Nikola Jokic is a two-time MVP not because he can jump out of the gym but because he has a well-rounded skill set, can shoot, and most importantly can see and think the game a step ahead of everyone else on the court. Luka Doncic is somewhat from the same mold, he doesn’t create space with his athleticism but rather his craft, strength, ability to switch speeds, and he sees the game differently.
The success of those Europeans bothers some Americans who want to believe the NBA game is about athleticism, Goran Dragic said in an interview with Bulgarian-based sports site Sportal (thanks for the translation Eurohoops.net)
“His [Jokic] IQ is such that he’s messing with them there,” Dragic said. “Americans are pushing their way forward through marketing and that’s all normal but when you put everything on the floor, it’s a different story. Jokic is not fast, he doesn’t jump and that gets up their noses, how can a man play like this? They [NBA players] are all in good shape, you need to have six percent body fat, you need to jump… And I think it gets on their nerves, how can Jokic and Luka play like this?”
While around the NBA Combine and draft, the “measurables” do influence picks, this strikes me as a bit of an overstatement (albeit one where a European player is propping up his friends). Craft and basketball IQ are far from ignored around the draft.
There is a baseline of athleticism that needs to be met to play in the NBA, but there is more than one way to succeed.
Exceptional athleticism can be the first step to a historic career — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Russell Westbrook are examples — but it alone is not enough. Some insane athletes enter the NBA every season who do not pan out because they cannot master the craft or mental sides of the game — often those picks slide down the draft until a team considered them a reasonable risk at that point. On the other side, “Slo-Mo” Kyle Anderson has not carved out an impressive NBA career because of his raw athleticism. Chris Paul at age 37 is an All-NBA player because of just his physical gifts. They were drafted for a reason (CP3 was No. 4 overall).
There is no one path to NBA success. Despite how Dragic and others may sometimes feel, NBA teams recognize this. Some even draft accordingly.
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Dragic says success of Jokic, Doncic bothers Americans focused on pure athleticism originally appeared on NBCSports.com