Tantalizing Heat Rookie Nikola Jovic Named Trade Target for Slumping Playoff Contender

Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, and Nikola Jovic

Getty Nikola Jovic #5 of the Miami Heat is congratulated by Jimmy Butler #22 after making a three pointer in the first half of the game against the New Orleans Pelicans

In July, the Miami Heat drafted a 6-foot-10, 19-year-old Nikola Jovic with the 27th pick of the NBA Draft. Jovic has been impressive each time he has gotten extended minutes with the Heat. He’s even surprised head coach Erik Spoelstra with his ability to play center for the Heat. On November 17, Spoelstra praised him for his strong play after making his first career start for the Heat, where he scored 13 points and grabbed 3 rebounds from the center position. Spo wasn’t the only one to take notice. In a December 15 column for Bleacher Report, Zach Buckley shared that Jovic could be on the Utah Jazz’s trade radar along with two other players this winter. 

Nikola Jovic and Utah Jazz Interest

“Pritchard, a career supplier of 15.2 points per 36 minutes and 40.7 percent three-point shooting, could be a regular rotation role away from a real breakthrough. The same could ring true for Hayes, a 22-year-old rim-runner, and Jović, who offers intriguing ball skills and shot-making for a 6’10” 19-year-old,” Buckley writes for Bleacher Report

Utah is currently rebuilding, and Jovic is an intriguing option for a situation like that. He’s almost 7 feet tall but can play all five positions, both offensively and defensively. His ball skills give him incredible upside, and so far this season, he’s been able to shoot over 40%. He has struggled shooting from deep at 21.3 percent from behind the arc, but given time to develop could be near lethal offensively. 

The Heat knows Jovic’s unique potential and is considered among the premier teams for player development. It’s hard to imagine the Heat trading Jovic without finding out how close to his potential he may be able to get. He’s still young. He hasn’t even graduated from high school yet. Miami is focused on contending again in the Eastern Conference, which has so far limited Jovic’s opportunity in the 2022-23 NBA season. 

While it’s hard to picture the Heat dealing Jovic to another team, there is one player for the Jazz that the Heat is known to have an interest in, and that is their starting power forward, Jarred Vanderbilt. Could that be the most likely trade scenario? 

Heat Have ‘Hoped’ to Acquire Jarred Vanderbilt

Back in October, one NBA executive told Heavy Sports that the Heat have had their eye on the Jazz’s young big man, one of the league’s best rebounders in Vanderbilt. The executive confirmed the Heat’s interest in a reunion with Jae Crowder but followed that with reporting that they have ‘hoped’ to trade for Vanderbilt. 

“They’ve been quiet on that lately. They looked at Jae Crowder. They hoped to get Utah to give up Jarred Vanderbilt—they want defense at that spot. They are not desperate, though. They want to see what they have with guys like Caleb Martin, see how he handles that spot,” the executive told Heavy Sports. 

Vanderbilt is averaging 8.6 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Jazz. He’s also, as was noted by the executive, to be a quality defender at the power forward position. If they were able to get a deal done, it would address one of their most significant question marks, the power forward position. Caleb Martin hasn’t been bad, but down the stretch of the playoffs, it’s likely they’ll need a stronger power forward to defend some of the best in the Eastern Conference, like Robert Williams and Joel Embiid. 

Caleb Martin at Power Forward This Season

All season, the power forward position for Miami has been questioned. Not because of poor play from Martin. He is averaging 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and nearly 2 assists per game for the Heat. One Eastern Conference coach noted his performance and especially strong defense that he has played this season, but wondered if it will hold up as the season drags on. 

“He has been really good for them, especially on the defensive end. He has come a long way as a defensive presence, and the fact that he can hold his own against power forwards which speaks to his athleticism. I’d worry about the size issue, with him and Bam (Adebayo), over time, you’re looking at an undersized pair there, and that could be a problem. It could wear them out. He’s never played this many minutes, never played anything close to it—is he going to hold up? If he does, he has been a good fit there for him. I would want more help behind him, though,” the Eastern Conference Coach told Heavy Sports

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