The big man position has changed more in the past 15 seasons than it has ever before. This new era of big men in the NBA are capable of shooting the three, handling the ball, and dishing it out; which was a rarity in bigs before the 21st century. In this article I will highlight 5 different big men who have proven that they are exceptional passers. In order for players to qualify for this selection they must fit these requirements: play either the Center or Power Forward position, are listed as 6’9 or above, and do not have the label of a “point forward”.
Honorable Mentions: Andre Drummond, Pau Gasol, Mason Plumlee
5. Marc Gasol: 17.7 Ppg and 4.1 Apg – Memphis Grizzlies
Even though the Memphis Grizzlies are currently the worst team in the NBA, that doesn’t take away from Marc Gasol’s passing skills. Marc Gasol is one of the most skilled international big men in the league today and has been doing it for almost 10 years now. If Gasol was surrounded with playoff talent like he was earlier in his career we could expect for his assist total to most likely be around 5, which is exceptional for a big in the NBA today.
4. Al Horford: 12.9 Ppg and 4.9 Apg – Boston Celtics
Horford may not be the most exciting player in the NBA, but he is most definitely one of the best passers out of all the big men in the association. For the first half of the season Horford was leading the contending Celtics in Apg at 5.1. He is now averaging 4.9 which is second on the team to Kyrie Irving, who is averaging 5.1. Last year Horford set a career high for Apg at 5.0, so it will be interesting to see if Horford’s career high in Apg for a season continues to rise after this season.
3. Blake Griffin: 21.8 Ppg and 5.5 Apg – Detroit Pistons
When people mention Blake Griffin they will most likely talk about his athleticism, but his awareness and passing also contributes to the fact that he is one of the flashiest big men in the NBA. In 17 games since Blake was traded to Detroit he has been averaging 5.8 Apg which is easily a career high for him. This season as a whole, without having Chris Paul on his team as a primary ball handler, he is averaging more than 5.4 Apg, also a career high for Blake. Going forward if Blake continues to be on a team without a ball dominant player such as CP3, I would say we can expect around 5 to 6 Apg from him.
2. Demarcus Cousins: 25.2 Ppg and 5.4 Apg – New Orleans Pelicans
If it wasn’t for his friend and teammate Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins would easily be the best big man in the NBA. Cousins season was cut short this season due to an achilles injury but prior to the injury he was outstanding, filling up the stat sheet nightly. Boogies dominant scoring abilities allow him to find his open teammates because in most cases the defense has to concentrate and even double Cousins in particular areas of the court such as the paint. When defenses key in on Cousins, which in most cases they do, this allows for Boogie to demonstrate his gifted passing abilities.
1. Nikola Jokic: 17.2 Ppg and 6.1 Apg – Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic may be one of the most underrated players the NBA has to offer. Jokic is a gifted passer and has one of the best IQ’s of any big man in the NBA. He is a truly unique player listed as 6’10” 250 lbs, Jokic does just about everything for the Denver Nuggets. He has ten 10+ assists games this year which is by far the most of any listed Center in the NBA (ESPN). Jokic also leads all Centers that are not currently injured by 2 full Apg. Jokic is only 23 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. With a team full of young players growing together it would not be unjustifiable to expect Jokic to average close to 7 Apg at some point in his career. Averaging more or even close to 7 Apg is unheard of from a big man and is stellar for any player in the NBA over the course of a season.
Stats and Info Courtesy of: espn.com nba.com and basketball-reference.com
Image via: bleacherreport.com