Why isn't Nikola Jovic playing?
It has been a bit odd that we haven't seen Nikola Jovic very much this season, but there are two factors at play that have little to do with his actual ability:
- He missed a week with a non-COVID illness.
- There's not really a spot in the rotation for him.
The Heat are using 9-10 players a night as part of the rotation. That includes the regular starters, Kyle Lowry, Herro, Butler, Haywood Highsmith and Adebayo; and the top reserves, Robinson, Josh Richardson, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Kevin Love (and, at times, Thomas Bryant instead of Love). Caleb Martin, in his first game back since missing the last 10, played 12 minutes against the Nets Thursday and will get more time going forward.
The Heat treat Jovic as a front court player, but Adebayo, Love, Bryant, Highsmith and Jaquez are all ahead of Jovic in the rotation. Maybe you can squabble over Bryant's minutes, but Jovic isn't a center. At this stage, he's not as good as Highsmith or Jaquez (who is two years older than Jovic). So where are the minutes going to come from?
Zooming out, the Heat might be in need of a consolidation trade that upgrades one spot and creates room for other players out of the rotation, like Jovic. It's also possible that Jovic is a season away from being ready to contribute. There are still concerns about his defensive understanding, rebounding and shot-making ability.
Bryant, Love, Richardson and Martin all have player options next season and Highsmith will be a restricted free agent. If Jovic continues to develop behind-the-scenes, there should be an opportunity next season.