August 20, 2022

The Miami Heat passed their 2022 first-round selection — No. 27 overall — on 19-year-old Serbian forward Nikola Jovic, the player with an eerily similar name to reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. Differentiating between the two names will certainly be a first hurdle for all of us to overcome, including myself, but I digress.

There was a lot of pre-draft speculation that the Heat would eventually trade off the pick, especially to rack up the extra assets.

Heat Insider Greg Sylvander from Five Reasons Sports Network reported on Thursday that they had “explored” trading through to the second round while potentially adding another first-round pick in 2025 or 2026. The caveat, however, was if a “handful of prospects” persuaded them to stay pat (pun intended) and draft a player who fell on them.

In Short: While his size and raw ability game may differ slightly from the aforementioned two-time MVP and one of the best players in the world, Miami may have finally found their pot of gold which fell to their knees at the No. 27, inviting them to pounce on the selection.

Last season with Mega Basket in the Adriatic League (Serbia), he averaged 12.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 0.7 steals, shooting 41.4% from the floor, 31 .5% from 3-point range and 71.8% from the free-throw line. , winning the league’s Young Player of the Year award. At the U19 World Cup last summer, he averaged 18.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 blocks, shooting 49% from the floor, 36.4% (12-33) to 3 points and 65.2% from the charity strip.

“The thing that impressed us the most [about Jovic] was he’s got big size, big length, big skill, he’s young and he’s going to get better,” Heat president Pat Riley told reporters Thursday night. “And how we play – changing all the time, positionless basketball – he has the ability to do those things. So that’s how we see it. His evolution will determine whether or not he evolves into the type of player we can keep.

Thursday marked the first time Miami has drafted an international prospect in the first round without any college experience, according to Stathead. The only other time Miami got past the first round with an international player was when Martin Muursepp, who played in Estonia, was traded from the Utah Jazz in 1996.

Riley acknowledged that the player they were planning to sign anyway was likely a younger, developing player – criteria which Jovic, who just turned 19 on June 9, met.

“He’s grown about seven or eight inches in the last couple of years, so he always knows there’s more development to come,” he added. “I think all the international competition – whether it’s in Europe or where the players come from – the quality of the competition has really increased. He’s played against very good teams, a lot of good players and he’s been very good. Trained… We feel like we have a very good choice.

He said they had discussions about a possible rollback, but ultimately came to the conclusion that he wanted the player to start the development process instead of hoarding the extra goodies that might not have. be no less attractive to another team.

“I wanted to get the player now, develop him and you can always defer the picks down the road if you want to do that,” Riley said. “But there was nothing quite as exciting about getting an extra second or anything for the pick, so we decided to use the pick.”

According to pundits and other evaluators, the biggest wart in Jovic’s game is his defence; some currently don’t believe that Jovic possesses the required strength, speed and/or focus on that end of the pitch, although he uses these traits to his advantage offensively.

Riley didn’t see it that way, saying all players between the ages of 19 and 21 are “never really great defenders”.

“The whole defensive layout has to come first in your mind and in your heart,” he said. “I think the kid is athletic enough, quick enough, long enough to play defense that we want him to.

“Individually, [opponents] probably going to go after him like they go after everyone else,” Riley said with a smirk.

Miami landed a prospect who is a multi-dimensional offensive player. As Mega’s de facto point forward, Jovic’s ability to manage, take defenders off the dribble at fences and create 6-foot-11 well as well as executing assists and simple reads from pick-and-roll makes him a very intriguing one. said next to Bam Adebayo. This is especially evident if he becomes more efficient with his 3-point shot and effectively spaces the ground over the break and corner.

“[Jovic] is a burgeoning talent,” Riley said. “You couldn’t pass it up at 27.”

Watch Riley’s full interview below: