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2022 NBA Draft: Heat select Nikola Jovic at No. 27 overall

The 6-foot-11 Serbian averaged 18.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 blocks in the U19 World Cup.

2022 NBA Draft
Welcome to the 305, Nikola!
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Miami Heat have selected Nikola Jovic with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He averaged 12.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 0.7 steals, shooting 41.4 percent from the floor, 31.5 percent from 3-point range and 71.8 percent from the free-throw line last season in the Adriatic League (Serbia), winning the league’s Young Player of the Year award.

Jovic, who just turned 19 in June, was one of the top prospects available, along with EJ Liddell (Ohio State), TyTy Washington (Kentucky), Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee) and Jaden Hardy (G-League Ignite), among plenty others.

The Heat had a need at the power forward position heading into the offseason with Markieff Morris’ impending free agency along with P.J. Tucker opting out of his $7.5 million player option, even though some expect Tucker to return.

In the U19 World Cup, Jovic made the All-Tournament team — posting 18.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, shooting 49 percent from the floor, 36.4 percent (12-33) from 3-point range and 65.2 percent from the charity stripe in seven contests.

After all the pre-draft speculation of Miami potentially trading back, Pat Riley and the Heat brain trust must’ve really liked Jovic’s game. And it’s hard to blame them — at 6-foot-11, he can handle, playmake, has shooting upside, can get to the rim without outstanding athleticism and is good off-the-ball. Defensively, he leaves something to be desired, but he’s going to one of the best developmental organizations in the league that will help him round out that portion of his game.

And, again, he’s only 19! While it might be against the grain of the tough, hard-nosed athlete that can defend multiple positions, this is an excellent upside pick from Miami, even if he’s not counted on to produce a ton right away.

Welcome to South Beach, Nikola.


What others are saying about him?

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony:

Of all the international prospects in this draft, Jovic has the most seamless NBA fit as a modern forward who can shoot, handle and pass. Every bit of 6-10 with an improved 215-pound frame and a 7-0 wingspan, Jovic’s measurements are similar to forwards ranging from Michael Porter Jr. to Kevin Knox to Sam Dekker to Darius Bazley. With the size to function as a four once his body matures, the late-blooming Jovic looks the part of a legitimate NBA floor-spacer with the shooting stroke to back it up, as he’s now up to 40% from the international line through 14 games, often earning comparisons to Nemanja Bjelica (drafted No. 35 in 2010) in the process.

But what makes Jovic a bit more intriguing than your typical catch-and-shoot forward is the potential he shows off the dribble, regularly bringing the ball up the floor for Mega Mozzart, displaying sharp pick-and-roll vision going to his right while also knocking down several deep hesitation pull-up 3s with bigs switched onto him. His high center of gravity with the ball and finishing struggles in traffic (46% at the rim) limit him as a primary shot creator. And teams have also found quite a bit of success just defending him with small guards and daring him to punish that mismatch on the low block, which he hasn’t done with much success. But because Jovic can make hesitation and step-back 3s, find his teammates on the move when willing and occasionally drop in Dirk-like fallaways from inside the arc, it’s not out of the question that, in time, he can eventually evolve into a Danilo Gallinari-style second or third creator who can function as a big wing or a mismatch four.

To earn those reps, Jovic will have to improve drastically on defense, as he’s a bit too upright to consistently stay with perimeter players yet not quite physical enough to bang with true bigs on the interior. Evolving his off-ball defense and stabilizing his often-fluctuating motor will really help him win the margins, as he’s likely never going to quite have the range or flexibility to be a 1-on-1 stopper.

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated:

From a size and skill perspective, Jovic is one of the more interesting projects in the draft, with legitimate perimeter functionality and a nice shooting stroke. The big concern here is he’s not particularly athletic, with slow feet and a lack of explosiveness that will make for a challenging adjustment to the NBA. There’s still developmental appeal here, as he is a terrific passer, can shoot off the dribble and has the feel and handle to compensate for some of what he lacks physically. But he doesn’t have much history of efficiency and isn’t likely to make much of an impact on defense. Jovic likely has to improve in those two areas to stay on the floor, but skilled players his size aren’t always easy to find. He’s an interesting investment wherever he comes off the board.

Kyle Irving, Sporting News:

Jovic is a big with great touch and feel for the game. In a draft devoid of major high-end international talent, Jovic may be the best of the bunch. He’s got a refined skill set and at his best, Jovic will leave you wondering why he’s not a lottery prospect.

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic (Subscription required):

Jović is still young, so you don’t want to overthink the weaknesses, but it’s difficult to see how his game works right now on the defensive end in today’s NBA. The offensive game is fascinating, and it’s good enough that I think a team should take a flier late in the first round or early in the second just to see what becomes of it. His mix of shooting, ballhandling and passing is terrific for someone his size. I can’t quite get where I need to invest a top-25 pick because he has too many things to fix in his defensive game. I think he’d be hunted in mismatches regularly when he’d be out there. There likely is a role for him off the bench as a shooter and playmaker in transition. If the NBA game is all about versatility, Jović gives it to you on the offensive end of the floor but takes away just a little bit more than I’d be comfortable with on defense.

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer:

At his best with the ball in his hands in the open court or in the pick-and-roll. He’s capable of getting into his shot from any area of the floor. He doesn’t force it, though. Jovic has good shot selection and has the vision as a passer to make his teammates better. Shot creation in the open floor is his best skill. He is able to change his pace and use hesitations while taking long strides toward the basket. He has a good handle and smooth footwork, which allows him to keep his dribble alive while deciding whether to score or facilitate.

With the ability to run the pick-and-roll and set solid screens at 6-foot-10, he could create major matchup advantages. Against a switch, he has the size advantage down low if he develops a post game. Against a blitz, he can pass as the ball handler or make plays for himself off the bounce. Against drop coverage, he has displayed the ability to shoot off the dribble if given space. Like many young players, he needs to improve his efficiency, but the building blocks are there.

Intelligent off-ball player on offense who has great instincts for cutting into the paint. Plus he has good hands. Theoretically a versatile defender if he’s able to improve his sloppy fundamentals and get quicker laterally. Right now, he is at his best defending in help situations at the rim. Even if he’s not a shot blocker, his pure size still makes him more of a deterrent than smaller players in the same position.

Stefanos Makris, NBADraft.net:

Nikola Jovic is a skilled combo forward, with point-forward potential … He has great size and feel for the game, but lacks elite athleticism … He has a polished offensive game and can do just about everything on offense, although at times has a tendency to force things … On the other end of the floor though he has shown some problems because of his lack of elite athleticism and lateral quickness … In an era where everyone is looking for big forwards who can create their own shot, there could be a place for him in the NBA … But for him to reach his ceiling, he has to prove he can at least hide some of his deficiencies

Vincent Frank, Sportsnaut:

Jovic might end up being one of the best picks in the NBA Draft this June. The 6-foot-10 Serbian is as versatile as they come and can do multiple things on the court. That includes playing strong defense, plus-level passing ability and point-forward skills. In today’s NBA, that comes in handy.

Tankathon

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