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The Most Assists Per Game In A Season By A Center: Nikola Jokic And Wilt Chamberlain Own 7 Of The Top 10 Best Seasons

The Most Assists Per Game In A Season By A Center: Nikola Jokic And Wilt Chamberlain Own 7 Of The Top 10 Best Seasons

When thinking about playmaking and generating assists, the players that come to mind are normally point guards or elite perimeter players. Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Steve Nash, and LeBron James are all names of elite passers who have led the league in assists at some point in their careers.

But big men are often not mentioned alongside the greatest passers ever, mainly because they are too busy dominating the paint and crashing the boards for rebounds thanks to their size. But make no mistake, there are some elite playmakers at the center position who have put up some incredible numbers at their position. It is time to give praise to the greatest passing centers ever, taking into account the top-10 most assists per game by a center in NBA history.

10. Sam Lacey - 5.7 APG (1979-80)

Sam Lacey

A 6’10” All-Star who made 1 All-Star Team appearance with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1975, Sam Lacey is one of the most underrated passers at the center position ever. The center averaged over 5 APG 3 separate times in his career, but his best season in that regard came in 1980 when he put up a very solid 5.7 APG.

Lacey was not offensively gifted like other star centers in his era at the time, but he had a knack for making pinpoint passes to gift his teammates open shots. Playing in the post and finding his guys for good shots throughout the season, Lacey helped teammates Otis Birdsong and Scott Wedman average 23.2 PPG and 19.8 PPG during the season. The big man had season averages of 9.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 5.7 APG as well.

9. Bill Russell - 5.8 APG (1966-67)

Bill russell

The greatest winner in NBA history with 11 championship rings, Bill Russell was recognized for his dominant defensive and rebounding abilities with the iconic Boston Celtics franchise. A 12-time All-Star and 4-time rebounding champion, Russell made his career off of being arguably the greatest defensive center ever. Despite standing 6’10” in an era of 7-footers, Russell was incredibly dominant.

But one area of Russell’s game that goes extremely underrated is his passing ability. The 11-time champion was exceptional at hauling down boards and leading the break with outlet passes. In fact, Bill Russell might have started that trend because he was clearly a groundbreaking player as a leader and playmaker from his position.

8. Nikola Jokic - 26.1 APG (2017-18)

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Nikola Jokic might be the greatest passing center ever, and he will appear more than one time on this list of elite passing big men. The Serbian monster started showcasing his superstar passing skills in the 2018 season after he took his numbers from 16.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 4.9 APG to 18.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 6.1 APG. Clear jumps across the board, Nikola was extremely effective on the basketball court and his passing was stealing headlines.

We have seen countless big men average near double-doubles per season, but Nikola’s jump to become one of the best passers in the league in 2018 was truly impressive. The Serbian was coming into his own as the best player on the Denver Nuggets, and his playmaking was truly extraordinary to witness for the former No. 41 overall pick.

7. Domantas Sabonis - 6.7 APG (2020-21)

Domantas Sabonis

Domantas Sabonis was recently traded this season, but that does not mean the big man is expendable Sabonis is a 2-time All-Star, formerly with the Indiana Pacers, but he has a new home with the Sacramento Kings. A double-double machine with a well-rounded offensive game, Sabonis is one heck of a talent at the center position.

But Sabonis is quietly a great passer and is probably the second-best passing center in the game behind Nikola Jokic. The center already has 3 seasons of averaging over 5 APG at 25 years old, but his best season came in 2021 which was his second straight All-Star season. Domantas averaged 6.7 APG, the 7th highest average in NBA history. An elite passer from the post, Sabonis had a knack for making others around him better including Caris LeVert, Victor Oladipo, and Malcolm Brogdon who all averaged over 20 PPG.

6. Nikola Jokic - 7.0 APG (2019-20)

Nikola Jokic

For the second time on this list, Nikola Jokic has one of the greatest passing seasons in NBA history. The Serbian’s 7.0 APG average came in his second All-Star season during the 2020 covid-shortened season when he also chipped in 19.9 PPG and 9.7 RPG. Jokic already proved himself to be a star in 2018, but he was becoming more consistent.

Even if Jokic and the Nuggets could not quite get to the NBA Finals ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Serbian was terrific during the year and also during the playoffs. Nikola started gaining more confidence as an All-Star, and he showcased the ability to make any pass on the court whether they are lobs, bounce passes, or chest passes.

5. Nikola Jokic - 7.3 APG (2018-19)

Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic’s first All-Star season resulted in the big man putting up a solid stat line of 20.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 7.3 APG. The Serbian took a jump in the 2018 season, but his 2019 jump might have been the best one yet because he started challenging the best big men in the league.

Nikola led his team in APG ahead of Jamal Murray (4.8 APG) and Monte Morris (3.6 APG) and started actually making a name for himself as one of the best passing bigs of all time. The All-Star elevated the play of others around him, as superstars normally do, helping Murray put up 18.2 PPG in the regular season and 21.3 PPG in the playoffs. Of course, there would be a lot more to come from Jokic as he started becoming comfortable at his position as a bonafide All-Star.

4. Wilt Chamberlain - 7.8 APG (1966-67)

(via Slam)

(via Slam)

Wilt Chamberlain owns the history of statistical achievements, including having the record for most points in a game and most rebounds in a single game. The most athletic center of all time, Chamberlain dominated a league with smaller and less athletic players. As a result, Wilt was literally a man among boys on the basketball court.

Wilt has 4 seasons of averaging at least 5 APG, and 9 seasons of putting up at least 4 APG. His raw dominance in the paint helped make him a force on offense, even if he was not scoring. Chamberlain had the ability to make passes for open shots because defenders would scramble to protect the paint whenever Wilt was there.

3. Nikola Jokic - 8.1 APG (2021-22)

Nikola Jokic

We started seeing the rise of Nikola Jokic as an elite passer once he made 2 All-Star Teams, but he would start breaking new grounds when he averaged over 8 APG during the 2021 season and also this current season. Through 58 games so far, Nikola is putting up an incredible 8.1 APG which ranks 7th in the league behind 6 guards.

Nikola is officially the point-center for the Denver Nuggets because he has the size to haul down defensive boards and also handle the ball on the break every time. Multiple times throughout the game, we often see the Nuggets give Nikola the ball in the half-court as well to set up plays. Whether in the post or on the wing, Nikola always picks the right pass.

2. Nikola Jokic - 8.3 APG (2020-21)

Nikola Jokic

Last year, Jokic put up his highest APG average in his career which also happened to be the second-highest average for a center in NBA history. Nikola became a point-center, possibly the first time we ever saw a center bringing the ball up the floor most of the time. Even if Nikola was not incredibly fast or explosive, he is one heck of a ballhandler.

Jokic put up 8.3 APG, only 0.3 APG behind the man who owns stat sheets in Wilt Chamberlain. Nikola has appeared 7 times on this list already, and there is no doubt who the greatest playmaker at the center position is. The Serbian has the most impressive resume as a passer at his position, and he seems to be getting better. Teams are struggling to defend Nikola because double-teaming him will lead to open shots on nearly every possession.

1. Wilt Chamberlain - 8.6 APG (1967-68)

(via Hoop & Hustle)

(via Hoop & Hustle)

Wilt Chamberlain’s 1968 season was ridiculous because he put up 24.3 PPG, 23.8 RPG, and 8.6 APG while carrying the Philadelphia 76ers to a 62-20 record which was 1st in the Eastern Division. Even if the 76ers did not win the championship that year, Chamberlain was spectacular on the court as a scorer and defender.

But Wilt’s passing was almost as great as his scoring because he put up the highest APG average for a center in NBA history. An elite paint scorer, Wilt often drew double and triple-teams which led to a ton of open shots for his teammates. Hal Greer and Chet Walker averaged 24.1 PPG and 17.9 PPG respectively during the season, and most of their shots came from Wilt’s passes.


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