that Basketball-Reference uses to calculate a player’s offensive rating. For those of you who wish to brave those waters, the formula can be found here.

Many thanks to Basketball-Reference for claring up this matter, which surely would have stuck in my craw for a good long time if they hadn’t shed light on its resolution. Much appreciated!

 

Why Nikola Jokic is the “King of the Unicorns” – animated video by Benjamin Sterne

Benjamin Sterne asked me to share the latest creations in his “Nug Sesh” animated Denver Nuggets video series, and I am more than happy to oblige, given the fantastic quality of his work. In this release, he compares Nuggets center Nikola Jokic to the NBA’s other “unicorn” big men, and makes the case for The Joker being King of them all.

If you have not done so already, I highly recommend that you subscribe to Benjamin’s YouTube channel “Dr. Skipaturner Productions” here, and follow him on Twitter @BenjaminSterne here so that you can always stay on top of his latest and greatest Nuggets video work as he drops it.

So, with no further ado, enjoy!