Best NBA Draft steals of all time: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic has changed the idea of what a modern NBA center should be.
Drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 41st pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, this wasn’t what anyone expected.
After learning that he had been drafted into the NBA (Jokic was home in Serbia the night of the 2014 NBA Draft), Jokic decided to spend his next season playing at home in the Adriatic League in Serbia.
Jokic finally made his NBA debut in the 2015-16 NBA season at the age of 20. Right from the jump, the 7-foot Serb proved to be a force with Denver, despite his lack of athleticism and questionable fitness.
At the 2017 NBA trade deadline in February, Denver chose to trade their other emerging European big man — Jusuf Nurkic — to the Portland Trail Blazers, thus opening up more playing time and opportunity for Jokic.
He excelled with the new role.
While he has only just finished his fourth season in the league, Jokic has seen his stats improve each year, culminating in the his NBA All-Star selection in the 2018-19 NBA season.
The center earned All-NBA First Team honors after averaging 20.1 points per game, 10.8 rebounds a game and 7.3 assists a game. He finished first in the league in assists among centers, beating out Marc Gasol for second place by 2.9 assists per game.
Stats — and more importantly, wins — can earn a player notoriety. For Jokic, it’s more than just that. At just his fourth year in the NBA, he is re-writing how the center position is played, altering the way front offices will look at the position going forward.
When a mid-second-round player does that, he should be considered — at the very least — a draft steal.