Has Nikola Jovic earned a rotation spot with his recent performance against the Los Angeles Lakers? On Wednesday night, Jovic started his third game with the Miami Heat in the absence of Jimmy Butler and other key rotation players. He finished the game with 15 points, eight rebounds, and a steal.
The first half of the game was ugly between the Lakers’ failure to take care of the basketball and Miami’s inability to make shots. In a game where Duncan Robinson struggled with his shot (until exploding in the fourth quarter), Jovic stepped up by knocking down three 3-pointers.
Jovic contributed to a Miami Heat zone defense that forced 21 Laker turnovers. This proved to be the key stat of the game, helping the Miami Heat hold on to the lead despite a run from the Lakers in the second half.
Jovic was always viewed as a player with potential, but he still hasn’t found a true role for himself on the team. In a shorthanded game, Jovic proved that he was needed on the court. This was evidenced by Erik Spoelstra’s decision to keep him on the floor after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter. Jovic had earned his trust, at least in this game.
Jovic still might be out of the rotation when everyone returns, but he did his job against the Lakers. He displayed what he is capable of, which at least earns him consideration for a regular rotation spot. Spoelstra is a coach who is highly capable of making adjustments in games, so there might be situations in the future where he trusts Jovic enough to play quality minutes.
If the Heat continue to deal to injuries to their group of rotation forwards -- Butler, Haywood Highsmith and Caleb Martin -- there could be more opportunities going forward.
Additionally, Jovic is still the youngest player on the team, so he still has time to develop. He appears interested in learning from the mentorship of Butler, which will also help him move in the right direction with the Heat organization. After this impressive performance, hope is still very much alive for Jovic to develop into a rotation player for the Heat.