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Scouting report on Nikola Jokic

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Jake Rauchbach, the player performance specialist for Temple University’s men’s basketball team, breaks down Mudiay’s strengths and weaknesses

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Jake Rauchbach coached at the collegiate level, founded The MindRight Pro Program and trained numerous professional and Olympic athletes. Now, Rauchbach provides high performance analysis on the NBA and college basketball and serves as the Player Performance Specialist for Temple University's men's basketball team.

Coming off a of a huge career 40-point performance versus the Knicks at the Garden a week ago, Nikola Jokic is playing at an extremely high level as he and the Nuggets head into the second part of the season. Jokic clearly outplayed counterpart, Kristaps Porzingis, going for 40 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals, while the Zinger recorded just 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, and one block.

Overall, Jokic has a well-rounded offensive game. From his post up to his pick and roll play, the 21-year-old is skilled far beyond his years. This being said, there are several areas of his game, especially on the defensive end, that could be improved. Doing so could expedite Jokic’s career trajectory, possibly giving the Nuggets a bonafide superstar in years to come.

Despite his potential, there are areas in which Jokic struggles. Let’s take a look at which areas of his game Jokic could improve upon and identify player development techniques that could help catalyze his performance on both ends of the floor moving forward.

Statistics: 15.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 8.5 rpg, 59% FG, 82% FT, 35% 3PT (45 Games)

Strengths

Offensive End

Well Rounded Offensive Game – Jokic does many things well on the offensive end and has an extremely well rounded offensive game. He shoots 60% from the field in the post, 54% as the pick and roll man, and 44% on catch and shoot opportunities.

Post UpJokic ranks in the 95th percentile in the league in scoring efficiency from the post, averaging 1.7 points per possessions. He is shooting 59% from the field down low and does his best work from the right block where he likes to turn his left shoulder. He ranks as the most efficient player in the league on the right block when turning over his left shoulder to score it. He has scored 30 points on 21 possessions. Jokic likes to spin off of post defenders and finish on the other side of the rim, as he does against the Boston CelticsAmir Johnson below.

Pick and Roll Man – In P&Rs, Jokic has also been effective as the roll man. He is averaging 1.2 points per possessions and ranks in the 70th percentile in the league in ball screen action. He is exceptional when rolling to the basket versus popping out after screening.

Spot Up Jumpers – Jokic ranks in the 83rd percentile in the league in spot up situations this season. When catching and shooting with no dribble, Jokic is averaging 1.2 points per possession, scoring 56 points on 46 possessions. As you see in the below clip, his shot preparation is pretty good, keeping his hand held high and creating rhythm into his shot by stepping into the pass from teammate Kenneth Faried.

Defensive End

Post Up Coverage – So far this season, Jokic ranks in the 74th percentile in the league when guarding the post, giving up just .78 points per possession. He guards the right block extremely well, ranking in the 88th percentile in the league. Take a look at how he keeps the WizardsMarcin Gortat contained on a face up running hook, influencing him to the baseline… solid post D by the youngster.

Weaknesses

Offensive End

Transition – Despite the well-rounded game Jokic displays on the offensive end of the floor, he ranks out as only an average transition efficiency player this season. Despite being a good ball handler for a big guy, Jokic often gets out of control, and his decision-making is questionable. He ranks as the fourth worst player in the league in this category, with 61% of his possessions resulting in turnovers. At times, he tries to do too much, as can be seen in the below clip, where Jokic attempts to evade oncoming defender Greg Monroe by going behind the back but turns the ball over. Staying within his box and getting the ball to his point guard will enable him to bring these efficiency ratings up in transition as the season progresses.

Left Block, Right Shoulder Finishes – Overall, in Jokic’s post up game when posted on the left block, the big man has not been efficient this season turning over his right shoulder to score. He ranks in the 18th percentile in the league, scoring 8 points on 11 possessions. In the below clip, Jokic tries to work against Golden State’s Kevin Durant, but Durant sits on the top side, forcing him to turn baseline over his right shoulder resulting in an off balance push hook shot.

Defense End

Isolation Coverage – Jokic struggles guarding players in space and in isolation situations. He ranks in the 22nd percentile in the league, giving up 1.0 point per possession. He is allowing opponents to shoot a 49% field goal percentage when guarding one-on-one. Take a look at Kristaps Porzingis facing up Jokic from the right corner at the Garden last week. Because of Jokic’s lateral foot speed, he struggles to keep players in front, and on this play, Porzingis goes right around Jokic and gets a bucket in the middle of the lane.

Pick and Roll Man Coverage – Jokic is allowing 61% shooting on roll man opportunities, and gives up an average of 1.3 points per possession. This ranks him in the 8th percentile in the league in this category. On this PNR play, Jokic shows up a step too slow throughout the below defensive sequence. He does a pretty decent job stringing the MavericksYogi Ferrell out in the initial action. However, he proceeds to turn his back to the offense, a no-no, and because of this average to poor foot speed, shows up late in his closeout to Dirk Nowitzki and drops way to low in the final pick and roll with Nowitzki and Wesley Matthews.

Guarding Jump Shooters – Jokic ranks in the 6th percentile in the league when guarding jump shooters. He has given up 51 points on 38 possessions, with the opposition shooting a blazing 58% against him.

Player Development To Help Jokic improve: One way that players can find their rhythm in the initial moments of a game is by focusing on making an initial play that gets them into the flow of play .One instance is grabbing a tough offensive rebound and/or ball pressuring the opposition into a turnover. I don’t know what play Jokic may use to find his rhythm, however, he could employ this same sort of philosophy on the defensive end in order to catalyze his performance from game to game.

Another method Jokic could use is to implement an in-game re-focusing technique in timeout situations geared towards “locking in” on the defensive end quickly. Thirdly, integrating a systematic Chinese Medicine performance enhancement approach that clears out energetic blockages held on the subconscious level could help to unimpede his high performance state. By improving his focus, Jokic could access his peak performance state faster, and in turn, eliminate the inefficiencies in his game. Synthesizing all of these techniques with traditional on-court player development would probably help the Nuggets’ forward begin to level up his performance, especially on the defensive end.

* All statistics are courtesy of Synergy and Basketball-Reference.com and are current as of February 12, 2017.