The Miami Heat tipped off their NBA Summer League campaign against the Los Angeles Lakers and while a, 100-66, blowout defeat wasn’t the desired outcome, it was still a great sight to see Heat basketball again—or a small variation of it, at least.
Miami’s newest first-round selection, Nikola Jovic, would make his unofficial pro-debut, tagging along with Haywood Highsmith, Javonte Smart, and Mychal Mulder, all of who are a continuation of the Heat’s strong developmental pipeline.
Despite the loss, here are some initial takeaways from Nikola’s first dose of NBA action.
TOUGH START FOR NIKOLA JOVIC, BUT OVERALL TEAM PLAY DIDN’T HELP THE CAUSE
The overall consensus for Jovic’s debut would be considered an underwhelming one. With just three points scored in under 21 minutes, it wasn’t quite the performance that Heat supporters expected for a player with such an incredibly high offensive ceiling.
Jovic’s first shot attempt was, indeed, a rushed step-back corner three-pointer and one that resulted in an airball. From the opening minutes, there was a lack of concentration on several defensive rotations as well as on the defensive glass.
These were and are all documented concerns if you circle back to his draft profile. Nonetheless, Jovic’s subpar outing would be just a small portion of what was a horrendous offensive night for Miami altogether.
While Jovic couldn’t get much going in the first half, there were minimal opportunities for the Serbian big man to establish a rhythm. A major reason for this was the quality of shots that the Heat were getting as a whole, particularly from their guards.
It was key for the latest Miami Heat draftee, Nikola Jovic, to get involved in Summer League play. Here’s how the rookie performed in game one.
While Kyle Allman Jr. was a bright spot with 11 points, four rebounds, and five assists off the bench, the Heat’s starting backcourt of Smart and Mulder combined for just 7-for-30 from the field and 2-for-13 from beyond the arc.
In the second half, however, there were more positives than negatives for Jovic. He adjusted more to the flow of the game, making a stronger emphasis on boxing out and rebounding at a standard rate relative to his 6’11” height.
He was also more involved in screen-and-roll scenarios and of course, draining an eventual three-pointer with no hesitation.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Jovic’s debut was his tendency of putting the ball on the floor and driving through traffic. He’s very nimble at 225 pounds and his ball skills compliment each other really well.
More confidence in that ability should be displayed going forward. Although he was rather passive on a few layup opportunities, there were a number of great passes off the drive.
Whether it was getting it to the open shooter or simply recognizing when the lane wasn’t available, Nikola displayed those qualities well in game one. In his first professional game played on U.S. soil, Jovic had subtle flashes of a player who simply needs to keep seeing extended run.
There’s plenty of basketball left as NBA Summer League action rolls on and it’s only fair to allow for the Miami Heat assistant coach, Malik Allen, to make further adjustments.
The overreactions to any Summer League dud are common, but the bar has been set. Jovic has a chance to break through and his next opportunity will be on Sunday versus Sacramento.
After officially signing him to a rookie-scale contract, the Heat organization understands that Jovic will be a project and one they should be willing to develop long-term.