Erik Spoelstra Sounds Off on Surprise Nikola Jovic Role

Erik Spoelstra

Getty Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets

The Miami Heat have had a number of revelations so far this preseason. Jamal Cain has impressed and quickly earned himself an upgrade to his training camp contract, but perhaps one of the biggest talking points coming out of Heat training camp is the exciting Heat rookie, Nikola Jovic. Jovic was drafted by Miami with the 27th overall pick in this year’s draft and has turned some heads this preseason. 

In four preseason games, the rookie has averaged 10.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game on 41% shooting, but perhaps the biggest surprise with Jovic has been his ability to play multiple positions. Jovic, who is 6-foot-11, has proven to be fairly versatile, playing anywhere from small forward to center for the Heat. However, in stretches at center is where the young player has unexpectedly shined this preseason. 

Erik Spoelstra on Nikola Jovic

Jovic’s play is being recognized by many outside of the Heat organization, but head coach Erik Spoelstra may have the most praise for Jovic, and his play, especially at the center position, and most importantly, possibly to this Heat squad is that he is coachable, which makes him a good fit for Heat Culture. Of his play this preseason, Spoelstra had some hopeful praise per Barry Jackson’s recent column in the Miami Herald

“And that’s been at the five [center] and I really just kind of did it initially to just see what happens, and let’s just give him those minutes. He’s responded well. He’s had some really good moments. He’s had some moments where he’s gotten beaten up a little bit [and] he’s had some moments where he’s made some mistakes. 

“But he’s very coachable, he takes responsibility and he really works at trying to correct things that didn’t go well. And I think that also is a skill, when you can see something and not make the same mistake over and over and over.” 

One place that Jovic has surprised is rebounding. He had 12 in their recent postseason game, and this was a skill the Heat were aware of when they drafted him. 

“He rebounded pretty well over there [in Serbia],” Spoelstra said. “You just don’t know analytically if that translates to the NBA. So I was just kind of hoping to see that. Initially, I didn’t even envision playing him as a five. We’ve been doing that more so at the five. We’ve been doing that more for the development and to get him out there.”

Nikola Jovic Minutes at Center

After his impressive play, perhaps Jovic and NBA MVP Nikola Jokic will have more in common than sharing ten of eleven letters in their first and last names. They may also play the same position. While Jokic has more size and strength than Jovic, the Heat rookie has proven an ability to facilitate the ball and assist, similar to Jokic thus far in the preseason. 

It’s fascinating that the Heat didn’t initially see Jovic playing minutes at center, but preseason development minutes have helped show a place where the Heat rookie could carve out time on the court. The upside of Jovic continues to grow, and in an offseason where he was their only major addition, it looks like he brings more to the table than anticipated. 


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