When you think of the best starting five of all time, names like Jordan, LeBron, probably come up, but did you know Nikola Jokic does as well?
That’s right. If you were to create the optimal starting five with the best box plus/minus of all time would include the Denver Nuggets superstar center and 2021 NBA MVP.
It’s crazy to think about it, but Jokic is one of the more efficient players in the league. To see him up there above other legendary centers like Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem, and Hakeem is definitely surprising, however.
The box plus/minus all-time starting five…
PG: Magic Johnson (7.5)
SG: Michael Jordan (9.2)
SF: LeBron James (8.9)
PF: Larry Bird (6.9)
C: Nikola Jokic (7.9)
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) September 30, 2021
Nikola Jokic joins Michael Jordan, LeBron James in all time plus/minus starting five
What exactly is plus/minus in the NBA? Well, it’s a box scored related metric that evaluates a player’s contribution to a team while he’s on the court. The plus/minus of a player is solely based on box-score stats, and so things like dunks or deflections or other more arbitrary stats like that aren’t included.
Plus/minus takes into account a player’s position, stats, and overall team performance to measure how much the player contributed in points above league average per 100 possessions played. This is a little confusing, so let’s break it down a little bit.
Every player starts at the league average value at the beginning of a game, 0.0, which means you’re 0 points above or below average. Throughout the game, depending on how well you and your team play, your plus/minus can go up and down. Let’s say you finish a game with a plus/minus of +5.0.
That means that your team 5 points per 100 possessions better with you on the floor than any other league average player (at plus/minus 0). So, how much is a good plus/minus?
Well, for reference you can look at the stats above. Those are the top five best plus/minus ratings over a player’s career in NBA history.
In a single season, +10.0 or higher is a legendary season, +8.0 is like an MVP performance, +6.0 is about an All-NBA season, +4.0 might be an All Star season, +2.0 would be a good starter, 0 is league average, and -2.0 would be a bench player.
So, yes, Jokic really is in the top five all time when it comes to this stat. Last year, his box plus/minus was tops in the league at 11.7, and he’s been in the top 20 for box plus/minus six times in his career.