Nikola Jovic minutes proving valuable among Miami Heat’s slow start

Nikola Jovic #5 of the Miami Heat goes to the basket against Monte Morris #22 of the Washington Wizards(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Nikola Jovic #5 of the Miami Heat goes to the basket against Monte Morris #22 of the Washington Wizards(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Nikola Jovic was an excellent pick for the Miami Heat at 27th overall in this past draft. His youth and raw talent were expected to pair nicely with Miami’s exceptional player development program as he grew into his own skin as an NBA player.

But all of a sudden that growth and development are seeing a jumpstart. Due to injury, the Mimai Heat have been notably short-staffed, giving Jovic more floor time than anyone expected him to see, jumping from an average of 6.25 minutes in his first four games to 27.25 in the last four.

In those minutes, the 19-year-old has shown out offensively, displaying some passing and cutting abilities that give him real potential. He very well could be a real asset to this Miami team and more sooner than later.

His size and athleticism are where some of his obvious potential lies, but what he’s really growing into is his basketball IQ. In the pick and roll, his main ability comes from his immediate rolling.

Typically, defenders are caught sticking with Kyle Lowry, who then promptly hits Jovic cutting to the basket, where he shoots 78 percent at the rim. Where his IQ comes into play is that if you look at several of his possessions already thus far, he’s made the extra pass to the player in the dunker spot or spotting up mid-range.

Because of health, the Miami Heat have needed ‘other’ guys to play recently. An added benefit is that it has forced Coach Spo to give Nikola Jovic minutes.

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As help defense is trying to recover for the backcourt mistake, Jovic is able to make precise passes while on the move. That’s not a totally unique ability but it isn’t one most 19-year-olds will always have at that point.

Some might try to finish it themselves more times than not instead of making the extra play, a habit they will need to break later. Jovic doesn’t have that problem.

Where he does have a problem though is shooting. 21 percent from three and 37.5 overall is rough, but the good news is he’s still willing to shoot, attempting five threes per 36 minutes.

Judging from his free throws, he’s only missed one this year, the shot is far from broken. There’s no reason to believe the shot won’t come around.

But for all of his growing proficiency on the offensive end, he also has some work to do defensively. At 6’11”, he’s definitely a big but has the added benefit of playing alongside Bam Adebayo.

With Bam on the floor, Jovic isn’t expected to protect the rim but that means he needs to be, at least, effective enough at staying in front of wing scorers.

Recently against Minnesota, it was clear he got a little lost sometimes. He seemed a little unsure of where to be and what the scheme called for.

At one point early on, Bam even gave him a slight nudge to get into position. It was a teaching moment for the rookie.

But to give him credit, NBA defenses can be notoriously complex. There is always going to be a learning curve there, so expect him to close that gap the more he plays.

What’s, perhaps, most important for Jovic and his development is exactly what he’s getting at this exact moment—minutes. Historically it’s always difficult to develop young talent and compete at a high level simultaneously.

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There are just too many mistakes along the way that can only be solved with more reps. The Miami Heat have had a rough start by anyone’s standards but some of that might have some added benefit, and that’s because it’s given Jovic a chance at more time on the court.