It’s no secret that Nikola Jokić is the greatest passing big man of all-time. That torch was passed onto him by greats of the past nearly a half a decade ago.

The dynamic setups, flashy moves, pinpoint accuracy, and perfect touch all underscore exactly why Jokić’s passing is so great. He passes the ball from all over the court too, not just from the high post, or the low post. Though there are certain rhythms to his decision making that long-time watchers understand over time, it never gets old to watch defenses continuously bamboozled by the basketball ending up in a location they never saw coming.

But if there’s one aspect of Jokić’s playmaking that separates him from other great big man passers, it’s his playmaking off the dribble.

The NBA posted the above video a few days ago on their social channels. They’ve been posting far more frequently about Jokić lately, beginning to realize that the NBA world does in fact think Jokić is a cool player to watch and deserves to be featured. I watched the video, as I do with most Jokić content, and a thought struck me that hadn’t previously:

Jokić’s ball handling skills turned the Nuggets into the most entertaining viewing experience in the entire NBA.

Some of Denver’s most important plays in their arsenal involve Jokić handling the ball off the dribble. From the two-man game with Jamal Murray, to running pick and rolls for lob dunks with Aaron Gordon, to dribble handoffs with Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jokić’s dribbling skills are at the core of who the Nuggets are as a team and why they ended up winning a championship.

Jokić’s ball handling skills also helped unlock different aspects of Denver’s offense that wouldn’t have otherwise been available to them. Jokić, like in the video above, often leads the fast break after collecting a rebound, freeing up Murray and the other guards to run the lanes instead of collecting the basketball in the backcourt. Sometimes, Murray screens for Jokić. Sometimes, Jokić rejects the screen and dribbles to the hoop or turns his dribble into a post up with grace and fluidity.

I mean, how many centers have ever gone behind the back two times in a possession?

It takes a special level of coordination to handle the basketball at the NBA level, process the game at high speed, and execute passes exactly how they need to be made. It’s why centers being lead playmakers for a team is so, so rare. As the game has evolved and become more position-less, more and more forwards are taking on passing duties. Centers are the last to arrive though outside of a couple of exceptions, Jokić being one of them. There have been 25 total seasons involving a center averaging at least five assists per game. Jokić makes up six of them, followed by Wilt Chamberlain with four such seasons and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with three such seasons.

Raise the threshold to six assists per game, and there have only been nine seasons in NBA history by a center: Jokić still has six of them, followed by Wilt with two and Domantas Sabonis this season with one. Sabonis is one of the only other centers in the modern NBA to operate as the fulcrum of their offense like Jokić. Sabonis averaged 7.3 assists per game and helped lead the Sacramento Kings to the greatest offense in NBA regular season history.

Beyond Jokić and Sabonis, the center with the next highest assists is Joel Embiid at 4.2 per game, a far cry from a passing hub. Alperun Sengun shows promise as a young center with playmaking skill, and Bam Adebayo has averaged higher assist totals in previous years. There really is a drop-off though, which emphasizes two things about Jokić: don’t take his passing for granted, and if it was so easy to copy Denver’s style, everyone would be doing it.

As it turns out, the handles, touch, awareness, and skill level are incredibly important for Jokić and the Nuggets to succeed. Him growing up as a point guard and being allowed to develop his skills without being pigeonholed into the responsibilities of a center may have been the perfect thing for him. The Nuggets have certainly taken advantage of that skill level, and Denver’s patience in allowing Jokić to perfect those skills has certainly paid off.

What’s also great about Jokić’s passing is that it made the NBA different. With so many heliocentric ball handlers like LeBron James, Luka Dončić, James Harden, and Trae Young in the league today, NBA games often feature 70 pick and rolls, passing reads to the paint and to the corners, and one player handling the ball most of the time. Jokić’s style, though he’s able to handle the ball as needed, allows the Nuggets to share the rock. Jokić has often led the entire NBA in touches per game for the last few seasons, but last year, he ranked 54th in total time of possession with the basketball in his hands. The decisions Jokić makes are quick, to the point, and often extremely valuable. That’s doubly true when Jokić puts the ball on the floor, because it’s very rare for Jokić to pound the ball six or seven times on a possession.

The NBA needed a breath of fresh air from a style perspective. Jokić and the Nuggets bring exactly that with a culture and style that allows everybody to do just about everything. Jamal Murray, a point guard, screens for the center. Aaron Gordon, a power forward, brings the ball up the floor. Michael Porter Jr., a perimeter shooter, often attacks the paint as a rebounder or cutter. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the ideal role player, frequently colors outside the lines with pull-up jumpers and pick and roll possessions. Jokić inverts just about everything, and life on the Nuggets becomes even more fun when he takes off with the basketball because something joyous often occurs about five seconds later.

The Nuggets sometimes need Jokić to score, but the team is at its best when Jokić is playing distributor. With the talented shooters the Nuggets have amassed around him, Jokić often looks to get the entire offensive machine going before looking to his own scoring. The team has learned to trust Jokić to make these decisions, and the Serbian superstar helped guide the Nuggets to a championship this year as a result. Whether he and the Nuggets can get back to the mountaintop again is anyone’s guess.

What’s not up for debate though? Jokić is the greatest passer of this generation, and his off-the-dribble skills are a big reason why.