2 Obvious, 1 subtle move Erik Spoelstra must make to turn Heat into legit contenders

Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets
Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages
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Start Nikola Jovic

It’s been an up-and-down season for Miami’s second-year forward, but the Heat are 10-8 with Nikola Jovic as a starter, including 5-1 in his last six starts. There’s evidence to suggest Spoelstra should consider making him a permanent starter.

When Jovic wasn’t starting, he was often out of the rotation completely. He was self-aware of his limitations and told the Miami Herald in January that he needed to get better defensively to earn Spoelstra’s trust.

“Defensively, I still need a lot of work. I feel like I’ve improved a lot because I’m working on it,” Jovic said. “But I still feel like I’m not there. As someone who is 6-foot-10, I think I can do a lot more. Those things are going to keep me on the court and those are the things that [coach Erik Spoelstra] talks about and those are things that are important.”

At the time, Jovic was averaging a team-high 4.9 fouls per 36 minutes. That figure has dropped since Jovic re-entered the lineup in the wake of Miami’s latest rash of injuries, and he’s now averaging 3.8 fouls per 36 minutes. 

Defensively, Jovic has been more consistent with his rebounding, boxing out and positioning. At 6-foot-10, he’s at least four inches taller than Miami’s other starting power forward options Haywood Highsmith and Caleb Martin. That size has been noticeable in recent matchups against the Bucks and Nuggets.

Jovic has also been making better decisions on offense. He’s taking open 3s and is quick to push the break after rebounds, which helps spark some much-needed transitioning opportunities.

He’s young and still unproven in a playoff setting, but Jovic is making the most of his reps and Spoelstra should use the next few weeks to figure out if he’s ready to be a playoff starter.