How Jaime Jaquez and Nikola Jovic emerged as the Miami Heat's future

The Miami Heat found diamonds in the rough. Again.
Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks
Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

This has been a lackluster regular season for the Miami Heat. After their improbable Finals run last year, they have to earn a playoff spot via a play-in tournament for the second year in a row. The ups and downs throughout the year were concerning. They've gone through everything. Their seven-game losing streak in late January was scary. It looked like the season was going down the drain, but they had the fifth-ranked defense for the year. They've been the definition of inconsistent. 

The Heat are a tough team to get a true feel for. They can play up to their competition but also look like a deer in headlights when facing a weaker foe. The turmoil may be the most memorable part of the regular season, but two young players emerged as franchise cornerstones. These players would be untouchable in trade talks unless they could help land hall-of-fame-level talent.

Jaime Jaquez Jr.: He can still get a lot better

Jamie Jaquez Jr. is another Heat gem. The organization is known for turning unwanted players into guys who earn a second contract. Jaquez fell in the draft in part because he was a four-year player out of UCLA. These players get the reputation of being close to their ceiling before they step foot on an NBA court. The general managers who passed on Jaquez got this one wrong, as he is already an impact player.

Downhill pressure

Rim pressure is essential in basketball. The ability to get to the basket and collapse the defense is needed to have a free-flowing offense. Jaquez is one of the best drivers in his rookie class. His 6.7 drives per game rank fifth amongst rookies.

He's sneaky and athletic. His burst doesn't jump off the page, but if you underestimate him, he'll leave you in the dust. Jaquez isn't a black hole, either. He drives looking to score, but when he shifts the defense, he'll spray passes to the corners. With his ballerina footwork, he can get to the rim and his other spots on the court.


One may get dizzy watching Jaquez work, especially when he's in the post. He uses his pivot to the max. He may spin four to five times just to get the look he's searching for. His poise and balance help him drop-step on smaller defenders (sometimes bigs too). The balance he has on some of these shots gets ooohs from the crowd.

He's strong enough to move them and light on his feet enough to pull off these gorgeous post-ups. He averaged 1.05 points per possession on post-ups. For reference, the true MVP, Luka Doncic, averaged 1.01 PPP from the block. Doncic is a player Jaquez should study with their similarly methodical game. They are neither top-tier athletes nor nearly seven-foot point forwards like the Heat's other draft gem.

Nikola Jovic: Don't underestimate him

Nikola Jovic burst onto the scene for casual fans this year. He started 38 of the 46 games he played. After putting on some weight in the off-season, Jovic looked much more confident on an NBA floor. His momentum from FIBA over the summer translated.

Last year, he only appeared in 15 games. The offseason work he put in was evident. His jump shot looks smoother, and teams will need to adjust how they're covering his shooting with the new information afforded to them. This isn't the past; Jovic is a scorching shooter.


The only thing Jovic needs to do to improve as a shooter is to shoot more! He shot 40% from three on almost four attempts a game. Considering how effortlessly Jovic shoots the rock, that number needs to get up to six or seven. 

He's not a movement shooter like Duncan Robinson, but he's a hell of a bailout option when defenses continually dare him to shoot. His 52% openness rating suggests that defenses still need to catch up to what's happening. That's better for the Heat. Jovic will keep making opponents pay when left open. 


It's a luxury when your "big" can get the rebound and go coast to coast. Jovic isn't your traditional big, though. He's a point guard in a center body. 

When he's aggressive, he ignites fast breaks. He usually has the speed advantage against his matchup due to centers and bigger forwards guarding him. When he sees a brick, he takes the ball off the rim and steams past these slow-footed big guys. He's nimble for a player his size.

Not only can he score going coast to coast but his passing is eye-popping too. He throws laser-accurate darts on the break and in the halfcourt. 

Jovic takes advantage of consistently being left open and hits cutters in stride, leading them to the rim. Leading cutters is a telltale sign of a high-IQ basketball player and an elite passer. The Heat's 2022 first-round pick happens to be both. 

His shooting and playmaking paired with his size makes him an invaluable asset. He's going to be around for the long run unless a 30 point per game scorer is available.

Nikola Jovic and Jamie Jaquez Jr. are untouchable Heat pieces at the moment. Both project to be impact players offensively. There's still work to do defensively, but neither are super negatives on that end.

The Heat hit the lottery again with these two picks. They are already shining and look to carry that momentum into Wednesday's play-in game vs the Philadelphia 76ers.