No, it’s not the back-to-back MVP of the Denver Nuggets in Nikola Jokic. However, it is another Serbian product that has impressed one of the most successful coaches of all time, Miami’s head coach, Erik Spoelstra.
He is Nikola Jovic, the 27th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Though many speculated he was the steal that night, the opportunity to showcase his talents hasn’t been presented enough until last night against the Toronto Raptors.
“next man up” mentality pic.twitter.com/hniB9AJiE8
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 18, 2022
The absence of Bam Adebayo and Omer Yurtseven made the Heat relatively thin at the front court, and considering their lack of length, Spoelstra had to turn to one of his forwards to fill in the center position. Surely enough, Spoelstra called on the 6’10” rookie out of Serbia for rim protection against Toronto stars like OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and Scottie Barnes.
In the 24 minutes the 19-year-old played, Spoelstra had nothing but positive things to say about Jovic.
“We felt putting him with the starters would give him the best chance to compliment that group,” Spoelstra during a TV interview, per BallySports. “He was terrific, particularly in that first half. He played with a lot of energy. He gave us some relief baskets. His skill level — all of those things are good.”
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 17, 2022
Although the Heat took another loss, it’s encouraging to see Jovic stride in different positions. His versatility could undoubtedly be used further down the season, but the Heat should strongly consider evaluating him for the starting four spot right now due to their lack of length and offensive firepower.
Jovic’s intentions are where they need to be, stating there’s plenty more he looks to improve upon, specifically on the glass. The Heat is the third-worst rebounding team in the League, and If Spoelstra looks to turn the Heat season around, giving his rookie more minutes may pay dividends to reclaim that top seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I want to be more efficient rebounding,” said Jovic after the 19 rebound margin in favor of the Raptors. “If I’m the biggest guy on the court, someone needs to grab that ball, and it should be me, and I’m going to work on that more.”
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